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The first year – the luxury of hindsight

23/02/2012

After 17 years of having a ‘proper’ PR job, Sam Howard takes a moment to reflect on her first year as a freelancer.

what care we for fine reception areas check out the new office rug!

So I took the leap of freelance faith one year ago now. I started with just one contract (that’s all you need) and an old laptop (such a bad idea). A year later and I’m busy and increasingly teaming up with industry mates to deliver on a wider brief.

And I’m know I shouldn’t boast but also the proud owner of:

  • A shiny new laptop (bought in great distress):
  • A comfortable office chair (couldn’t actually stand after that first month perched on rustic dining room chair);
  • An all-singing all-dancing printer (I tried a basic one, but running to the shop to pay 10p for photocopy soon lost its appeal);
  • A fan heater (essential);
  • A dog (absolutely not essential and quite possibly a really bad idea but I’m sticking with it.)

I’ve celebrated making it to Year One with a new office rug and several cocktail parties for those who have looked after me most. (“Mind the rug!”). Forgive this nostalgic moment while I reflect on the year gone by…

What was the best revelation?

That I would enjoy it quite so much, even the dodgy days are somewhat thrilling. I love the diversity of work and the random twists opportunities offer. Despite my commercial brain, I don’t seem to be overly obsessed with making a fortune (handy). Just doing good work and getting paid well enough for it, works fine for me.

What was a complete let down?

My misperception that if I didn’t have any paid work I’d be just working on my tan. If you don’t have paid work, you feel somewhat obliged to look for it, and even if it’s already on the horizon, then you still labour over laptop every day staying on top of admin marketing accounts etc. A year in, and Loose Women still remains a mystery to me. Damn that work ethic. And it turns out I hate doing my own PR. I ordered some business cards off the internet and I do enjoy writing this occasional blog, as long as I don’t have to pitch myself as a ‘thought leader’, but beyond that, turns out I’m not very interested – which I think, given my training, is a bit rubbish.Is there

Anything you miss about your old life?

Well I’m not lonely which I was a bit worried about, but I walk the dog every morning so usually bump into someone to chat to, and then I shout at self-same dog quite a lot all day which keeps the volume up. As predicted, it’s the IT department that I miss. The combination of having a giant house rabbit that’s addicted to power cables and my own complete inability to do anything other than cry when the black blinky screen shows, means, I’ve truly and repeatedly suffered.

If it’s so great do you wish you’d done it sooner?

Erm maybe, not sure. If I’d gone solo earlier in my career I’m not convinced I would really have known what I was doing, ten years in a busy agency means you are learning every day and I’m really glad I have that experience. Without it I think I would have been just too freaked to enjoy this solo life. As it is, my instincts are nicely honed and the advice I give has usually been proven.

So what’s next?

Well no plans for global domination or any more pets (there’s more of them than us now). But perhaps I should go on a dating site just to spice things up a little. Place an ad that might read:

“Mostly chirpy freelancer, smelling slightly of wet dog, would occasionally like to meet IT Geek with too much time on his hands and an endless supply of cables for emergency assistance and fun times (deadline dependent).”

Huge thanks to my early adopter clients who were kind enough to hire me, pay me and refer me. And to my gorgeous friends who have looked after me this just-a-bit-scary, year. My round this next time.


The highs and lows of a fledgling freelancer

11/03/2011

A month into being a freelance PR and each day I lurch from dismay to delight – here’s a taster:

oh that chair looks really comfy..

High – first day, dancing around in my kitchen to Katie Perry ‘Firework’ deciding that was me, that was – a freelance firework.

Low – second day, no fireworks just housework which I never do but now don’t think I can afford for anyone else to do.

Low – first week, emailing myself to see if email was working (it was).

High – first blog, getting comments and being retweeted.

High – first client meeting, in a cake shop. Decided henceforth all client meetings shall be held in cake shops.

Low – first follow up, realising notes taken in said cake shop had to be actioned by me, and they take AGES!

High – office view, it looks out on to a snowdrop-littered garden with a giant rabbit hopping around in it. His name is Maximus.

High – office colleague, my desk has a cushion with a small cat on it. Her name is Lily. She looks at me with purry pride.

Low – office banter, turns out giant rabbits and small cats are not that great at office banter.

Low – office comfort, I just can’t get warm and the chair is wildly uncomfortable, I finish the day looking like a frozen Quasimodo.

High – office economies, my new printer was real cheap.

Low – false economies, my cheapo printer doesn’t photocopy I have to walk half a mile and pay 10p pay for one, so takes about 30 mins out of my day.

Low – office technology – still can’t get my Outlook to talk nicely to my HTC phone.

High – food, munching lunch while following the Archers (it’s all going on).

Low – food,  my sandwiches are just not as nice as Prêt, nor is my coffee, I haven’t had a muffin in a month. I don’t know how to make sushi and don’t even mention Burritos.

High –food, lost two pounds in weight, go figure.

High – making decisions, making my own decisions and implementing them in the same 10 minutes is truly liberating.

Low – making mistakes, two hours later, realizing that half the time they are the wrong decisions is somewhat disconcerting.

What can I tell ya, it’s a learning curve…


First project nerves

18/02/2011

One week of being a PR freelancer and  Londoner Sam Howard is off to LA. What can possibly go wrong?

are palm trees supposed to look this intimidating?

So, I’m in the final throes of preparation for my trip tomorrow. As brag factors go, jetting off to LA, a week after turning freelance, has to be right up there. I’m off to a super swanky US university to mentor post grads. And it’s not that I’m not grateful for this opportunity, I am.

Really I am.

It’s just that:

Among other things, I’ve volunteered to give a three hour workshop; and although I’ve worked in the comms industry for 17+ years I’m not sure I can talk about it for longer than 20 minutes…

AND I’ve prepared all the materials from scratch, AND in an enormous hurry, it’s a shiny new deck and probably every slide harbours a typo which will only declare itself when projected onto a 20 foot screen in a room full of clever people…

AND, LA is 500 square miles, I have a disgraceful sense of direction, I am a rubbish driver and walking apparently is not an option. I know I’m going to get lost on my first day, arrive late, look a total twat etc etc…AND, I don’t know anyone, any restaurants, any shops, any neighbourhoods, any reasons d’être to be in LA. I could just go to the beach, but it’s Venice beach and it’s February and I’m not sure my pale and imperfect bod will even be allowed on it…

AND everyone keeps telling me that I will love LA, everyone. That the people are like the weather – warm, beautiful, friendly and relaxed. But the thing is, I am more a product of our own inclement climes, frigid, haggard, hostile and neurotic. What if I make students cry?..

Besides I love New York, love it, love the people, the food, the shops, the art, the weather, the architecture. I know my way around New York . I know my way around the people. Everyone says that LA is nothing like New York…AND last night, I phoned a friend and whimpered that I’m about to go down more like Ricky Gervais than Piers Morgan. Obviously I wasn’t actually looking for a practical solution, just to hear the sound of my own voice bleating. But he only goes and ‘helps’! Hooks me up with his fabulous friend, an LA local, assures me we’ll get on like a house on fire. Turns out she’s a supremely successful fashion stylist, dresses the A List for the red carpet…

AND so now, on top of everything else, I don’t know what to wear. I’ve always been so disdainful of labels. Will that catch on do you think? In LA??

So think: a badly dressed – Ricky Gervais – arriving late  – at the Golden Globes – no one to talk to – and fluffing his lines  – on already ill-judged script.Only difference is, I do want this gig again.