It’s now been four years since this little PR outfit got going. Officially kicking off as a freelance PR at the end of October 2012, I started with one client and the promise of another to come – and a lot of hope and crossing fingers! And here I am in 2016, with a roster of retained clients, a variety of project work, and some great agencies to work with from time to time.
It’s been tough, fun, manic, quiet, busy, lonely and incredibly satisfying. So for anyone thinking of taking the plunge and setting up as a freelance PR, here are some wise words from a (relatively) old-timer.
1) Your business plan will change.
I spent so long on my first business plan and in the end didn’t use most of it. This is fine, I’ve just adapted it every year as I set targets and look at how to achieve them. As long as the end goal is still one that makes you money and makes you happy. And there is still a plan. Of sorts.
2) There is no such thing as work life balance.
Yes, I get to take the kids to school. But I also have to collect them from school. And yes, I get to meet friends for coffee now and then and (in my mind) fit in the odd gym class or bike ride. But if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So it’s evening work – and lots of it. Different, but not necessarily easier. There is no perfect balance.
3) Your clients will come and go.
Don’t panic! This is standard. Many of my clients have joined me as startups looking for PR around a launch, or as SMEs looking for a push at a particular time of year. Some of them are larger companies and I am retained to be their sole PR. Others want to dip their toe in and out of the PR pool (so to speak). This is all fine… it just takes a little planning to ensure everyone’s needs are met.
4) Some people will not pay.
This one hurts to write. While most clients are wonderfully respectful prompt payers, there sadly have been a few incidents where I’ve had to chase – and chase. One client even went for the bankruptcy option and relaunched their company under a new name. It hit all their suppliers. I’ve chalked it up to experience and ensured payment plans are set up in detail going forward.
5) You will need to get out there.
Networking is key (although I’m not a huge fan of those referral type groups, I’m not sure they work for PRs). Either face to face or on social media, though, make connections and keep them – people will remember. And if someone sends some work your way, always say thanks and try to return the favour if you can. Keep in touch!
6) You will need to be flexible.
I am not a specialist – I’m lucky enough to have worked for a number of agencies on a range of different types of clients. So throw consumer PR, B2B PR, trade PR at me – I’ll do it. It might mean making new press contacts or researching new skills – but that’s all part of the fun. I’ve actually done a lot more B2B than I thought I would and completely rediscovered my love for it. I just won’t do fashion or finance.
7) You will start talking to yourself.
I like to talk. A lot. I’m in PR, after all. So sitting in my own office with just XFM for company is a killer. All the more reason not to rely on email – get on the phone to clients and journalists! As well as building relationships in a much more personal way, it may stop you going crazy.
8) You will need to train.
Agencies train you. You need to train yourself as a freelancer. Don’t get left behind! I’ve had training in new skills, areas I needed to develop, new media channels and even (shudder) accounting. It has to be done, as the media world is constantly changing and you need to offer a good service to your clients, just like any large or small agency.
9)’You’ll never look back’
That’s a cliche I was told a few times – I don’t actually think it’s true. I’m always looking back to see if there are things I could do better next time (I think it’s officially called ‘the fear’). I’m also always looking back to old press contacts, old colleagues and through old campaigns. It goes back to keeping in touch.
10) You’ll love it.
Actually, this might not be true for everyone: but I do. If you like PR, like writing, like chasing people (in the nicest possible way) and don’t mind talking to yourself for most of the day, it could perfect be for you. Just choose a better company name than I did.