How Much Should A Social Media Manager Cost?

The cost of a social media manager sometimes triggers sticker shock in people. But in order to evaluate cost, of any type, you need context.

I talked about job costing and my experience of only making $9 and hour previously. Here’s a higher-level update for how much a social media manager should cost a client.

Context matters when it comes to salaries or, frankly, vendor costs. What caliber of person would you want representing your brand? That’s the real question.

What caliber of person would you want representing your brand? That’s the real question. Share on X

ZipRecuiter has a 2019 salary resource for free if you want to look at those, too. For my town, this is their analysis.

As of Apr 22, 2019, the average annual pay for the Social Media Manager jobs category in Dana Point, CA is $49,075 a year.

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $88,280 and as low as $16,552, the majority of salaries within the Social Media Manager jobs category currently range between $33,606 (25th percentile) to $60,190 (75th percentile) in Dana Point, CA. The average pay range for a Social Media Manager job varies modestly (up to $26,584), which suggests there may be fewer opportunities for advancement based on skill level, but increased pay based on location and years of experience is still possible.

Quick Highlights

  • When you outsource social media instead of hiring in-house, you shift the labor burden from your company to your vendor.
  • Respectable social media managers produce results.
  • I’m more expensive than a Happiness Hero at Buffer but less expensive than an in-house Marketing Manager.

Let’s do some math.

Before we get to my pricing or any other agency’s pricing, let’s talk about hiring a Marketing Manager.

According to, the median salary for a Marketing Manager in the US is $96,000 and Glassdoor puts it at $88,000 for Los Angeles, and US News reports it to be $128,000 (I’ve rounded the numbers).

An in-house social media manager’s range is much lower, which is to be expected.

“For social media manager salaries, Glassdoor’s national average was $51,613, while Indeed’s was $61,000. For a final source, we checked PayScale, which showed a median salary of $45,260.” Sprout Social 

Buffer is one of the remote workforces that is completely transparent with their salaries. Happiness Hero average around $70,000.

If you were an employer, you’d have to add at least 20% to those salaries to account for labor burden — maybe even 50% if you pay for health insurance and things like 401(k), etc.. Let’s take the BLS number of 30% employee burden.

“Overall, compensation costs among private industry employers in the United States averaged $33.26 per hour worked in June 2017. Wages and salaries, at $23.15 per hour, accounted for 69.6 percent of these costs, while benefits, at $10.11, made up the remaining 30.4 percent.”Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Shifting the Labor Burden

Labor burden is a problem for companies. I get it. I spent a good time in office management and accounting. I completely understand the cost of an employee.

One of the benefits of outsourcing to a freelancer (1099 contractor) is shifting that labor burden from your company to theirs.

Freelancers shift the labor burden from your company to themselves. Not to mention the cost to interview, hire, and train a social media manager — or their rookie mistakes.

Freelancers shift the labor burden from your company to themselves. Share on X

Cost from a Freelancer’s Perspective

Let’s take a small diversion into what it means to be a freelancer. They take the burden of self-employment tax (20%) in addition to their own costs (expenses) which include health insurance, office equipment, utilities (like internet), office lease or co-working expenses, and more.

To my freelancer and small agency friends, I take a short diversion.

Freelancers should understand cost before they decide their rates. Share on X

In this presentation by Samantha Zehngut, she gives a compelling example. What do you think you really make when you charge $100/hour? Would you be surprised that it’s only $16?

Is $20 an hour $20 an hour?

The short answer is no.

You have options. Sure. You can outsource outside of the country. That is your prerogative as a business owner. Maybe some things can be automated, some outsourced in another country to help their economy, and some in-sourced.

It’s good to have options. As a business owner, you have your own budgets to reconcile with your goals.

There are options and tools. If you’re willing to bring social media in-house, you should. That’s the option that many of my colleagues recommend including Robert Nissenbaum of Tactical Social Media. It’s your brand and your voice. You know it best.

“As a small business owner you ARE the face of your business. The more you are personal and the more of yourself you bring into your content, the more opportunity you provide for others to connect. The more opportunity you have to create, develop and grow relationships. The more opportunity to develop a friendship.” Tactical Social Media

How do you evaluate a Social Media Freelancer?

Cost is good but it’s not everything. Look at their reputation. Look at their Twitter profile. Are they full of promises but can’t produce results? No one believes in first-click leads, but we still want results.

The people I respect produce results. You should want that, too.

Why are you so expensive?

The short answer is I’m worth it. The long answer is that I know what my colleagues and agencies are charging and I’m still providing a great deal. Many of my peers would ask me to raise my prices.

My Twitter Pro Package was priced at $1,000 a month ($1,200 as of January 2021). Agencies charge upwards of $2,000 a month for this exact service (I know I worked at one!).

I know, as a person who believes passionately in accurately representing a brand that I spend a minimum of 28 hours a month on each client’s Twitter account. Though I don’t charge hourly, let’s use that as a basis for comparison and context.

By my calculations, I’m a bit more expensive than a Happiness Hero at Buffer but still less expensive than an in-house Marketing Manager at the low salary spectrum — without taking into account the labor burden.

So, what looks like a good deal to you?

6 responses to “How Much Should A Social Media Manager Cost?”

  1. Excellent summation and commentary, Bridget. I can really see your background in accounting come into play. I admire your no-nonsense look at the cost of a social media manager.

    Great job!

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