Editor’s Note: Throughout the next two weeks, we will feature PRSA members who also happen to be entrepreneurs, running their own PR firms or consultancies. We’ve asked our guest bloggers to provide insight into the realities of running an agency and how others can get started. Today’s post from #soloPR chat host Kellye Crane is the second in the series.
Most PR professionals have done it, whether they admit to it or not: they fantasize about becoming an independent PR consultant. So why haven’t you taken action?
Solo PR Pros have a great life, and I firmly believe that more people would go independent if it weren’t for the following myths
Myth #1: Being an independent PR consultant isn’t a long-term career path — people just do it between jobs or while building an agency.
Starting a solo business is indeed an excellent way to jumpstart the building of a larger agency. It can also be useful for those who are between positions to generate some side income.
However, many thousands of people spend most of their career as an independent PR professional. I’m happy to say I’ve worked successfully as a solo PR pro for more than 15 years.
Myth #2: To begin, you need to have significant startup funds to secure a brick-and-mortar office, marketing materials, and more.
Though having some basic promotion in place is beneficial, many PR pros start consulting with a budget of . . . zero dollars. A good reputation and a healthy professional network are the foundations of an independent consultancy — if you have that, you can begin. Obviously, the more money you have in savings the better off you’ll be long-term, but you don’t need to spend a lot of funds up front to get started.
Further, the days when a home-based business was considered small-time are over. Working from home has become so commonplace in business today that no one will bat an eye.
Myth #3: Solo PR pros are at a disadvantage when it comes to winning clients.
While we often refer to ourselves as “solo,” this is a misnomer. We operate our businesses independently, but few of us work in isolation.
Through subcontracting agreements among solos, virtual agencies are commonplace, and many clients are completely used to and comfortable with this model of operation. In fact, these arrangements can be a great advantage in attracting new business. Because there are no set, pre-defined teams, each new business proposal can include the most skilled and experienced professionals specifically for each client.
Myth #4: Independent consultants have limited income.
In truth, the United States Department of Labor reports that “full-time, independent contractors earn more than average traditional workers.” A 2008 survey by the PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance showed that those who collaborate with other indies via virtual agencies earn well into the six figures.
Myth #5: You need decades of experience to succeed as a solo.
This is probably less of an issue than you think. I started my successful PR consulting business after just four years of working in traditional agencies. I even had a brief stint as a low-end PR freelancer after just two years of experience. While your fees will of course vary based on your background, at virtually every step of your career there are opportunities to freelance and consult.
Myth #6: Independent consultants don’t get to work on exciting projects or contracts.
In fact, it’s usually just the opposite. Being an independent consultant means I’m able to seek out the most interesting and challenging projects for me at any given time. I don’t have to worry about boredom or ethical dilemmas, because I have the ability to build my business as I see fit. It also means that I get to work with a large variety of clients and people, which keeps things fresh.
Myth #7: Independents are all competing for the same business — only a handful are successful.
This one may seem puzzling to those who aren’t part of the indie ranks, but solo PR pros typically do not view each other as competition. In fact, we offer each other a helping hand on a regular basis. We refer business to each other based on our areas of expertise, and we also provide important moral support. Even for those of us who’ve been doing this a while, there are always new skills to learn and innovative tools to try.
The Solo PR Pro community is one example of this camaraderie and the PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance is another. Just reach out to those who have more — or different — experience than your own, and a wealth of knowledge will be opened to you.
For many of us, nothing can replace the fun and satisfaction of being your own boss and controlling your own destiny. The key to remember is that solo PR practitioners are not born, they’re made. If you’re interested in this career path, don’t let the myths dissuade you!
Kellye Crane is the principal of Solo PR Pro, the leading resource for those working as independent PR consultants — and those who’d like to be. Solo PR Pro’s community features include a LinkedIn group, blog, weekly Twitter chat, Facebook page and more.
Kellye, thank you so much for your representation of the solo PR community. You have been a tremendous leader in the space. Being a solo professional is by far the smartest career move I ever made. I’m glad that so many others are beginning to understand the dedication, professionalism and value that an indie can offer. Thanks PRSA and Kellye for this great post.
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Great myth-busting advice, Kellye. I’d like to comment on your Myth #7. As I noted in the “Starting and Growing Your Own PR Firm, the workbook I wrote for PRSA, a good way to secure larger clients and projects is to team with other solo professionals. Find pros you respect, people who complement your skills, and pitch new business together.
This post answered a lot of questions that I had about being a public relations entrepreneur. Until now I did not know a lot about the specifics of being an entrepreneur in this field. I did not realize until I read this article that I thought a lot of these myths were true, and this article opened my eyes to how enlightening a solo, professional job could be. I did not realize that a solo career could lead to a larger and lasting company or agency. I have always heard stories about this, but had never had it explained in these simple terms of how and what you need to do to become your own boss. I also found it interesting how Crane said that entrepreneurs in the public relations field help each other. I would have believed in the myth that they would all think that they were competing with each other, but it is very interesting that they refer clients to each other based on the other’s area of expertise. This post was enlightening to me in many ways about entrepreneurship in the public relations field.
Thanks for sharing this Kellye, I guess it all comes down to the entrepreneurial drive – something that is struggling with the current economic climate (certainly here in the UK). Indeed the myths you mentioned to prevent people from going it alone and building up their own PR agencies. I guess even though the economies are different in the US and UK – the myths are the same and holding back that entrepreneurial spirit.
[…] Crane, K. (2011, April 21). 7 Myths About Consulting that May be Limiting your Options [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://prsay.prsa.org/index.php/2011/04/21/starting-a-pr-consultancy/ […]