There are 86,000 people working in PR and comms in the UK*, so if you’re a business looking to raise your profile – well, you have a fair few choices. Do you go for a large or small agency? A well-established or startup outfit? Hire a full or part time in-house PR manager – or instead opt for a PR freelancer?
Having worked for larger multi-service agencies, smaller boutique outfits and as an in-house PR before setting up on my own in 2012, I feel I’m quite well-placed to recommend the freelance route.
First, a definition. Freelance is a slightly fluid term in PR: it can describe a person who contracts themselves to agencies or clients on a full time but temporary basis, or it can be used by a self-employed professional (hello). The self employed PR provides most of the same services as an agency and has a roster of their own clients, but differs from agencies in a number of ways.
If you are looking for PR support but haven’t considered a freelancer, here are the 7 main benefits:
1. The experience
Hiring a freelancer to manage your PR means that the chances are you are going to get an experienced head. I set up on my own after 16 years of working in agencies, whereas the PRCA confirms that ‘junior members across agencies and in-house teams frequently assume responsibility over general media relations and media relations planning.
Youth is great: knowledge is greater (I’m bound to say that, I’m in my forties).
2. The passion
Freelancers decide to set up on their own because they love the work. When I was working at a management level in agencies, I genuinely missed the thrill of generating a great piece of coverage for a client, or the mad dash to get some copy approved in time for a deadline. I didn’t want to delegate that to the executives while I spent time in management and budget meetings, but that was the structure. You want someone who genuinely loves PR. They’ll bring that enthusiasm to your brand and the PR programme. Along with the afore-mentioned experience, of course.
3. The pride
As most of us work alone, our reputation depends on the standard of our work, and our work alone. So you can bet we are going to do the best possible job, as word of mouth is a powerful thing. If something isn’t working, or there are better tactics to pursue, we’ll be the first to say it, based on our experience. We want results, and we want them fast.
4. The culture
The beauty of a freelancer is that they often become the extension of your team, but without the full-time employee requirements. A few days a month allows them to really immerse themselves in your business, know the personnel and drive the PR programme in the right direction, without bringing any politics or pressure.
5. The cost
There are no large overheads for a freelancer. Work is usually carried out from a home or co-working office; costs and fees are agreed up front and all we ask is for prompt payment (because, you know, cash flow). There is no National Insurance, tax, holiday or sick pay, or pension to consider. The fees charged by a freelancer will vary a little based on experience and skillsets, but still come in way cheaper than your average agency day rate.
6. The community
PR agencies can be quite competitive with one another. The self-employed industry is much more supportive, which means that we still have a ‘team’ behind us, whether it’s for sanity-checking ideas, bringing in another level of expertise, or providing someone with a much-needed contact.
7. The flexibility
12 month contracts are not for all businesses and the good news is that most freelancers will not ask for one. Retained clients are able to work on more flexible terms, projects are much easier to manage and many freelancers will happily take on quite short pieces of PR or copywriting work at relatively short notice, as long as they have capacity. This is what keeps it interesting for the PR and perfect for the client.
Over the last two decades, the self-employed industry has grown to almost 5 million workers in the UK** and with good reason. Lower rates, flexibility, loyalty and expertise all mean the freelance PR option is becoming more and more popular.
But before even approaching any PR professionals, it’s imperative that you identify your own business objectives. Is the aim to grow your business in a certain region, target a new audience, attract a buyer? These objectives will then help you identify your PR objectives, your audience and the person you choose to deliver the programme.
If it’s something you haven’t considered before and you’d like to discuss more, or if you’re looking for support with your PR, or assistance in identifying your business and PR objectives, then do get in touch.
Happy to discuss further!