If you’ve been working in Public Relations for a while now, the chances are you’ve thought about taking the plunge into solo PR and working as a consultant instead of for an agency or in-house team. The idea of working for yourself can be both exciting and terrifying.
This week, we asked freelance Public Relations practitioners from the Facebook group Freelance PRs how and why they did it. Here’s what they told us.
Why did you decide to go into solo PR?
There are a huge number of reasons why talented PR professionals choose to leave established organisations to go solo. These include the opportunity to escape from corporate politics, the desire for a new challenge, greater flexibility, the ability to spend more time at home with family, escaping commuter life and doing less travel.
In short, most solo PR professionals chose to go independent so that they could have greater freedom in terms of who they worked with and how they worked.
How did you win your first clients?
Almost invariably, those we interviewed said that their first clients had come through existing contacts and friends. On deciding to become independent consultants, they went through their phone books calling everyone they knew to let them know they were available.
For communications and PR specialists who are planning to go solo, this means it’s extremely important to network, and to establish a strong reputation prior to establishing a consultancy.
What are the financial challenges of running your own business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenges initially include covering costs and cashflow. Figuring out how to ensure costs for travel and other expenses that come up during a project are covered is also important.
One of the major challenges highlighted was keeping track of accounts. How to tackle it? Be ruthless about doing them and get an accountant. Save half of everything you earn and then you’ll be fine when the tax bill comes around and you’ll have some savings.
Setting a daily rate that is both competitive and rewarding was also highlighted as a potential challenge. This post from soloprpro.com looks at how you should set your rates.
Would you ever go back to working for a company?
It looks like the rewards of solo PR far outweigh the challenges, with our interviewees almost unanimous in that they would never go back go work for a company again.
Just one respondent said that she would consider it when her children were in school if the role offered the right degree of seniority and flexibility.
What is the best piece of advice you could give for someone starting out?
Save save save. Before starting out, save at least six months worth of finance. Work isn’t always going to be there.
If you’re based in the UK, make sure to sign up to HMRC companies house as an LTD company, as it is the best way to get paid with a 20% tax rate.
Monitor your time, and limit ‘freebie’ activity, but be aware that ‘free’ advice can open a fee-earning opportunity.
Take a deep breath, get stuck in, know your own worth and enjoy. Treat your own decision to go solo like a project, create that strategy, a timeline.
So, that’s the insider’s advice on Solo PR. Are you considering making the jump? Or have you done it already? Leave a comment.
Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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