It won’t surprise you to know that we are getting a lot of calls from people who have lost or fear losing their job and want to discuss becoming a freelance PR consultant.
Here’s our advice. It won’t apply to everyone uniformly and we always welcome serious enquiries from anyone considering the freelance PR route.
1. PR Freelancing is a Positive Career Choice
If you see PR freelancing as a stopgap while you search for a full-time role it probably isn’t for you. If you see PR freelancing as second best to an agency or in-house role it definitely isn’t for you.
2. PR Freelancing is For People Comfortable With Financial Risk
There is no guarantee of income and you have to create your own safety net to carry you through lean periods (and then you have to build another one straight afterwards)
3. PR Freelancers Have to Kill Their Own Dinner
The perennial challenge for PR freelancers is the requirement to choose between time spent hunting for work and time spent doing the work. It’s a lot of rapid gear changes each week or month. Too much hunting and you go hungry next month when you come to invoice. Too little hunting and you go hungry the month after next.
We should add that this is partly why The PR Cavalry exists. When freelance PR work finds you, it means more time can be spent turning hunting time into billable time. That’s pure profit.
4. You Have to be Disciplined in Promoting Your Own Brand
There are three main sources of new client work for PR Freelancers.
There’s Word of Mouth which will always be your primary source of clients. You can influence this only slightly, simply by being bloody good at what you do; so good that people are happy to recommend you. Do good work, ask for introductions. Don’t ever be shy of good work.
There’s your marketing of your personal brand. This is the stuff you invest time and money in – working your LinkedIn as a combined research/blogging/and outbound sales tool, plus working your other social channels as research and promotion, blogging, going to networking events etc etc. This is expensive in time and money, so you have to be disciplined in how you divide your time between the many options here. It can be a massive time drain and we all know how easy it is kid yourself that an hour scrolling through Twitter is research.
Finally there are Freelance PR Matchmaking services like ours which are more passive new client sources.
There are some general marketplaces and platforms, we are deep and niche in PR only. Some charge you to be on there whether you get work or not, some take a mighty big bite out of your fees (we charge a modest 10% + VAT) there’s even one that asks you to work for free before you are accepted on the platform. Wow….
5. Telling a Client That There’s Only You is A Reason to be Proud not Something to Hide
You will be the asked the risk question a lot by prospective clients. “Why should we take a big risk with a solo freelance PR?”
This is a great question to get because you lean right in and say “You’re absolutely right, it’s just me and that means I have more skin in the game than any agency you might be speaking to. If I lose your trust, I lose a big chunk of my income. I’m more invested in the success of what I’m proposing than any employee of an agency and I’m never going to pitch you an idea I don’t believe in”
If you find that mental image exciting, then you have the freelance PR DNA.
6. Earning Your Own Money is Thrilling
When you win a client, you did that. When a client buys an idea, you did that. When an invoice is paid, you turned fresh air into money in the bank.
It’s yours, not the shareholders (probably a pension fund in Quebec) and it’s a wild feeling.
If that makes your hairs stand on end, be a freelance PR
7. You Can Work From a Beach In Thailand
But you probably won’t in the way that you imagine, it’ll be because a client called you on your holiday. You probably will find yourself working at weird hours, probably dealing with switching off from work when the boundaries between work and home life are blurred. If these sound like hideous invasions of your private life, the freelance PR world might grate.
8. You Get Your Own Mop & Bucket
Make a mess? You’re cleaning it up.
If you are one of life’s great delegators, your talents may lie elsewhere. The bottom three things on your to-do list? You’re doing them.
9. You Also Get a Time Machine
If you currently have some intergalactic job title like Senior Vice President of EMEA Client Strategy then be prepared to be reminded of the thrill of being a senior account manager again (but with less drinking on weekdays). Your role as a PR freelancer will embrace things you were doing some years ago in your career. It may well involve pitching to the media. If you were pretty good at it then, you probably still are. Only now you are also fitting the whole strategy together too so this time you actually know why you are pitching that idea.
10. Philip Larkin Said it Best
Ultimately, to be a Freelance PR is to welcome ambivalence and uncertainty. You are the captain of your ship, but it’s a dinghy on the open sea.
Every decision you make has an immediate impact and only you know if reading those words stirs dread or adrenalin deep inside.
Listen to The Poetry of Departures by Larkin.
It’s deliberately uncertain but you’ll see some or a lot of yourself in there and you’ll know.
“Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
…..So to hear it said
He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
Good luck and if you want know more about how we help PR freelancers find more client work, give us a call.