Five lessons learnt since setting up as a freelancer
January marked my second anniversary as an independent PR consultant specialising in the legal sector.
Needless to say, I have learnt an enormous amount since I set up Welch PR and it would not be an exaggeration to say I have learnt more in the last 26 months than in my previous career as an in-house PR which spanned over a decade.
While working for oneself can be hugely liberating, it is not for the faint-hearted. The lack of security won't suit everyone while others may miss the comradeship of a team environment. For others, the very term freelancing will evoke negative connotations conjuring up images of low paid assignments requiring only a minimal level of competence.
Far from being the easy option, I would argue that it takes guts to set up on your own, seek out clients and keep them. Yet the rise of the gig economy demonstrates that more and more people are carving out a successful career as a freelancer.
Below I have outlined my top five lessons - I hope they may inspire other PRs (and other professionals) who may be thinking about branching out on their own.
1. Network - make the most of former colleagues and contacts who may be able to offer introductions as well as intelligence and advice. Attend industry events and sign up to webinars. For example, my first piece of freelance work came from a former colleague via Linkedin.
2. Find a mentor - working for youself can be isolating. As well as providing inspiration, support and acting as a valueable sounding board, regular light-hearted meetings with a mentor can help overcome feelings of seclusion. For the same reason, it may also be worth seeking out a local cybercafe to occassionally work from.
3. Embrace social media - in my world of PR/communications, an active presence on social media is an absolute must. While it may not bring in new clients, potential clients will check out your online presence. A simple but professional website is also a good idea.
4. Keep on top of admin – admin in terms of expenses, time sheets and invoices can easily get out of control. Work out a system that works for you, get into a routine and stick to it.
5. Pick up the phone - these wise words cam from from one of my two mentors (#2). Most professionals suffer from email overload - in my experience an old-fashioned phone call is the best way to reach out to a potential client or contact.