Freelancing as a social media marketer means a lot of things, but foremost among them is the necessity to keep a tight grip on yourself: the way you manage your time, how you prioritize client work, and knowing when you’re at your most productive.
You’re probably balancing not just various clients, but many long-running campaigns for each client, across a variety of platforms with different challenges and KPIs. Not to mention, social media platforms change with alarming frequency, so a good portion of your work may well be staying on top of trends, like the best Instagram story ads to use in 2021.
The truth is that there will always be times when the same tasks or projects take different amounts of time. This is actually one of the biggest challenges that every business faces.
You can try to keep track of that with pen and paper, or you can make it easy on yourself by using a proper desktop time tracker. It’ll actually be better to get one that works on both mobile and desktop if you do some of the work on smartphones and tablets. The best time tracking software provides rich insights into how you work. You can see how your time spent correlates to any number of metrics, including your billing, your productivity, and more.
Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s “planning fallacy” construct says that people are prone to skewed assumptions about the time investments required to get jobs done, and as a marketer, these pitfalls can hurt.
The one factor that is under your control is tracking that data to make better decisions in the future.
While it does involve a few more minutes of work per day for you to monitor how you spend your time, this small time commitment is worth it for the dividends. Here are five reasons freelance social media marketers need to use time tracking apps
1. It Helps Your Focus
Social media marketing means you have to, by nature of your work, spend an awful lot of time on social media, which is known for its ability to pull people in.
Combine that with the fact that as a freelancer, there’s no boss looking over your shoulder. It’s all too easy to waste just five or ten minutes a day on any of the social media platforms you’re trying to manage or investigate without even realizing it.
By tracking and attributing your time, you’re much less likely to drift down into the depths of an irrelevant Twitter thread or spend too much time refreshing your notifications to see if your latest post has yet to yield the engagement metrics you’ve been expecting.
Tracking time is a simple and effective way to keep yourself on task.
2. It Shows Which Activities Are Most Impactful
Influencer Marketing Hub’s research found that identifying the right platform for social media marketing activity is one of the five biggest challenges social media marketers face.
Let’s say you spend 30 minutes completing one task for your client, like creating a Facebook ad campaign, and an hour doing another, such as responding to comments on your client’s LinkedIn profiler. By tracking your time, you’ll be able to accurately report back to your client which tasks are the most labor-intensive, which ones drive the most results, and which ones should be dropped, or at least minimized.
Time tracking is a way to prove your value further to your client, and reassuring them that you’re not wasting your time or theirs.
It also lets you show initiative beyond the social media tasks you were hired for. For example, if you are finding that your organic Quora campaigns are driving more traffic back to their website, while only taking a fraction of the time that managing a paid Twitter ad campaign does, that’s a vital takeaway you can share with your client to further impress them.
3. It Lets You Easily See When You’re Most Productive
Like all freelancers, social media marketers have ups and downs in their productivity time and days. I’m most productive early in the week, and earlier in the day. Others may be different.
If you track your time and output, you’ll easily be able to tell when you’re at your best and when you’re not. This can help you determine how to balance your weekly workload – for instance, ideating social media campaigns and analyzing analytics reports might require more brainpower, while budget planning might take less.
So you can easily schedule your heavy work during your best hours, and your lighter work during off-hours. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be productive all day – instead, embrace your natural highs and lows and incorporate that knowledge in a way that lets you perform better.
Unlike a 9-5 job, as a social media marketing freelancer, you’re responsible for your own time and tasks, so it’s imperative to intimately understand your strengths and weaknesses. Tracking your time lets you do that.
4. It Ensures You’re Charging the Right Rates
Another tricky subject for freelance social media marketers is understanding what fees you should charge.
Especially for beginners in the area, there’s a lot of confusion around it, and it’s easy to get stuck with pricing mistakes you made early in your freelance career. Social Media Pro recommends, for instance, setting up package pricing ahead of time, but it’s vital to understand whether that price makes sense for you given how hard you have to work on it.
Can you imagine if you found out that your monthly flat-rate billing packages were losing you money? How much of a game-changer would that be for your work and profitability? You can easily see that by tracking your time and measuring your income specific to that time, you could find out weak spots and strengths in the way you work and bill your clients.
For example, say you charge $200 per month to increase your client’s Twitter followers. The disadvantage (and advantage) of flat fees is that they’re totally independent of time. If you can do it by spending 30 minutes a month, you’ve got a great hourly rate for that flat package. But imagine if it takes you 2-3 hours a month, and that it varies month on month, especially if other packages take far less time.
You can quickly see how knowing how much time it takes to complete those tasks for your flat fee packages gives you a huge advantage in understanding what makes sense for you to charge.
5. It Lets You Work Smarter, Not Harder
The more you understand your working patterns, the tasks you’re best at for your clients, and what tasks – both specific to your clients, but also tasks that could help you gain more clients – the better off you’ll be.
If you’re wasting time on a client who doesn’t pay you enough, that’s vital to know. If you’re finding that 10 minutes spent prospecting on LinkedIn beats 10 minutes of email outreach, that’s critical intel for your business. If you understand that by spending an hour per month keeping your Instagram feed fresh lets you stay on top of trends and appeal to further clients, that will help you stay afloat.
Time tracking should not be an optional part of your day as a freelance social media marketer. As your own boss, it’s your responsibility to stay on task, on target, and on time for your various ventures in social media marketing.
By tracking your time, you can find correlations between clients, type of task, social network, ROI, and even enjoyment. This will let you both be a better investment for your clients and enjoy your own job more.
Take Time Back
As a freelance social media marketer, you are your own boss. This has pros like taking the morning off if you feel like it, but also responsibilities like managing your own time, for your sake and for your clients.
By tracking your time with an app, you can gain insights into the best way to work. There are so many duties involved in being a freelance social media marketer – monitoring clients, campaigns, platforms, and more – and a time tracking app lets you monitor, prioritize and optimize your efforts with ease.