9 questions to ask yourself BEFORE going #SoloPR
I’ve almost been a #SoloPR now for seven years.
That’s actually pretty crazy for me to comprehend.
And, according to recent articles and stories I’ve seen, I may have been ahead of the trend! In case you haven’t heard, the solo economy is BURSTING. Report after report touts the rise of the solo consultant. And, anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot more chatter about people going solo here in Minneapolis lately. A LOT more.
So, as I thought about that, I thought I’d share a few of the key questions I asked myself before I went #SoloPR. Just thought these might help those who are considering making the leap.
1: How will I get new clients?
A: Number one question–by far. And, for good reason. No clients. No #SoloPR. The realistic answer to this question will vary by person, but for the most part, you need a few key components in place to get new clients: 1) A good network. A leading indicator of success, for sure. 2) A good reputation. Do you know how you’re perceived among your peers? That will go a long ways to your success. More specifically, when people think of you, what services/offerings do they think of (i.e., what are your strengths?), and 3) A lot of hustle. New business, in my mind, is all about the hustle. The first two above definitely play into how well you’ll do when it comes to uncovering new clients, but without the hustle, it’s all for not.
2: Will I need an office?
A: Definitely not. Why add needless overhead to the equation? I’ve been solo for six-plus years now and never had an official “office.” Sure, I spend a bit of time at CoCo, but I really just use that for the conference room space. Now, I realize every situation is different. Some people need to get OUT of their homes (I’m almost there with my son coming home soon). But again, why add needless overhead that will just eat into your profits. Clients don’t care. Believe me.
3: Do I need a business plan?
A: No. This was something that was suggested to me multiple times during my journey to going solo. My though was always this: I’m not starting a scalable business. I’m starting a consultancy. Now, do I have business strategies I follow and operate against throughout each year? Definitely. But, do I need a 85-page business plan to tell me that? Nope. I have a one-page document. Six years in, that’s working fairly OK.
4: How much money will I make?
A: Sky’s the limit. Within reason. Here’s what I’ve found. Some people adopt the solo lifestyle because they want flexibility–almost like a borderline part-time job. Others go full-steam ahead and try to maximize their earning potential. I tend to fall heavily toward the latter. And, I can tell you, I’ve made much more money as a solo consultant than I ever did employed by others. It’s all about how you approach it and how much effort you put in.
5: How can I stay current with trends in the industry?
A: This is a challenge, for sure. But, not a insurmountable one. Attend local professional development events (PRSA, AMA or MIMA for Minnesotans). Line up coffee meet-ups with people you respect in the industry. Hit 1-2 national events a year. There are just as many ways to develop yourself professionally as a solo as there are when you’re working for the man. I see no difference here.
6: How do you keep up new business efforts when you get busy?
A: Big challenge–and one, quite honestly, a lot of us solos don’t do well. My theory: Treat new business like a client. I set aside X hours a week strictly devoted to new business. For me, that means: 1) My blog, 2) The Talking Points Podcast, 3) Coffee meet-ups, 4) The corporate communicator mastermind group I organize, and 5) A host of other strategic efforts I’m trying to uncover new business. By budgeting time for this weekly, it never gets cast aside. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received as a solo: “Only the paranoid survive.” Actually, I said that 🙂 But, it couldn’t be more true when it comes to making time for new business. ALWAYS make time. Or, you’ll be looking for a new job soon.
7: What should you name your company?
A: Don’t put too much time and effort into this. Some of the best consultants I know have fairly lame company names. Mine: ACH Communications. Not exactly the most creative name in the world, right? But, it hasn’t mattered. Why? Because as a solo, your clients are hiring YOU–not an agency. They care about your NAME–not the agency’s name. Again, don’t lose sleep over this. Keep it simple and don’t get too cute.
8: How much is it going to cost me to get up-and-running?
A: Short answer: Not much. Initial costs could include: A computer. A printer. A web site. Maybe business cards (although you could debate the relevance of these). That’s about it. No really. Getting up-and-running as a solo PR is almost too easy from a cost perspective. Believe me, my accountant is always asking me where all my expenses are at! The good news: That means more money in your pocket. Remember my suggestion above about the office: Don’t add meaningless overhead where you don’t need it. Applies to start-up costs, too.
9: What’s the hardest part of going out on your own?
A: Selling the concept to your spouse of significant other. If you don’t have a significant other, you’ve dodged a big bullet. This was one of the bigger challenges I had getting started. Not that my wife wasn’t supportive (she certainly was). But, I came home one day and told her, “Hey, honey, I’m going to quit my full-time job to try this solo PR thing! I know we have two kids under the age of 3, but I think this is going to be awesome!” Initially, I think that was met with a healthy dose of skepticism. But, if you have your ducks in a row and your talking points vetted, you’ll be able to have a good conversation with your spouse about the pros and cons and you’ll be able to make a decision that works for you both (which is obviously, the most important thing).