Why Social Media Consultants are Broke

Each day I seem to meet another “professional blogger” or “social media consultant”. It amazes me. When I looked at LinkedIn, I can see almost 100,000 social media consultants. What do these people do? How do they differentiate themselves from the other 99,999 that can so easily be found?

I have a feeling that it comes down to price – and responsibility: two areas we readily sacrifice too easily.

Watch this great rant from Jessica Gottlieb – it’s the same situation. A lot of the consultants that I meet are smart, passionate folk. They get it. But they’re not business people. They want to turn their passions into positions. They’re donating their time to charities, they’re working for not-for-profit organisations and they’re taking time out of their day jobs to help a cause they believe in. That’s great, but it’s not work. And it’s not work if you’re not accountable.

So, if you are working with an organisation and you’re not getting paid – think about these questions:

  1. Who is the charity? Is it you? Are you giving your knowledge and experience away for free?
  2. Are you exchanging your passion for experience? If so, how are you leveraging that experience each and every day?
  3. How can you become accountable? How do you turn your efforts into recognition at the highest levels?

Finally, think about the value exchange. There is a fine line between volunteering and being taken for granted. Just make sure you know where that line is for you.

20 thoughts on “Why Social Media Consultants are Broke

  1. Couldn’t agree more Gavin. I see the same thing in the cycling community. Lots of people love cycling, some of them are excellent riders too. But it doesn’t mean they should open a bike shop. Yet they do. And they go broke.

  2. Totally agreed. Set a price and stick to it. Set it as high as you can. Is a Mercedes cheap? Does Jimmy Chu give away shoes? You can equate your services as valuable by valuing them *yourself*. If you give them away for free you do your INDUSTRY a disservice.
    If anyone ever says to you “you’re too expensive”. Ignore them, they have no money. Someone else does, go talk to them.

  3. Hmmm… but you could say you reap what you sow. Give a little gain a lot. Why not offer your time for free if it is for something you believe in? The world should not be just about money. Make enough to live off sure, but do we all need to be rich? Perhaps this is one of the failings of society.
    Equally if it is something you love why not try and make some money from it – bearing in mind that if you NEED to start earning enough money from it to pay the mortgage, buy the food etc, the pressure is on and you may not love it any more. One of the problems of turning a hobby into your main income.

  4. @Gareth Maybe if you’re not prepared to charge money for it, or at least put a value on it – without charging – you should consider the harm you are doing your peers.
    We’re not talking about heart surgery. You’re not Medicin San Frantiers here buddy. It’s social media, online marketing. You *can* love it and make a living out of it and not be a “raving capitalist” in the process.
    Don’t be selfish. Put a price on it.

  5. Unionize! Fight the lousy S.O.B. who is paying me so little to blog. Hmmm just a moment….that would be me.
    Seriously though, I’m torn between loving the idea that seasoned social media folks should make a fortune and the fact that the bigger problem is that much professional advice / blog content / social media is nearly worthless. We need better metrics to measure social media *performance* and then let the chips fall where they may – if you can make money for somebody you should get a percentage of that profit, but blue sky should always be valued with skepticism.

  6. Better metrics? Did I hear you say we need better metrics?
    Spoken like the self confessed S.O.B who is taking advantage of bloggers. (your words)
    The metrics are all there, and can be backed up. The problem is with the bloggers who buy into that smoke screen, and timidly walk away from the bargaining table.
    The problem is not in the metrics, but the social media belief content is ‘free’
    ‘Scoozamee… but the computer, iPhone and iPad, internet connection and unending techie accessories that create the social media content all costs money.
    The social media entry point is more accessible, but it isn’t free, and neither are innovative ideas, creative content or time.
    Great blog Gavin — I’m coming back for more.

  7. “how do you get paid?” is a filter I apply to any activity I am engaging in. Quite frankly it has kept me sane and real even if bruising my ego. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I should do it and the same for any consultant. The only real measure of a business is the money that is in your bank account, but many consultants can’t even say that they have hung their shingle; shared an offering; quoted a price; or done much more than have deep conversations about engagement over endless cups of coffee.
    Yes “consultants” you are smart and talented and brilliant … but if you can’t figure out how you get paid you are not in business.
    *hang your shingle
    *tell people what you offer
    *tell them how much it costs and your payment terms
    *tell them how to contact you
    There is nothing shameful about maintaining a regular job whilst developing a new opportunity – in fact it is a hell of a lot easier to be creative when your bills are paid than when you are wondering about where your next loaf of bread is coming from.
    Thanks Gavin … as always I appreciate your insight and your ability to bring things that matter to our attention.

  8. Some good points Gavin, but the whole discussion seems to overlook a few fundamental problems in the market.
    There are simply too many social media consultants, many of them are not really experts (including myself) and that the market itself isn’t that big anyway.
    It’s absolutely true that we should be charging what we think we’re worth or at least what we can live on, but the marketplace is telling many people the services they are selling don’t have much value.
    To be fair, this isn’t really a social media thing but something that all of us selling services in any sector or profession need to keep in mind.

  9. Thanks everyone for the interesting discussion. It’s good to see this post has raised more questions than it answered (no, I’m not claiming I have all the answers). But there’s clearly plenty of passion still in this space.

  10. Yes i know the problem very well about being taken for granted, as a tafe trainer i enjoy helping small startups get online but many do not appreciate that the time i spend with them I am not getting paid and onlyrecently started to say that if you would like my help getting online it will cost this much(hugely discounted), surprisingly not many take up the offer….

  11. Great article! Thanks for sharing this.
    Cardinal Rule #1:
    “If you’re not making me laugh (family, close friends, good causes) or making me money (associates, business, etc) I’m not talking to you”
    So the next time you get a call or email think…is he/she/it making me laugh or making me money? If they don’t do either of those DO NOT ANSWER OR REPLY!
    If you live by this rule you will answer 70% less phone calls and emails within the next 24 hours. Most importantly you are on your way to be successful! I guarantee it!!! 🙂
    Rule #2
    “Provide exceptional service to those who make you laugh or make you money”
    Really care about those people! I mean really, really care about them and treat them well.
    Rule #3
    “Tell me with who you walk and I’ll tell you who you are”
    Associate yourself with people that do or are what you want to be. It adds to your credibility.

  12. Late to the party on this one. And I’m not a social media consultant or any kind of serious blogger…but I have run my own consultancy business (and egads, made some money!). I found clients would initially baulk at my ‘schedule of fees’ until I reminded them how much they spent on agencies with their overheads and often inflated hourly rates etc. And for what? Didn’t they want me involved because that arrangement wasn’t giving them what they were looking for?
    Set the rate high and don’t give your time away. Be ruthless with both. I used to charge clients extra if they needed more than 2 amendments to plans I wrote for them…forcing them to really think about whether they were making good use of MY time and THEIR money.
    Sticking to this attitude takes some backbone and determination but it’s the only way you’ll get paid.

  13. Thanks Rachel, you’re right. Consultants are often engaged over and above the work given to agencies. That means that the costs are seen as add-ons. It takes backbone, as you say, to stand up for yourself, but it’s the only way to find a win-win outcome.

  14. I feel the article could be re-written about so call SEO experts, there are so many out there now and only 10 places for each niche.. many are charging a very low rate and i could not understand why, until i received a call from one and they explained what they gave for the price.
    as the saying goes, pay peanuts you get monekys.. hoping businesses wake up to this con job soon enough

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