Almost all Web sites are similar these days, and there’s a value to designing the UI/UX in a way users expect. I suggest that, for startups, and small businesses, there’s virtually no need for anything other than a basic Web presence. With the rise of social media, the appropriate account(s) will solve that problem for most.
I worked through the wild west of this industry, and it was semi-fun, but I think we’ve moved on, things have settled down, or are settling down, and there’s a minimum sufficient requirement for a Web presence that’s pretty freakin’ minimal.
To your point about "becoming a social media expert", I actually began lightly dabbling in this, and felt nauseous after some time...Allow me to describe:
You begin admirably trying to help a business (or individual) to gain legitimate views and insights from their audience...but hoping to grow to full, positive engagements, and so forth - not for merely having a social media presence, but rather, with the overarching goal of growing their business, or meeting some other business goal of theirs...and eventually, they begin to get addicted, and whether its a true value to their business goals or not, they begin chasing the dragon of growth. And, much like i can only imagine like drugs - they get hooked. Whatever ethical advice i would provide is ignored, and they only want advice on how to grow their audience like crazy (think: hockey stick growth numbers, etc.) including employing fake follow bot accounts, etc. Their "chase" for ever more audience continues on a darker route...wanting ever more clicks/likes/views/attention - even at the risk of their business' main value proposition. They begin outright ignoring your continuous protests. You begin to feel sick - as if somehow you are the gun salesperson selling a gun to a person you are only now discovering is dangerous. Your client keeps pushing you for more and more dark patterns to employ, and you continue to refuse...ultimately ending the business relationship.
Now...are all clients like what i noted above? No, i'm sure there are good clients out there that don't go dark...But for me, I kept encountering the dark ones. So, for what its worth, I would not go down the route of being a social media expert. Good luck, and cheers!
Are you sure?
Websites need design, visual assets, integrations, customised features, etc. It’s definitely a volume trade: you need to primarily be concerned with new biz, but it’ll be viable for a long time to come if you know what you’re doing .
I think it heavily depends on your network and the market in your location. Sure, if you're in the Bay Area, freelance might not make sense; but find a city with 100-200k population and start building a network among small-business owners/operators and you can do just fine.
If 2-3 represents all of them then I would just put in conversation with them that you'd appreciate any referrals they can make and if you think it would help offer them some financial benefit for it (the amount is culture dependent, I find).
If you exhaust them and the rest of your professional network, try local industry meetups (especially industries that you have made sites for before).
If all else fails then try your luck in the forums and job boards. I suggest taking on small stuff to get your foot in the door and aggressively vetting the personal and business characteristics of new clients for this way.
I'm back to full time employment though so make of that what you will!
I'm also at full time employment but I miss the autonomy and working from home.
For startups it’s even more important.
What exactly would you try to automate? (Having done some coding) I see very little room for automation. Social media marketing is all about strategy and content. Or is it not?
Also, it’s not only about content but about proper timing and strategy in your communications.
Recycling content, finding out optimal posting times, posting content ... sure, these can all be automated.
But how do you automate generating content, especially good content and not article spinners or whatever? Can you explain?
You can create pipelines that save labor - like clients for platforms that make answering common questions / interacting with users way more comfortable and suited to your targeted workflow than the default clients.
On the creativity front, you can also generate random, semi-plausible stuff to inspire you when you're in a rut.
It's not quite about making everything automated, but about leveraging code, systems thinking, and collaborators in such a way that your performance is incredible. It's really feasible.
1) Curating third-party content to post.
2) Scheduling owned content to post.
3) Sending DMs to new followers.