A CIPR tweetchat attracting over 60 participants has helped set a direction for UK independent PR practitioners.
I participated in two CIPR tweetchats last week.
The first was run as part of the CIPR Social Media Panel‘s first PR ‘hackday’, in which the panel focused in depth on a social media issue relating to PR – in this case paid-for content – and developed some content for use by CIPR members and the PR industry at large. You can view the tweetchat on Storify, read the ’10 PR Hacks on Paid Content’ we collectively produced, listen to a podcast and watch a YouTube video; all this was produced in a single afternoon.
The second tweetchat related to my own CIPR initiative: independent PR practitioners (see previous post, for example). While Wednesday’s CIPRSM chat was quite narrowly focused on a niche topic, Friday’s solo PR tweetchat attracted over 60 participants who shared their views on five general questions, generating nearly 500 tweets during the hour or so of the tweetchat (most of these have also been captured in Storify). Out of the wealth of conversation (not to mention the new contacts made) I’ve tried to distill some key points and ideas that were interesting to me and which also suggested future directions of travel for the growing CIPRIP network.
What motivated you to become an independent practitioner?
- “A bad employer made me realise I could do better on my own”
- Bored in previous role, too much admin and not enough hands-on PR; “I enjoy doing PR strategy/thinking more than running a company”; “adding value instead of feeling bogged down in process”
- Made redundant, and freelancing was better than job-searching
- Wanting flexibility, freedom, fun, control, a sense of achievement
- Clients and work found me
Biggest practical challenge in setting up as an independent practitioner?
- Setting fee rates; “identifying a niche and being able to price it effectively in a win-win”
- “doing everything. No-one to do the numbers, no-one to format your stuff”
- Leaving the security of a monthly salary
- resources and finance cropped up repeatedly, both at start-up and when managing the inevitable peaks and troughs (“feast and famine”) of solo working
- Legal, tax and NI considerations – particularly whether to be a sole trader or form a limited company, and whether to be VAT-registered
- Keeping up to date – training
- New business development
- Moving to the UK from overseas, learning new legal requirements and transferring skills
Best things about being an independent practitioner?
- “flexibility, responsibility, accountability, freedom, choice, credit, challenge, growth, respect, fun”; “3Fs…Freedom, Flexibility and Friday afternoons!”; and “you get to do a Twitter Chat whenever you damn well like!”
- “not having to put up with ego-driven, office politics”; “no internal hierarchy, ability to focus on what you really love, only clients judge your work”
- “building something for me and not someone else!”; being freelance means can be selective in clients and campaigns
- … and the bottom line: “it pays so much better”
Worst things about being an independent practitioner?
- fees for cuttings and media databases are expensive, having been created to serve big corporate agencies. No pricing models for small businesses (though PR Max got positive mentions from a couple of practitioners)
- Being on your own (particularly if you like having people around you); “lack of team to bounce ideas with or learn from” – some mentions of hot-desking and ‘jelly’ working
- “Had a few clients clearly think they can take the piss and not pay because I’m solo”
- Admin, chasing payments, booking travel, etc
- IT hassles (no corporate IT department to call on!); “slow rural broadband” (like new skills training, another CIPR Manifesto issue, BTW)
What could the CIPR do to help independent practitioners?
- Networking was raised repeatedly. CIPR Wessex’s PR and a Pint group got mentioned, as did wine (so ‘PR and a Pinot’!), and the idea of encouraging similar face-to-face networking groups in other CIPR regions.*
- Taking on the media services costs, there was a lot of interest in the notion of CIPR negotiating soloPR rates with selected business partners; “Group buying of relevant specialist services or negotiating deals to let soloPRs share contracts/accounts for services” (incidentally, as well as others’ talking about PR Max, I mentioned Precise Yellow News – see post – and later got a call from a PRnewswire salesman)
- More webinars, more ‘business’ tools (maybe even case studies) and ‘solo’ versions of contracts etc
- Discounts for training events and conferences
- “Start-up ‘SoloPR in a Box’” – perhaps a new solo PR section for CIPR’s business support website page