Freelance PR: It’s not for everyone

Over the past eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing and talented group of virtual (freelance) PR consultants. They aren’t full time employees, but rather PR pro’s that choose to work with me and my growing roster of clients, while continuing to support their own client needs.

What I’ve learned over time, is that working in a virtual environment is not for everyone. It takes a certain skill set and personality to make it work. So I’ve compiled a brief list of traits that (in my experience) I think PR folks should possess if they want a successful career as a freelance PR consultant. This list may also be helpful for those looking to bring someone on board to help balance their work load or grow their PR consulting practice.

  • Independent Workers – Works very well in an independent setting. In other words, knows what needs to be done and will do whatever it takes to complete the task at hand – without being asked to do it.
  • Self-motivated – Does not need a ‘boss’ to coach, guide or encourage them. These self-starters are go-getters who motivate themselves to get the job done.
  • Passionate – These PR folks love what they do and wake up each and every day ready to hit the ground running. They embrace life and are driven by their own passion for a successful career.
  • Proactive – Will not wait for media, analysts, clients or anyone else to call or email them back. They proactively reach out to the right people to get the job done, on time and within budget.
  • Outgoing – Shyness is not an option for this set. Whether in a crowd or on a call, the outgoing PR consultant can easily engage in conversation or lead a discussion. They will gladly pick up the phone and call a member of the media that they don’t know, have never met or never spoken to.
  • Excellent Communicators – Unfortunately, not all PR folks are good communicators. We may work in a communications role, but not all of us remember to keep the lines of communications open when it comes to interacting with colleagues, providing feedback or keeping others in the loop of important updates.
  • Story Tellers – Can identify a strong story angle when they see it. While this is a trait that every PR person should have, it is even more important when working as an independent consultant.
  • Deadline Driven – Can easily prioritize all tasks on hand. Since freelance PR consultants work on a few different client accounts at any one time, the ability to prioritize is key, especially when trying to meet deadlines across a diverse client base.
  • Multi-taskers – Juggling program execution across several clients is a breeze. This includes multi-tasking and easily switching their mindset from one client to another at a moment’s notice.

Do you agree with my list? What have I missed? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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7 responses to “Freelance PR: It’s not for everyone

  1. I think you have made a great list here. It’s not easy to do anything on your own and freelance PR is no exception!

    The only thing that I would add would be organizational skills (and you touched on it but didn’t come out and say it). When working on multiple projects for multiple clients in multiple cities, things are going to get confusing so keeping documents, research and contacts straight is very important!

    • Jay, you’re so right, good organizational skills are critical for freelance PR folks. And although I implied it, perhaps this is one trait I should have been more explicit about. 🙂

  2. Great list Jodi. I think we should also stress good writing and editing skills. Lately, I’ve seen more and more negative comments from journos and other PR pros about horribly written releases, pitches and blog posts. I heard of one bricks and mortar shop where ALL of the writing is done by the two key principles/founders in the company! That’s how important they view this function. Another tip is use the “second set of eyes” approach to make sure someone with experience looks at your writing before it gets to the final reader. This can be tough when you are on your own, but have a freelance associate look it over for you and do the same for them.

    • Very good points, Terry. And of course, good writing and editing skills are essential whether you work in a freelance, corporate or agency environment.

      Perhaps willingness to accept feedback after a ‘second set of eyes’ has reviewed copy is another trait? And this probably leads into the ability to work as part of a virtual team (just because we work in a freelance environment doesn’t mean we work independently).

  3. This is a fantastic list. My $.02 worth probably falls beneath the umbrella of “strong communicators,” but here is what I might add:

    1. Sense of collaboration. You may work for one “client;” however, managing that client’s project may require input from various stakeholders. Your sense of collaboration should also be accompanied by a heavy dose of professional civility.
    2. Strong ability to ask meaningful questions. With people more and more pressed for time, an ability to ask your clients the right questions right away will help get everyone moving in the right direction, quickly.

    Thanks for a great post! 🙂

    • Stephanie, thanks for the feedback. These are both great additions to the list. As I suggested in response to Terry’s post, teamwork is key. I think this ties into your thoughts around collaboration.

  4. This is great information. I’m starting to get story ideas zooming in my head.

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