The Number One Do and Don't for Marketing and PR Freelancers
I'm approaching the five-year mark of not having a traditional job. I've yet to find a great name for my approach to work. Freelancer. Contractor, Gig Worker. Distributed Professional. Remote Worker. Nothing seems to fit perfectly. Call it what you want; the labels aren't important.
Over the past several weeks I've had conversations with other like-minded professionals that have reinforced the number one Do and Don't for marketing and PR freelancers.
First, some quick background.
The pandemic accelerated the trend already happening of more professionals ditching traditional employment for the contractor model. In the early days of the pandemic, when organizations made initial plans for knowledge workers to return to the office in September of 2020, it was clear a dramatic shift in employment was afoot. This manifested itself into the "Great Resignation." Record low levels of knowledge worker unemployment continue to fuel the Great Resignation fire. Additionally, as part of this trend, technology startups have realized that building out traditional full marketing teams or hiring traditional agencies is a waste of resources.
Marketing and PR contractors became direct beneficiaries of this trend. As traditional full-time employees became harder to find, contractors quickly stepped in to fill the void, often delivering better results faster and at a lower total cost to the organization.
Most Marketing and PR contractors --at least the great ones--have been running nonstop at full speed for the past two years. And, given the rapidly shifting employment models, there's no end in sight. This makes the opportunity ripe for other results-oriented professionals to jump headfirst into rewarding contractor roles. Jump in! The water is lovely!
So if you're already swimming with us, or considering it, here are the two things that were reinforced through conversations over the past several weeks:
The #1 Do: Integrate yourself into a network.
Independent contractors and solopreneurs can't do it all and aren't experts in everything. Surrounding yourself with a network of like-minded professionals is critical to survival. Nearly every social network hosts freelance networks, including the Freelance Marketing Network and the ongoing #freelancechat.
Your network is an ocean of untapped resources to help solve client-specific problems. Your network becomes the first place to look for skills you don't have but your client needs.
The most significant value a network provides is simply the ability to pick up the phone and talk to other freelance professionals. I don't know how often my network has been there to brainstorm new ideas or review documents, campaigns, or pitches. I send or receive at least one "do you have a minute to help with something" text weekly. And the best part of a great network is the untethered access to experts across the marketing and PR spectrum. These conversations tend to be the most rewarding and productive ones of the week.
Your network can also become an excellent source for work. Last summer, while vacationing in the mountains of northern Georgia, I got a call from one of the people in my network I respect the most. This person was working with a client, but the fit wasn't great, both content-wise and culturally. This person thought I would be a better fit, and they were right. I've had a great relationship with this client for more than eight months, and it would never have happened without my network. Everyone is happy, and the client wins.
Nearly all marketing and PR freelancers previously held traditional full-time jobs. We all went through the process of launching businesses, determining billing rates, finding clients, and just about every other possible up and down of becoming a contractor. Most of us are willing to share this information with anyone who will benefit from it. You just have to ask! We want more professionals and clients to understand the value of the on-demand talent model.
The #1 Don't. Never Let Your Experience and Knowledge be Compromised
For me, the single most significant benefit of becoming a Marketing and PR contractor is the ability to select the content and people to engage. Even when I had capacity, I routinely declined projects I wasn't passionate about, didn't believe in the company/ technology, or wasn't an expert in what needed to be done.
Successful freelancers are successful because we deliver results, which is more fun when you're working on projects you love. Marketing and PR contractors are industry experts in our specific domains. We know what does and doesn't work.
Some clients will always have unrealistic expectations, like demanding a segment for the founder of a seed-funded startup on CNBC. Some clients will suggest inappropriate tactics, like implementing marketing automation tools to bombard journalists with content. Most of the time, these expectations can be managed. Sometimes they can't.
A week or so ago, I had a conversation with someone in my network about a client not only ignoring expert advice but doing the exact opposite of what should have been done to solve a specific problem. Ignoring the expert will exacerbate the situation and result in more work to clean it up. And unfortunately, if this particular problem got worse, outsiders would have incorrectly assumed it was the freelancer's fault even though the freelancer gave the best possible advice.
In some cases, when a client doesn't take your expert advice and makes the problem worse, it may be time to walk away. Firing a client should never be a goal, but unfortunately, there are cases when it has to happen, especially if your experience and knowledge are repeatedly compromised.
There's too much work and too many great clients who need the service of Marketing and PR contractors. The next opportunity is a phone call or email away. Your network will respect your decision and most likely help in finding more work.
The market for on-demand Marketing and PR professionals will only grow.