Working in an ad agency makes you realize that creative jobs are only 50% about creativity. The other half of your energy as a digital marketer is spent convincing your boss or clients that your ideas are worth pursuing and publishing.
Whether it’s getting a blog draft approved or pitching a short Reel script, you need to have a process in place for communicating your work seamlessly.
When clients see that you’re executing their operations in a structured manner, they become more comfortable because they know what to expect and when assuming you provide deadlines for each stage.
Conversely, if you’re just going with the flow without any strategy, your clients may not be able to appreciate the significance and reasoning behind the content.
Case in point here’s the A-Z breakdown of how I’ve been onboarding and managing clients for my social media marketing gigs, first as a freelancer and then as part of a boutique agency.
It goes without saying that this isn’t the only right way to get things done. You may have better ideas on how to make the process efficient, so feel free to tweak things as per your needs.
In any case, my goal is to provide you with a basic direction or model that is easily scalable, so I’m open to making any iterations you have more efficient ways of managing the creative workload.
Tell me how you do it at your agency or freelance setup – let’s chat in the comments!
Managing your Projects
If you’re handling multiple projects and/or working with more than 2 people, you should use a free project management suite. I use Monday.com to sync up with other professionals.
I usually set up 2 views for my team. The first is the broad view, which shows all ongoing projects:
- What’s the current status? (Ideation > Design > Feedback > Finalized)
- Who’s leading this?
- What’s the next deadline for this stage?
- What’s the ongoing issue/sub-task? (pending workload)
The second view is personalized to each account we manage. It provides a clear timeline of when each stage will start and end. It also notes the current statuses, assignees (PIC), and pending workloads.
I like to break down every monthly cycle in these stages:
- Strategy Call
- Conceptualization (Strategy/Ideation/Calendar Planning)
- Concepts Feedback & Approval
- Design Execution for Time-sensitive Posts
- Design Execution for Normal Posts
- Design Feedback & Approval
- Finalized Deck Submission
Of course, there are always loads of ad-hoc tasks, and because of time constraints, we often share our content pieces in separate parts rather than in bulk. So in real life, you may notice that these stages are happening in tandem, all at once.
Even then, a basal timeline helps you get a clear view of what needs to be accomplished in the short term. This becomes the foundation for keeping all your tribe members on the same page. It also speeds up productivity since you no longer have to chase each other for updates, as long as you’re all updating your part on Monday.com every day.
In fact, I’ve set up a daily Google Calendar event to trigger a reminder for updating my Monday before logging out at 6 PM. I shared the link to this event with my team members so that they could add the reminder to their personal calendars, too, in case they like setting good habits like me.
To keep all the files organized, I also create a dedicated Client Folder containing sub-folders for:
- Contract/legal documents (housekeeping)
- Client Assets (discussed ahead)
- Each month’s concept & design decks (also discussed ahead)
- Final Export files
Stage 1: Monthly Strategy Meeting
After you’ve sealed the contract, it’s time for the first official catchup. For new clients, both parties will have a lot of questions on how they should be proceeding, so the call usually lasts for 2-3 hrs. You can schedule it on Google Calendar/Meet so that you can use functions like live screen sharing and doodling.
I usually set up my strategy calls on a Friday so that I get the weekend to mull over everything unofficially before kickstarting the work on Monday.
This conversation flows in four stages, which I explain to the client beforehand to set the tone for the meeting.
Part 1: Brief about the company (for new clients)
The first stage belongs to the client, where they brief you about the company’s background, products, target audience, overall marketing initiatives, and budget, as well as upcoming events, campaigns, or milestones that you should keep in mind.
The goal is to understand the brand, its market, and main competitors so that you can design your content to fit their overall goals and themes.
- When did you start?
- Who are the key stakeholders?
- What is your business model?
- What’s your vision & mission?
- What’s your product/service catalog?
- Any PDF brochures, web pages, videos, or resources we can explore?
- Target regions & user demographics?
- Data about current users, sales, and trends?
