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Thinking about becoming a freelance PR consultant? Here’s what you need to know…

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Dynamic and rapidly expanding agency Liberty PR has kindly been using my freelance services for the past few weeks as they march towards world domination.

Here are some tips on what you might want to think about if considering a freelance career.

Be experienced

The life of a freelancer (whatever your profession) is not for a beginner. Sorry if that breaks some dreams, but you can only truly succeed in the freelance game once you have a good few years of industry experience under your belt. In my case that is almost ten years of hard graft (ok, I know it’s not working down the mines). During the past decade I have worked in many different sectors and like to think I have experienced most of what the PR business can throw at you.

That means I can go about my job as a freelancer with confidence and assurance.

Being a freelancer can be hard enough without constantly having to pretend that you know more than you do, or are more capable than you are. So my advice would be to say goodbye to permanent employment and join the freelance brigade only when you have earned your stripes (and made enough mistakes).

Be flexible and connected

The nature of being a freelancer is that you may be required at short notice. So be flexible. Try and do whatever days and times the client would like. Also make sure you check your email at least twice daily to ensure that you don’t miss any last minute requests.

Have good contacts

Being well connected is probably your best asset as a freelance PR. After 15 plus years working in the local media industry I have a wealth of good contacts who I keep in touch with. It’s a two-way thing.  Those who are on the media frontline can help me gain coverage for my clients but at the same time I also keep my journalist friends updated with stories.

Heard about the person who won £1m on the scratch card in the Corby corner shop? I did and quickly let my local newspaper know so that they could use it as an exclusive.

Network

The only way people are going to know that you’re around and looking for work is by getting out and about. I regularly dust down my business cards and head out to networking meetings to meet the great and good of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. After many years’ service as a news reporter I have no fear of walking into a room on my own as this was a habitual part of the job. However, if you fear going on your own, arrange to go along with a friend, but do remember that there will be many people in the same boat as you. What is the worst that could go wrong? (Answers on a postcode please).

Also do some virtual networking. Every so often spend some time connecting with people on LinkedIn and introducing yourself. I have gained much work this way. But make sure your profile is up to date and up to scratch.

For more advice on the perfect CV read Rachel’s recent blog post.

Make friends

Connect with people within the industry who are doing the same thing as you. They may in some respects be your competition but put that aside and realise that they are just like you and will be experiencing the same joys and troubles. Being a freelancer can sometimes be lonely (this is not a plea for sympathy) and so it’s good every now and then to have a catch up with a fellow freelancer and put the world to rights.

Always be on the lookout for work

I approached Liberty PR and gained some work after I saw an article about their launch in a magazine. I make it my business to know what is going on in the local business scene; which companies are starting up, which ones are doing well. I take an active interest in local politics and in doing so learn about the new initiatives that are being proposed. I do this because there could be some work in it for me at some point. Heard about the new town centre development planned for Kettering? Yes, I have, because I read about it this very morning online.

Brew up

And finally, when working in-house make the coffee sometimes. Liberty PR’s wonderful Laura White is a hot-drink-making fiend, and her cuppas are always appreciated, but don’t just consume without doing your fair share. People may say many things about me but I’d be incensed if I was known as a beverage-making shirker.

 

Sarah Ward (better than your average coffee maker)

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