In April 2009, I started my consulting firm, The Public Relations Project, LLC. It was probably the best business decision I've ever made. Here are some of the things I've learned along the way, and some things to think about if you're thinking about making the leap into self-employment.
- Experience: Hard work is not a substitute for experience. As a senior PR counselor, people pay me for my expert opinion. If you haven't got experience, a solo practice is not the route to go.
- Connections: If you are well-connected in your community, you will have no problem finding business. If you are new to town, or haven't built a significant network, you may have problems getting started with finding clients.
- In-Person Networking: You should be very comfortable with meeting new people, going into situations where you know no one. It's amazing how many people stay in their comfort zone and wonder why no business comes to their door.
- Digital Footprint: It's essential to have a digital footprint. A website and/or blog must give potential clients a way to read about you, what you do, and provide a way to contact you.
- Partnerships: Reach out to business partners who can help you fill in the skills you'll need to serve your clients. If your clients need websites, and you don't do that, find a reliable business partner who can help. Same with graphic design, media placement, etc.
- Social networking: You simply can't claim to be a modern PR practitioner without knowing how to navigate the world of social media. Simply saying you "have a Facebook page" is not enough. You have to practice those skills everyday so you can keep up with daily changes that are forever changing the industry.
- Equipment: Be sure to have a reliable computer (I'm a Mac advocate), a color laser printer, a fax/copier/scanner combo machine, a camera, and a Flip video device for starters. I'm a fan of cloud computing, and save all my computer files in an off-site storage system that backs up automatically. If my machine was lost, stolen or damaged, I'd still have my business files. I also have a wireless modem that allows me to work online while traveling or away from my office.
- Phone: I run my entire business using just a cell phone. So far, I haven't had any problems. If you're on a lot of conference calls, I'd have a land line, for sure.
- Incorporation: I incorporated my business right away to be able to fully deduct business expenses from my tax liability. In my case, having an LLC also is an easier way to file taxes and have some separation between myself and my company (legally).
- Speaking of taxes: they suck. Save at least 15% of your income in a savings account that is separate from your regular business accounts. If you're doing well, you'll be "rewarded" with paying quarterly taxes by the IRS. Congratulations, you've arrived. :~)
The absolute best part about having a solo PR business is controlling your own schedule. If I want to take a longer morning walk with Trixie the Wonderdog, or go to a lunch-time networking event, or cook dinner, then my boss lets me do that!
I also get to chose my clients, and they get to chose me. I love that. It's a beautiful thing. Tell me, solo PR pros and others who have started their own PR agencies: what do you love (or hate) about it?