Telum Vox Pop: Focus on Freelancers

Telum Vox Pop: Focus on Freelancers

For today's PR alert, Telum spoke to freelancers in the PR and communications space about how they decided to take on freelancing and things they have learnt.

What made you choose freelancing, and what is the difference between a freelancer as opposed to starting a consultancy? 

Catherine Sumner, Senior Communications Consultant

Freelancing gives me complete control over the hours I work. It provided a great reintroduction to the workforce after having a baby, and means I can scale work up or down, based on family requirements and what I feel is achievable. Freelancing is a great option for new mums, but also anyone who might have ambitions for a side project or travel. In my case, I was able to work on a bus conversion this year and take 3 months out to travel around Australia with my family. I’ve also been on the consultancy side, working with my own clients, but for now freelancing is a better option fitting around family commitments.

Jamie Wilczek, Owner, Publish PR
I had a part-time permanent role with a not-for-profit organisation, as well as a contract role with a tech company when Coronavirus rudely interrupted. My working hours doubled when the not-for-profit (in collaboration with the Victorian State government) became involved in the vaccination of Melbourne’s construction workers, and technology overhauls were suddenly in high demand. Add to that homeschooling.

When Melbourne re-opened (the last time), I found I had unwittingly reordered my priorities, with a return to office work no longer high on the list. I was also receiving a growing number of calls from business owners wanting media / PR advice. The lesson Covid taught me was there is no time like the present, so I registered the domain and so it began.

As a freelancer I’m offering much of what a consultancy is offering but on a smaller scale. There is a fine line between the two, but ultimately in the early stages of working for myself, freelancing was the best fit for me.

Kristen Zotti, Director, Zotts & Co.
Early on in my career, I worked with some amazing PR freelancers who opened my eyes to a different way of working. From then on, it was always my career goal. In 2017, I was excited to make that dream a reality and my business Zotts & Co was born. Over that time, I've been lucky enough to work on some amazing clients and projects, including some of the nation's highest profile government campaigns. I also love helping to boost the capabilities of in-house PR and comms teams.

There are a lot of great things about becoming a freelancer, but working for yourself also presents challenges. What is the hardest thing about freelancing that you may not have thought about when you started?

Catherine Sumner
I think one of the hardest things when starting out is simply making the right contacts and connections, to ensure you have work. Once you’re established, it becomes a lot easier. I think freelancing isn’t the best option if you’re just starting out. You won’t get the level of patience required or training when working with a team. Time is money in the freelancing game.

Being a freelancer, you’re accountable for every hour you charge. It’s important to show value to clients and can be sometimes feel like you’re always on – you can’t have an off day in freelancing and can sometimes feel like you’re pulling rabbits out of hats. Pitching campaigns can be particularly draining if you’re not getting any results. 

Jamie Wilczek
Despite having worked for various organisations on fine-tuning and communicating their service offerings, defining in simple terms what to advertise proved tricky. I’ve got a background in television journalism and in producing television and radio, combined with media comms and PR experience. It’s been difficult to zoom in on a niche, but I’ve found myself focusing on the health and technology space, writing articles and media releases as well as collaborating on video content.

Working for yourself also means you must be on top of home office economics, which of course includes doing the sums. So that’s been a challenge for me. I have always preferred English to Maths!

Kristen Zotti
While it is amazing choosing your own projects and having control over your day, what I love most about freelancing is that I have this incredible motivation to work hard for my clients and help them achieve success.

I think the hardest part of freelancing is having sole responsibility for the business, without having a team to bounce around ideas with. However, I'm very lucky to have found a couple of great online communities of business owners to workshop ideas, share wins and solve problems. They are such a lifeline and make the PR rollercoaster ride a lot more fun! 

What are some of the ways freelancing has changed the way you work in terms of skills and things you have learnt?

Catherine Sumner

Being my own boss has made me accountable, much better at managing my time and workload, and has made me ruthless with pushing back when required. It’s the number one learning that I would take with me if I went back to a permanent role.

Jamie Wilczek
There’s less sitting at a desk 9-5, with that pressure of keeping up appearances. On the flip side, I’m spending more time working outside normal office hours.

Further to that, working for a tech business for over two years, we were constantly upskilled and trained in the use of software and cutting-edge platforms. Now it’s up to me to keep abreast of trends and technology.  For instance, I’m currently enjoying exploring ChatGTP, which is an incredible platform with huge potential as support for communications.

Being self-employed also means you need to devote time to self-promotion. No one is going to know you are out there if you don’t put yourself on show at some stage.

Kristen Zotti
Being a freelancer, as opposed to an employee in PR, has meant I've had to learn a whole new set of skills to succeed in business. There's accounting and budgeting, building and maintaining a website, marketing and social media, implementing new and efficient ways to manage clients, plus staying on top of industry news and trends just to name a few! The biggest learning curve for me has been understanding where to invest money and where to save.

While it can be scary to outsource, especially when I was started out, investing in myself is where I've made the biggest steps forward in my business

Celia Harding, Founder / Director of Shed PR shares some details about her facebook page for freelancers
Freelance PRs Australia & New Zealand is a place for freelance PR professionals and solo PR consultants to come together to share ideas, resources and support in what can sometimes be, a lonely world of freelancing. Group members can also post job roles, ask for advice and share their triumphs and their woes. 

As the founder of PR Shed, I started the page to pool together freelance talent to help support my business growth and service clients in more niche industries. It can also be hard to find reliable freelancers with availability at short notice or in times of need. I made a vow to do something about it during an unexpected stay in hospital with multiple projects on the go and none of my usual go-to's around to support. At times PR can be a slog, I'm an advocate for the industry working together collaboratively to work smarter not harder, and love to share hacks and resources which will benefit the community. 

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