Wednesday, 27 December 2017

How to be a fearless freelancer

Debbie Smith, who heads up our broad tech/public sector tech clients, on  expanding your work horizons.
You've so got this...

It’s more than six years since I became an independent PR consultant, and I’ve enjoyed (almost) all of it. I’m still here and still working on interesting projects with great clients. We freelancers often swap advice but there’s one thing I haven’t seen much conversation around about and that's the need to keep challenging yourself and venture outside your work ‘comfort zone’. It can be nerve-wracking, but there’s nothing better than the sense of achievement it brings.

Most of us go freelance because we’re good at what we do (if we’re not we’ll soon stop winning work) and we want to keep doing it rather than running teams and playing office politics. We stay up to date on our clients’ areas of expertise, keep up with a changing media landscape, and of course there’s CPD available from our professional bodies the CIPR and PRCA.

But what we can miss out on is the opportunity to take on different types of work. In a large organisation new things often come your way and you can take the opportunity safe in the knowledge that your colleagues are there to support you. When you’re working from your home office, it's more of a risk.

However, opportunities do come along and it’s important to grasp them firmly with both hands if you don’t want to do the same thing every day. If they’re relevant to your core skills, you’ll find that with research, hard work and a deep breath you can do it. My mum used to say, “You can only do your best,”and if you’re well prepared and confident your best will probably be just fine. And then it’s another skill to add to your portfolio.

I was delighted when I was asked  to help with positioning and messaging for a large international business. Interesting client, that enabled me to use my degree subject as well as my PR skills, overseas travel…what could be better? I then discovered they wanted  a crucial piece of business analysis, something I wasn’t familiar with. But I reasoned that it was a logical extension of a SWOT analysis, did my research and came up with the results. Happy  client and a new skill for me.

Sometimes the challenge can be of your own making. I co-organise a local business conference and exhibition for several hundred people and after attending similar events suggested that we replaced one of our speaker slots with a panel interview to make it more interesting. My co-organisers agreed enthusiastically and then asked who’d do the interviewing. There was only one possible answer – me. In the run-up I wondered what I’d let myself in for and the butterflies were fluttering in my stomach on the day. However, I’d prepared my questions and pre-briefed my panel, so everything went to plan. It was so well received that we’ve continued it at the next two events.

So don’t rest on your laurels, fellow freelancers – keep challenging yourselves and get outside that comfort zone!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Outsourcing - it's not just for corporates

even wonder women cant do it all on their own
In this post Lianne - looks at how freelancers can outsource the business of running a business.

Yesterday my website finally went live! Well ok, it’s a holding page but it’s a start. I actually bought my domain name two years ago when I decided to take the plunge into the freelance world. But the reality is that work gathered pace quite quickly (thank you Sam ;-)) and I have been so busy since then helping clients manage their PR and marketing that I haven’t had time to do my own. And while I’ve managed to get a home page up, the rest of the content will simply have to wait until I catch a breath!

And I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, the chap that designed my ‘holding page’ said that he has had the exact same thing on his website for over seven years. He just hasn’t found the time to do it yet.

I was going to do it. But the truth is, designing a website and sorting out all the technicalities around hosting it is not my sweet spot. So it kept falling further and further down my to-do list.

A friend of mine recently asked for some help with marketing her new VA business (Virtual Assistant for those who like me didn’t know). I thought she was crazy at first. Being an ‘outsource’ resource to help busy business owners manage their admin – who would do that? But when I looked into it further, I saw that my friend was joining a whole army of other VA’s who offer this exact service. And who have done so successfully for many years.

And it dawned on me. My clients outsource their PR and marketing needs to me. They simply don’t have the time or the expertise to do it themselves. I looked at my own business. It wasn’t just the website that I had outsourced. My logo has been designed by a local graphic designer. My accounts are done by a local accountant….without realising it I have outsourced much of my own business admin. It’s not even that I can’t do any of these things. It’s just that these skills are not my forte and it’s far more efficient to let someone who is an expert in that field take the pressure. And if I want to find time to sleep and spend time with my son over the next twenty years then I need relinquish total control.

Being a freelancer can feel a bit isolated at times. You work for yourself and it’s a real driver. I often put in 18 hour days because I love what I do and it’s really easy to get carried away. But you can’t be a jack of all trades and expect to have a life at the same time. It took a couple of years to see it, but by letting the experts take care of certain tasks it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. Not to mention the fact that these tasks are now actually getting done! It took me two years to outsource my website – it took the designer five days to get it online.

Now I can focus on what I’m good at. And spend more time on the work that actually excites me! My only regret is that I could have done this all two years ago. But I guess that’s the learning curve that comes with the territory. Onwards and upwards!