Whether 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?
For 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.
With 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.