5 Tips to Keep in Mind When Going Solo

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Portrait of a businesswoman sitting in a conference room with her hands claspedWhether you’ve been an independent PR consultant for 15 years (like Kellye) or are just starting out on your own (like Heather), being a solo PR pro can be an incredibly rewarding (and lucrative) career path.

It’s exciting to be free to choose your own course. But there can be some intimidating moments when you realize success or failure depends entirely on you. If you’re looking at PR consulting and facing some difficult decisions, here are 5 tips to help:

1.    You don’t have to be “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Sometimes it can be hard to establish boundaries. While you want to be as responsive as possible to clients, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to disconnect sometimes. “Training” your clients to value your time is key to gaining their respect overall.

2.    Remember what the scope of work includes … and what it doesn’t
Heather recently had a client ask her to be part of their sales team. While she wants to be as helpful to clients as possible, sales just isn’t what she does. She said no, explaining that her time and skills are better spent on other projects, more closely aligned with PR/communication.

Another common challenge, for both old and new consultants alike, is “Scope creep” – when a project moves beyond the originally discussed parameters. Don’t be afraid to plainly state what your fee includes in your upfront agreement, and then ask for additional funds if the client requests additional services.

3.    Be innovative when it comes to resources
When you’re in a “real job,” you may have easy access to media databases and other paid resources. But once you get started as an independent, you’ll likely find it’s not necessary to pay full price for those services. Much of the information you need can be found online, with just a little digging. If you need to use a paid service for a certain project, check with other PR consultants before spending the big bucks – many vendors allow contractors to share a seat, or you may be able to pay for a one-off list.

4.    Work your network
Clients and new business leads will almost always come from your network. Really. Whether it’s people you meet via Twitter or old friends from high-school, you never know where that next client will come from. Building and managing your relationships is the single best way to succeed in this business.

5.    You’re not alone
Going solo, it’s easy to feel like you’re on your own. So it’s important to build a network of professional support (to maintain one’s sanity!).

Heather has enjoyed networking with other solo or independent PR people — like Arik Hanson, Shonali Burke, Mary Deming Barber and Rachel Kay — to bounce ideas off each other and ask for advice. Kellye moderates the #solopr chat on Twitter each Wednesday (from 1-2 pm ET), as well as a LinkedIn group for Solo PR Pros, where new and veteran independent consultants ask questions, share ideas, and make each other laugh on a regular basis. The latter is especially important, as the #prbc gang knows well.

These are just a few of our top tips. What questions do you have about going solo? If you’re a PR consultant, what tips would you offer?

KellyeFor more than 20 years, Kellye Crane – principal of Crane Communications, LLC – has offered strategic planning, media/influencer relations, social media and marketing communications services to some of the world’s largest companies. Kellye addresses the intersection of social media and PR through frequent speaking engagements, training sessions, and on her Solo PR Pro blog, which serves as a resource for those working as independent consultants — and those who’d like to be.

PRTini Headshot Sepia_smWith nearly 10 years of PR agency experience, Heather Whaling recently launched her own communication firm, Geben Communication. Specializing in small businesses and nonprofit organizations, Heather fuses strategic thinking, strong writing skills and creativity to deliver integrated, results-driven public relations, social media, and marketing. Connect with her on her blog,
Twitter or via email at heather [at] gebencommunication.com.

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  • http://twitter.com/ChristaMarzan Christa Marzan

    Great advice ladies! I especially agree with point #1- if you are able to get some distance and aren't on call 24/7, then everything else will fall into place. I currently work for a non-profit in Central New Jersey and my supervisor is constantly “on call” (if you will) because her personal phone is hooked up to her work email! Once our 2010 budget is overviewed and finalized, I'm going to suggest she get her own Blackberry for work related things- there has to be SOME separation between work and personal life!

  • http://twitter.com/tjdietderich TJ Dietderich

    Great tips, guys! I think “scope creep” is something all flacks, solo and agency, can identify with. But that's a whole 'nother post, right?

  • Becki

    This is very good advice!!! I have just one addition – when you go solo, save money for an accountant or find someone to help with bookkeeping/collections. I was solo in the music business for four years and ended up being buried in administrative work, collecting (or in many cases unable to collect) payment from clients. I could have saved time, money, and ultimately my company, by getting professional financial help and not trying to be CFO.

  • http://soloprpro.com KellyeCrane

    @Christa and TJ: it's very true – many of the keys to success for solos apply to everyone in PR, as well.

    @Becky: Excellent addition! It's always been my belief that a good accountant pays for her/himself (via the tax-saving advice they offer). Consulting a professional before you get started is the best way to begin on the right foot.

  • keithtrivitt

    Excellent post, Kellye and Heather!

    Kellye – I've been following and learning from the #solopr chat for quite a while now, and while I'm working on the agency side, the insight and knowledge both you and many of your #solopr colleagues impart has been invaluable and a continual inspiration to me.

    And Heather – So proud of you and excited for your new opportunity with Geben Communication!

    Thank you to both of you for giving the PRBC audience such an insightful view into how to strategically be successful in the solo PR world.

    @KeithTrivitt

  • http://soloprpro.com KellyeCrane

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Keith!

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  • heatherwhaling

    Keith, thank you so much! Greatly appreciate the kind words about Geben. And, kudos to you and the PRBC crew for sharing your podium with the rest of us. :)

  • heatherwhaling

    I think it's especially hard for communicators working with/for nonprofits and small businesses to separate personal from professional. We wear so many hats, it's hard to know when to disconnect. As I go out on my own, I know that's something I'll need to focus on in the coming months! Thanks for the great comment!

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  • heatherwhaling

    Keith, thank you so much! Greatly appreciate the kind words about Geben. And, kudos to you and the PRBC crew for sharing your podium with the rest of us. :)

  • heatherwhaling

    I think it's especially hard for communicators working with/for nonprofits and small businesses to separate personal from professional. We wear so many hats, it's hard to know when to disconnect. As I go out on my own, I know that's something I'll need to focus on in the coming months! Thanks for the great comment!

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