Being your own boss is incredibly rewarding. I first set up on my own after 16 years working in PR agencies and while I’ve never regretted it, there are certain things you miss about being part of a large team.
So here, having chatted to a couple of other PRs, is a tribute to the wonderful world of agency life: the top 6 things I think freelancers miss most…
1) The creative sessions.
Formerly ‘brainstorms’ (that’s not allowed now), then ‘thought showers’, and even ‘brain sails’ (?!), these are the hilarious, frustrating, cringe-inducing team sessions when you all try to come up with a concept that can become a campaign. I’ve taken part in some truly brilliant sessions, along with some that just made you want to weep (no names mentioned). But they always involved the sharing of ideas – and as the golden rule goes, ‘there’s no such thing as a bad idea in a brainstorm’: even terrible suggestions can lead someone else making a good one. Working without a large team means you don’t always have a pool of other brains to pick and the ideas can take a little longer. That’s why it’s great to work alongside other marketing freelancers as I do – and get together to share ideas and skills.
2) The media library.
Ah, the shelves and shelves of magazines! What I’d give to have them to hand now. My clients thankfully do know that buying media is part of the process – you have to know and understand who you are talking to (never call a journalist without reading their work). But sometimes I do hanker after those rooms full of papers and journals. If nothing else, just for some lunchtime light reading!!
3) The learning process.
PR agencies have different approaches to training. Some are really focused and involve the whole team, asking them what they would like to learn and keeping them up to date with new technologies, processes and systems. Others sadly see it as a box ticking exercise. I’ve been fortunate, and benefitted from some fantastic training sessions at previous agencies. Now it’s just me, it’s important to keep up with the changes in a fast-paced industry – so I do, regularly attending training sessions and seminars. It’s really important to be able to advise clients on what is new and best for them.
4) The social life.
It’s a cliché but it’s true, depending on your age and agency. London agency life was especially ‘work hard, play hard’. Personally, I think they can be the best thing for team-building; bonding over a drink at the end of the week, sharing the things you have been working on, and socialising with your colleagues is great. That 4pm Friday office drinks trolley will always hold a special place in my heart.
5) The pitch process.
I loved the whole process of competitive agency pitches – once the afore-mentioned creative session was over, it would be incredibly satisfying to sit with the pitch team to bring the campaign together strategically. I loved the creativity around the styling and the presentations themselves. I’ve pitched in some strange venues, from a motorway service station, to an airport café, to a huge auditorium. I’ve pitched to one person (eye contact overkill), large teams (not enough eye contact) and even a couple of celebrities (eye contact nerve-wracking in the extreme). When they go well, they are fantastic. My work is now mostly generated through word of mouth and recommendation, although I have been involved in a few pitches with other marketers. They’re great fun.
6) The samples cupboard.
We’ve all done it. That’s all I’m saying.
There are huge advantages to being your own boss and I’m delighted to provide my own clients with a full PR service, from social media to events, to copywriting, to press office – but knowing how to do these is thanks the bits of best practice I’ve hopefully taken from agency life. Now, where’s my drinks trolley….Back to news