PR Pro, Debbie Smith, on getting out there and expanding your work horizons.
It’s more than six years since I became an independent PR consultant, and I’ve enjoyed (almost) all of it. I’m still here and still working on interesting projects with great clients. We freelancers often swap advice but there’s one thing I haven’t seen much conversation around about and that’s the need to keep challenging yourself and venture outside your work ‘comfort zone’. It can be nerve-wracking, but there’s nothing better than the sense of achievement it brings.Most of us go freelance because we’re good at what we do (if we’re not we’ll soon stop winning work) and we want to keep doing it rather than running teams and playing office politics. We stay up to date on our clients’ areas of expertise, keep up with a changing media landscape, and of course there’s CPD available from our professional bodies the CIPR and PRCA.
But what we can miss out on is the opportunity to take on different types of work. In a large organisation new things often come your way and you can take the opportunity safe in the knowledge that your colleagues are there to support you. When you’re working from your home office, it’s more of a risk.
However, opportunities do come along and it’s important to grasp them firmly with both hands if you don’t want to do the same thing every day. If they’re relevant to your core skills, you’ll find that with research, hard work and a deep breath you can do it. My mum used to say, “You can only do your best,”and if you’re well prepared and confident your best will probably be just fine. And then it’s another skill to add to your portfolio.
I was delighted when I was asked to help with positioning and messaging for a large international business. Interesting client, that enabled me to use my degree subject as well as my PR skills, overseas travel…what could be better? I then discovered they wanted a crucial piece of business analysis, something I wasn’t familiar with. But I reasoned that it was a logical extension of a SWOT analysis, did my research and came up with the results. Happy client and a new skill for me.
Sometimes the challenge can be of your own making. I co-organise a local business conference and exhibition for several hundred people and after attending similar events suggested that we replaced one of our speaker slots with a panel interview to make it more interesting. My co-organisers agreed enthusiastically and then asked who’d do the interviewing. There was only one possible answer – me. In the run-up I wondered what I’d let myself in for and the butterflies were fluttering in my stomach on the day. However, I’d prepared my questions and pre-briefed my panel, so everything went to plan. It was so well received that we’ve continued it at the next two events.
So don’t rest on your laurels, fellow freelancers – keep challenging yourselves and get outside that comfort zone!