- Marketing initiatives other than social media
- Upcoming events, milestones, updates, campaigns, initiatives
Part 2: Social media expectations (for this month)
Next, the second stage zooms in on the social media aspect since that is the service I offer. You should know what kind of channels and goals they’re targeting so that you can mold your content accordingly.
If they’re only looking for ad creatives, your posts will be sales-oriented, but if engagement is the goal, you may have to play with comment-to-win contest-based pieces or relatable stuff that can go viral.
- What are your expectations from your social media?
- How should the posts exactly feel? (e.g. minimalistic like Apple)
- How have you managed social media in the past?
- Type, style, and focus of posts that you want?
- Key Metrics/Goals (e.g. sales, engagement, reach)
- Any accounts we should check out for inspiration?
- Any kind of posts or updates/promos on priority?
- Special requests to keep in mind
Ask for reference accounts or posts that you can check out to understand exactly how they want their content to look.
These can be their direct competitors’ handles or belong to a different industry altogether. Either way, the idea is to get clarity on what kind of tone, style, and treatment they’re looking for.
This way, when they tell you that your output isn’t matching their expectations, you can go back to the reference accounts to defend your work based on the brief that THEY set at the beginning itself.
Thirdly, the final stage is when you can take over and explain the next steps, giving clear deadlines for each. If you think you’ll need 4 days to come up with the content ideas/strategy, give yourself some buffer time and ask for the entire working week.
This is because you have to juggle with multiple clients so in case an ad-hoc task from another client comes in, you can easily give some time there and it won’t spiral down into multi-tasking madness.
Part 3: Getting access & assets
The team I used to work with wasn’t large enough to take on account management i.e. we only used to deliver content and our clients used to schedule/publish it at their own will.
But in most cases, especially freelancing, you’ll be in charge of that stage as well. So you’ll need the usernames and passwords for all their handles. For FB, they may need to add you as an admin in the Business Manager Suite.
For the execution part, you’ll also need certain design assets, so note them down in a list and ask the Client to upload everything in a special sub-folder inside your Main Client Folder assigned for this specific purpose.
- Design Guidelines/Brand book (official colors/fonts)
- Photographs & media clips (e.g. products, events, team members)
- Archived design or video files
- PDF Brochures containing company info
- Any previous designs/open creative files
Part 4: Explaining the next steps
In the last stage of the meeting, you may put the client at ease by jotting down deadlines for presenting your ideas, design drafts, and finalized links for posting. Your procedure can be unique to the work that you do, but as a reference point, here’s my work cycle:
Remember that you should be having this call with your client every month (or fortnightly, too). This is to ensure that you’re always on top of any changing aspects of the business/market.
That said, these subsequent calls may last for no more than 15-20 mins. You probably understand their base priorities and expectations by now, and so you’ll just need the latest crucial updates.
The agenda may include:
- Feedback from this month
- Special requests for next month
- Any business updates/milestones/upcoming campaigns?
- Any product feature we need to focus on/highlight?
- Any concerns/issues to tackle?
Stage 2: Concept Deck & Calendar
Assuming you’ve done your research, you can begin to assemble your initial post ideas in a Concept Deck. The goal of this deck is to get a soft approval for moving ahead with your ideas so that you don’t waste time executing them only to have the end result rejected at the last minute.
So you need to be very clear regarding what you’re going to talk about in the post and how the information or message may be presented in a frame-by-frame story format.
I personally love a modern interface like Pitch.PPT or Figma for this purpose. But since many of my clients are old/traditional, I dumb it down to your usual Google Slides, which they find less intimidating.
Also, Slides also allow the clients to add their comments for feedback/editing, either separately beside each slide (share comment-only access) or in the speaker notes (share edit access). So that’s a useful feature!
Here’s a template of my Concept Deck:
The deck begins by outlining what was discussed in the strategy call (priorities, highlights, and special remarks). You can include a tabular calendar view if any of your content pieces have a topical/seasonal element to them, which would require the posting to be done on a certain date itself (e.g. Independence Day, Xmas).
You may create this dated calendar in a Google Sheet or Airtable database separately and then preview it here with the link, or create a simple table in Slides itself. I’ve written another blog post detailing what goes into a comprehensive content calendar, so you can check that out afterward.
