Articles - 22nd February 2019

How to Become A Successful PR Freelancer

Words by Andrew Mew
Illustration by Jon McCormack

When you’re tired of the mundane Monday to Friday, launching a freelance business can give the escapism you need, while offering fresh and exciting challenges every day.

If you’re a PR professional looking to shake things up, starting a business can be a daunting prospect. Not knowing where to start can hold you back.

So, how do you live the life you want and be your own boss at the same time?

We break down the things you’ll need to consider when starting your own freelance PR business.

Do the boring stuff well

Going solo isn’t about finding customers, sending invoices, getting paid, and kicking back sippin’ on JD and coke. It’s about how you get to that point.

Yes, it’s the boring but vital things you need to do first. Knowing your finances, registering your company, sorting out professional indemnity insurance and getting an online presence.

Tip: Doing it properly from the start saves time, money and effort in the future.

Legal jargon is useful jargon

For those leaving PR roles it’s vital to know whether or not you have a non-compete clause in your contract. If so, taking that well-paying client with you might need to wait.

For anyone starting a business, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of contracts. Knowing what you’re signing, or asking a client to sign, will help you sleep at night.

Tip: Look online for templates to use in the early days and save on legal fees.

Do your homework

Starting out on your own won’t be like working for an agency. Before you went solo you were used to being given warm leads, or client briefs and deliverables.

You need to see how others present their services and their pricing, in order to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Match these to your expertise and start moving forward.

Tip: Don’t go overkill. Do enough research to be confident of your position in the market.

Old dog, new tricks

Getting a mentor can be a great way to learn how to navigate the freelance scene. Many professionals are open to such agreements, and even those retired from the industry.

Don’t assume you know everything. Learning from others, and hearing their experiences, can be a great way to grow as a person and to grow your business.

Tip: Ask friends, family, or former colleagues if they can make an introduction.

It’s about who you know

Whether you’ve left an agency with your LinkedIn contact list, or you’re starting with a blank page, your biggest weapon is the network of people you can contact. And it needs to be bigger.

You have to establish your reputation and build a positive network. This will enable you to become trusted as an expert with credibility in your specialism.

Tip: Speak to people who know you well and ask if they are happy to refer you/make introductions.

A proper portfolio

First job done? Brimming with positive feedback? Great, it’s time to start your portfolio. This will allow you to demonstrate to prospective customers the value you can bring to their business.

If you’ve got examples from when you were employed use these too. Be careful with how you position the work but demonstrate how you played a leading and pivotal role.

Tip: Making your portfolio look good doesn’t have to be expensive. Find a designer on Upwork, Fiverr, or 99designs to bring a professional touch to your work.

Working from home is boring

Unless you cannot function without complete silence, working from home may not be for you. It can be lonely and isolating, a common problem with freelancing.

Check out coworking spaces and look at their membership prices. You’ll benefit from being around like-minded people, growing your network and improving potential job opportunities.

Tip: Can’t afford full-time? Why not try hot-desking and use the space 2-3 days a week instead.

How will your business shine brighter

Understanding what makes you stand out, and why your clients will benefit from this, will determine why businesses choose to work with you and not other PR professionals.

Meticulously scrutinise your industry experience and build a message that shows how you’ve worked with similar brands, to the ones you’re pitching, identifying how you helped them.

Tip: Reverse engineer what you’ve done and who you’ve worked. Then identify a potential client list to start connecting with.

Go social

Thanks to the rise of the internet there are new phrases being coined everyday. The latest? Social selling. Use your social media presence to leverage growth for your business.

Whether it’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, balance promoting what you do with content that can help others. Write your own articles or share ones you think are useful.

Tip: Social selling is about giving and taking. Answer questions, help strangers, connect people if you can. Be an influencer and build social validity. Opportunities will come.

Conclusion

There are ways to mitigate the risk before jumping in head first. If you’re working full-time, try running a business in the evening and at weekends. PR never stops after all.

Build your business to the point where you feel comfortable that there is enough work to sustain you, while you build your customer base and complete the contracts you sign.

If starting a business was easy, everyone would do it. While there are no shortcuts to success, a work-life balance that you have control of is much better than the nine-to-five. Go get it.

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