PR Through The Eyes Of A Young Professional

Young PRos and Freelance: 5 Tips Before You Take The Leap

In Freelance, Jobs, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Young Professionals on February 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Chances are if you’re a young professional ( 1-3 yrs exp.) working in marketing, public relations,  advertising, or any other communications discipline, you haven’t done much in the world of freelance. Freelance/Contract work is traditionally a niche community made up of  professionals who have been practicing in the field for some time and are looking to have more creative control over their work. Some freelance work also may be done in order to earn extra income . Whatever the case , the freelance world is generally not the place where you will find many young professionals.

However due to the economy, there are more qualified professionals than there are available jobs. Traditionally PR, for example, is a very transit field. However hiring freezes and low client budgets has brought everything to a screeching halt. Nevertheless in light of this reality, several young professionals such as my co-author , my Twitter Buddy Keeyana Hall and myself included, have taken that leap of faith into the world of freelance.

Having not been fortunate enough to secure FT employment right out of graduate school, I have remained resilient and dedicated to my craft by becoming a freelancer/contractor and using the skills I’ve acquired.

No use wasting all that education and training… LOL.

Deciding to become a freelancer, as a young professional, is not a step that should be taken lightly. I guarantee your novelty to the field will  be tested, therefore it is imperative that you be ADEQUATELY prepared. 

Here are 5 Tips (in no particular order) I think every young professional should remember before taking on any freelance assignments. I would also encourage them to continue to engage these tips throughout their career.

  1. 1. Know your strength: As a professional you MUST know in what areas your strength and weakness lie.  It is safe to say:  “You Don’t Know Everything!” ;and it is important that you don’t pretend to. However you should definitely be cognizant of what you do well. But more importantly you should know the basics. For example as a PR pro you should know how to write and format press releases and  how to clearly and definitely answer “What is PR exactly?” and “How can it help MY business?” when someone (and they will) asks.
  2. Be Confident:  The worst thing any pro can do is seem hesitant and unsure of their work. No one will know you only have two years experience working in the field (internship and PRSSA  experience mostly) unless you tell them.  Remain confident in yourself and it will show through your work. One of the greatest leaps of faith you will take as a practitioner is going out on your own, professionally, without supervision. Being your own boss is a very powerful feeling.
  3. Form an Advisory Committee: As I mentioned prior, no one is great at everything, especially a young pro. Therefore I recommend creating a small team of people who you can brainstorm with, help you edit materials, and even  pitch a reporter or two just to help. This team should  consist of  a professional mentor,   an educational colleague, and a more experienced professional in your field.  I guarantee these people will be essential to your success!!
  4. Stay Relevant: READ, READ ,READ!!! Every morning I wake up to  an email full of RSS feeds from some the industries most respected sources; (Ragan Communications, PRNewser, PRWeek, just to name a few). And I love it! While freelancing, it is your duty and professional obligation to your clients,  to stay current on all relevant issues of the industry. Although you may not be working FT at a firm or organization , you want make sure you know just as much if not more than your professional colleagues that do.

And last but certainly not least,

5. Know your professional worth: I can’t stress this  tip enough. Just because you haven’t been practicing for 10 + years doesn’t mean your work isn’t worthy of compensation. I can’t lie, in the beginning this concept was very difficult for me. All I wanted to do was practice my craft; money had no immediate importance.  I worked for free on several occasions and sometimes when I was lucky I got paid pennies (literally). When you meet with a potential client have your  range for compensation (less for NPO and more for Corporations) already in mind. Don’t be embarrassed, this is business.  Remember  you don’t have millions in the bank ( and if you do, can I have a dollar?).  If you are doing freelance work , while still looking for a fulltime job, chances are  money is essential to your lively hood. Do research on rates specific to your skill set, experience, and geographic location.  Your advisory committee will be extremely useful at this point.

I hope these tips help.  And if you have other tips that you think young pros should know before jumping into the world of freelance please share!

Reminder: Your greatest professional recommendations will undoubtedly come from your clients that you’ve worked so hard for.

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