Being fortunate enough to be a speaker at the PRSA Midwest District Conference in Chicago on July 19-20, I spent some time pulling together some survival tips for PR freelancers, based on my experiences with my partners in launching Quicksilver Edge Strategic Communications:
Be Businesslike. In a very real way, your reputation is who you are. Treat your business like MORE than a business – Treat it like it’s yourself. It’s easier to build a good reputation than it is to repair a bad one after you’ve completely muffed something. Meeting deadlines, being flexible, dedicated, polite in your professional AND personal dealings, keeping promises and delivering on your commitments is basic common business sense. Be memorable for the right reasons – because being memorable for the wrong ones will cost you.
Be Original. The most obvious ideas you’ll get for any topic are almost certainly the same ideas that your competitors will have. Think things through – look for the un-obvious ideas, those that not only come out of left field, but probably aren’t even in the ballpark. Take advantage of Google to see if someone’s had the same bright idea already.
Have a Sense of Humor. There is a fine line between humor and offensiveness. Make sure you don’t cross it. Don’t make fun of religion or race, but don’t be afraid of humor, either. Just take a second before sending out that well-written, amusing approach and THINK! Who could be hurt by this?
Be Resourceful. When business is slow, how can you adapt? Turn your talents elsewhere. Write eBooks, and market them on Amazon’s Kindle or other e-readers. Write as a guest blogger for commercial blogs. Write and sell freelance articles to print and online publications. Look for alternative sources of income until things improve.
Network. Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook make it easier to find hard-to-reach people. There are thousands of decision-makers online. Attend networking groups, join associations or professional groups your clients are members of, and generally keep your fingers on the pulse of what’s going on around you. It could be as simple as sending a note of congratulations to decision-makers when they get a promotion or start a new position. You need to be connected to what’s happening.
Don’t Get Discouraged. It’s easy to become discouraged when things aren’t working out. The difference between success and failure is persistence – it’s never giving up. Don’t fall into self-defeating thoughts, because it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Don’t Stop Learning. Self-examination is critical: Are there skills you could improve on? Take courses, reading books, or attend webinars, ask someone to review your work. Never stop improving, because someone might be gaining on you.
Be Prepared. Establish a savings account with 6 months living expenses – or more. Even established solo practitioners can be put in a tight spot by an occasional late paying client or a dry spell, and in this economy, you never know what’s going to happen next.
And Most Importantly…
Don’t Forget to Make Time for Yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be at your best for your clients or your family. You need to make time on your schedule for exercise and recreation, to recharge both your mind and your body.