Freelance PR: Can You Do It?

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Published on March 29, 2017, at 08:20 a.m.
by Terrika Woods.

Freelance public relations is a job market that is currently flourishing. Practitioners have become interested in the personal and professional gain it offers. Freelancing allows professionals to earn extra revenue while gaining experience by helping organizations on a project-by-project basis. So, what exactly does freelance public relations look like?

Instructor and founder of Industry Immersion, Brandon Chicotsky, at The University of Alabama describes it as being your own boss.

“My siblings and I, in some sense, still do this,” Chicotsky said. “We run a boutique operation where we take on a handful of clients outside of our current jobs. We provide digital services, ghostwriting and event planning support.”

With the market growing, some companies choose to use freelancers instead of agencies because of cheaper costs. For example, if a small nonprofit organization needs help implementing a new initiative in the local community, it would make sense to hire a freelancer due to a small budget. Even larger organizations are turning to freelancers because it allows them to get away from hiring a full-time employee. Such instances are driving the freelance market right now.

According to freelance writer Ray Wyman, “The freelance market is a tough industry; one which hones a writer’s skill, demands continuous research and training to stay in the current loop and which matures the artist, to the point of a fine wine.”

So, should a freelance opportunity only be taken with years of experience under the belt? Professor Chicotsky has a different opinion.

Photo by Tulane Public Relations

“Freelance PR is doable while in college! Every PR student has the ability to manage a company or roster of clients’ Snapchat campaign. It’s important to reach out to potential clients and begin selling services,” Chicotsky said.

Many students feel as if they are inadequate or unprepared to handle a client. While in college, students are developing their own style of certain skills such as writing, design and strategic thinking. Smaller experience will help students develop personal brands and also look great on their résumés.

Like any new endeavor, getting started always seems like the hard part. Here are a few tips that should make launching a freelance PR business a little easier.

Develop a personal brand
Understanding what sets you apart from other professionals will help you sell your services. Develop a slogan or start a website. This can help showcase your previous experience. If you don’t have any, then include strong selling or objective points for potential services.

Pick a certain focus

Photo by rdegges

As you grow as a public relations professional, you start to understand your strengths and weaknesses. While you should continuously strive to perfect them, Lauren Marinigh, social media and content specialist, believes you should pick a certain focus.

“To get started, select a specific skill that you’re particularly passionate about and talented in,” Marinigh advised in an article in PRSA’s The Edge. “This will empower you to not only best serve your future clients, but to get those clients in the first place.”

Request permission
If you are currently working for an organization or agency, it is important to discuss your new endeavors with your boss. Instructor Teri Henley from The University of Alabama emphasizes the importance of transparency.

“If you feel in your gut like ’I’m keeping a secret from my boss,’ there is probably something wrong,” Henley explained. “I would tend to want to discuss it with my boss and say ’This is something that I want to do. I’d like to try this — is that a problem and will you tell me if you start to see it become a problem?’”

This transparency will also show your passion whether it be for a certain organization or a type of work skill. In the long run this can help you get involved in bigger projects.

Save 25 percent of earned revenue for taxes
As a freelancer in the United States, you have to file the form 1099-MISC, which will require you to pay a certain amount for taxes at the end of the year. Saving ahead of time will help this process go by smoothly. According to TurboTax,  there are a number of ways to write off freelance expenses, such as business-related food, lodging, office expenses and required equipment or materials. Having separate checking accounts for personal and business will help keep confusion to a minimum.

Price your services accordingly
Something that most freelancers struggle with when first starting to freelance is pricing. They don’t want to charge too much and ruin potential contract deals, but they also know their work’s worth. Professor Henley gave a great tip for this problem.

“[As an organization] You can have good, cheap and fast, but you can’t have all three. So if they want it really fast and good, then it’s not going to be cheap. If they give you a year to do it, then you might consider doing it cheaper because you can fit it into your schedule.”

Never be afraid to use this principle because you deserve to be paid adequately for your time and work.

While there are other factors that help make a great freelance business, these tips will help you get started. Remember, practice makes perfect.

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