This is followed by separate sections for each media format (video, carousels, single page statics, Stories, etc.). For every post, I’ll include a brief pitch, suggested timing of publishing (if applicable), duration (for video), and purpose (engagement, sales, product promotion, etc.).
Then I’ll proceed with a creative brief, explaining in words what the visual may look like and how it can be animated. To make the designers’ job easier, you should include a lot of references regarding each animation or design aspect that you’re suggesting.
In fact, I also create a rough mockup in Canva (an easy graphic tool for the layman) so that the client and my graphic designers can clearly visualize how I’m thinking, and work in that direction with their professional tools.
You may also be proactive by adding captions and tags so that the client gets a full picture of what your post may look like in real life.
Stage 3: Visual Preview Deck & Feedback
After getting approvals for your concepts, you can begin executing the posts and assemble the drafts in a Preview Deck. This deck contains the captions, hashtags, and the creative/video embedded on each slide.
Here’s a template of my Preview Deck:
In fact, going a step further, you may also set up a ghost (fake) account on Instagram, publish your design drafts there, and then share links with your clients in the Preview Deck so that they can have a full user experience of how the post would look when published.
This is called “working from the back/last step,” in which you directly go ahead and execute a concept roughly and publish your draft on an undiscoverable account as if performing a test run.
This bit of extra effort will actually save you a ton of time wasted on minor back-and-forth changes towards the end of every cycle.
Here’s a testing account that I’ve set up for my personal projects (please don’t spam me there).
After you’ve added all the posts, share the deck link with the client/superior and request them to add any comments on required edits or enhancements. If the changes are minor, you can directly make them, or if they need major overhauls, request another G-Meet call to go over each post slide by slide.
Stage 4: Final Assets Deck Submission
After making the changes, you can submit the finalized deck containing links to all HD downloadable creative assets, captions, hashtags, and special remarks (if you need the client to keep anything in mind while posting).
Here’s a template of my Final Deck:
I recommend holding access to this deck until the payment for your invoice has been processed. Once you share the link, you’re basically giving the client 100% control to do what they want with the content without any liability for paying you first.
So guard your work carefully.
Stage 5: Scheduling & Monitoring
If you’re freelancing or offering live account management, you may have to do the publishing yourself. Barring ad-hoc topical posts, you can schedule any piece of content that has been approved in advance. This will save you both time and effort spent logging into your brands’ accounts every day.
Use these free scheduling tools to automate the posting as per your calendar:
- Creator Studio (for IG Posts, FB Posts/Stories, and FB Live)
- Business Suite (for IG Stories)
- Tweedeck (for tweets)
- Buffer (max 10 posts for LinkedIn & Pinterest each)
- Later (with LinkInBio feature)
Lastly, you may also be responsible for monitoring all user activity on the page/site, responding to comments, and fielding inquiries via live chat, email, or Messenger, WhatsApp, and/or IG Direct Messages.
I recommend setting up an FAQ section and having pre-saved replies (with shortcut buttons) on IG to save time on answering common doubts.
To ensure that you’re performing your ORM (Online Reputation Management) & CRM (Customer Relationship Management) duties diligently, here’s a quick 3-step checklist that you can aim to tick off before logging off:
- Responded to all messages
- Checked new comments on 5 most recent posts
- Replied to all reviews on social or e-commerce/rating channels
All that might seem like a lot of work. And just when you thought you’re done with this cycle, the next one kicks in, so there’s hardly any time to rest. But this is exactly why knowing project management and having a foolproof process is so important.
Digital marketing is a messy field. Since our work is intuitively out of the box, the more organized we become in presenting it, the better outsiders will be able to understand our ideas and respond to them favorably.
In the end, if you ever feel like this is all a waste of time and you’d rather just go with the flow, remember what our teachers taught us in school: “Failing to plan is planning to fail!”
So do you have an A-Z process when it comes to managing your social media clients? What does your work ethic look like and why do you think it works so well for your personality or field?
Share your experiences in the comments below!