More people are working on their own as freelancers and independent consultants, including public relations professionals.
Up to 162 million people are working independently throughout the United States and European Union, McKinsey Global Institute states in its report Independent Work: Choice, Necessity and the Gig Economy.
“This is a bigger phenomenon than we thought, and it’s growing,” McKinsey partner Susan Lund, who co-authored the report, told Mashable. “The 9-5 job is becoming more of a myth than the reality of how people make their living. It’s time for everyone to reset how they think about work.”
A new survey from the Freelancers’ Union estimates that the freelance workforce grew from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million this year. Freelancers now represent 35 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the union.
Many in PR consider, or at least dream about, becoming an independent consultant at some point in their careers. Like others, they desire greater flexibility in hours and the power to be their own boss. However, myths of being independent abound and may cloud career and lifestyle decisions. These are some common myths.
- Myth #1: Independent practitioners work al The term “solo” may be a misnomer. Independent PR pros often form teams or work as part of teams, as each brings his or her particular strengths to the project. While freelancers are typically individual contractors who offer their specialized skills, such as writing or event planning, independent practitioners may also serve as general contractors or subcontractors.
- Myth #2: Independent practitioners always charge the least. They tend to cost less than larger PR firms on average, while offering strong value, Tim O’Brien, owner of O’Brien Communications, in an article for the PRSA. However, lower costs are typically due to low overheads and cost-efficiencies rather than hourly rates. Many independent practitioners charge fees similar to those of mid-size PR agencies.
- Myth #3: They work in their pajamas. The independent practitioner community is broad and diverse, and some enjoy flexibility in hours and work arrangements. “Still, many others operate their practices as they would any business, working in excess of 40 hours per week, servicing the largest client organizations and doing high-level, high-value work,” O’Brien says.
- Myth #4: Being an independent consultant is not a viable long-term option.It’s only for between jobs or the start to building an agency. Many thousands of people spend most of their career as an independent PR professional, says Kellye Crane of Crane Communications in Solo PR, herself a veteran solo practitioner.
- Myth #5: You need substantial start-up funds. Although more savings can help, some PR pros take the leap and succeed with no money. Many go solo with only a good reputation and a healthy professional network.
- Myth #6: Freelancers or solo practitioners earn less. The Department of Labor reports that full-time, independent contractors earn more than average traditional workers. Surveys show that a large percentage of independent contractors earn well into the six figures.
- Myth #7: You need decades of experience to succeed on your own.Crane started my successful PR consulting business after just four years of working in traditional agencies. While your fees will of course vary based on your background, at virtually every step of your career there are opportunities to freelance and consult.
- Myth #8: Freelancers only get to work on dull projects. Just the opposite is true. Solo practitioners can seek the most interesting and challenging projects. “Personally, I love that I don’t have to worry about boredom or ethical dilemmas, because I have the ability to build my business as I see fit,” Crane says. “It also means that I get to work with a large variety of clients and people, which keeps things fresh.”
Bottom Line: Thinking of going on your own to become an independent PR practitioner? Abandoning these prevailing myths will create a more realistic view of life as a solo PR pro.
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