What to know

Quite a few people have contacted me over the years asking – how did you start your own PR practice? After departing a big agency culture that wasn’t for me, I decided to try it on my own. That was 11 years ago. Because people were helpful and kind to me when I started out, I like to pay it forward. After having another meeting recently with a local colleague just starting out, I decided to write it up for a post to share.

It’s not all about business cards and websites

It’s true that most professional services consultants land business by personal referrals – not cold calls, networking, social media ads, conferences or bid lists. People find you because they hear about the work you did and the results you’ve earned for others. Of the inquiries I’ve received via my website (your best online calling card), about 1 in 3 have resulted in contracts. Most people who hit websites are price shopping. And most professional consultants don’t list prices on websites.

Spend some up-front money where it matters

The best money I ever spent as I started my S Corp was invested in sound legal and accounting advice – starting with contract forms and going into tax preparation. Update with your experts annually in their least busy seasons to make sure you’re tracking all that’s new – and what may be trending. I’ve also started doing annual checks with banks, insurers and other services I use on behalf of my clients. And I post more in forums because people of like minds share great tips.

Know your value and understand your limitations

We’re good to clients who are good to us – and often don’t keep track of the minutes as the clock ticks by. When it’s great, it’s done. But sometimes, you need to pull back on excesses – like after business calls and emails. Work with clients to create best work habits. Maintain best work habits for your sanity and health. Get away from your computer and phone when you can and disconnect.

Be good to yourself and better to your clients

Working with difficult clients is never easy. And we’ve let go and parted ways when it is obvious that clients don’t value the counsel and work provided. But people are people – and have off days. Under a crisis scenario, there can be consecutive off days filled with stress and worry. When it happens, don’t get cranky – just ask: How can I help? How can I be of service?

Never underestimate your worth

In a recent meeting, I was asked – well, you’ll offer us a lower rate because you’re a solo PR practitioner, correct? No. We (and I mean this in the queenly sense) don’t lower our value or worth because of the exceptional results we deliver. As I chatted with my new business friend starting her own company, we agreed on this point. Never overstate your deliverables and always exceed expectations. Seek out, find, and work with other PR colleagues who have your same work ethic and values.

Help out when you can

While nonprofits always have a need for discounted rates, free help and volunteer time, they are generally understaffed, overworked and limited on budget. When we work with nonprofits, I try to donate professional photos shared with a client for grants, give extra time to connect them with media, or share their social media messaging and community asks with my followers. All are worthwhile and of value. Hopefully, it is appreciated.

Don’t assume the worst (unless you’re in crisis mode)

Clients who value you will keep you on the payroll. I recently went through a stressful and rigorous review as part of a national merger of efficiencies as a client decided to go big with a global PR firm. The waiting was tough, the updates were honest and the end result was a 90-minute, in-person review by top executives. A big pitch. I spent 30 hours prepping and coming up with new ideas. Others gave me support and encouragement and I didn’t hesitate to ask. I survived a massive cut. Today, I’m still delivering in my PR practice.

And most of all …

Be good to yourself. Your business is yours and yours alone. It’s your brand. Your personality. Your living. Keep it real and keep it going – as long as you can.