PR for the Regular Joe

May 31, 2009

Grads: Freelancing, the way out of your parents’ basement

Filed under: Employment — Big Sky Public Relations @ 8:20 pm
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“Tough Times” is the prominent theme nationwide as Americans consume a constant diet of foreclosure and cut backs.  Watching the evening news is a depressing endeavor for all, but an avoidable task for the public relations professional.  For those seeking a new job, especially a first one, it may feel like the only available options are to work at the neighborhood fast food chain and hope for things to improve.

As the end of school strikes fear in the hearts of 2009 graduates, I would like to offer a little comforting news to our newest wave of public relations professionals. Cash flow is out there if you are willing to think outside the perimeters of the traditional entry level position

While large corporations and boutique agencies alike have had to reduce staff numbers to survive, many are still in need of assistance on overflow projects and smaller accounts.  I have found that many firms in my area can not afford the cost of a full time staff member (benefits, vacation, pay, etc.) but may still have some dollars in the budget for the occasional helping hand.  As a professional still relatively new to the field, freelancing not only pays the bills, it brings in more income than many full-time positions available to those with limited experience.

If you decide freelancing is for you, it will require the all the tenacity of a job hunt–permanently.  As a new graduate, you will not have the advantage of a network and it is the most crucial piece in a successful business model.  Attend any and every event you can in your area–I specifically recommend the local chapters of your PRSA and IABC branches.  While this may not yield immediate work opportunities, it will serve you long term and if you’ve chosen public relations, it will likely be an enjoyable part of the process.

In recent networking, I have gleaned some great information about what agencies are seeking in a freelancer.  The largest frustration expressed in these conversations is shortage of great writers in the freelance pool.  With this in mind, I encourage you to seek a mentor from your networking events and begin getting feedback on your writing and AP style.  If writing is not your strongest asset, dedicate the time and energy it takes to become a solid written communicator.  Poor language construction, spelling and grammar errors, and inattentiveness to the small details will be a deal-breaker.  As a freelancer, you must be able to deliver a product the agency feels confident will exceed the expectations of their client.  Build a reputation as a precise writer and you can count on excellent references when it comes time to land the next opportunity.

Another skill to hone is the craft of research.  You can do this by discovering what freelancers with your experience are charging, what firms are in your area and what fields they specialize in, and what the media from major outlets are covering.  The cliche is “Knowledge is Power” and it will never be more true to you than as a new professional.

Overall, freelancing may be unconventional compared to what you dreamed of as a college freshman, but it allows you the freedom to learn new things daily and to challenge yourself (not to mention working from home and a flexible schedule).  Good luck grads-remember, options are out there if you are willing to go after them!

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