ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
March 12, 2009

Full Time to Freelance: How to Thrive as the Owner of Your Own Business


When I started my business on a Friday the 13th nearly 15 years ago, I spent the first weekend alternately thinking I’d be the most successful consultant in the history of communications — and with my head in the toilet, puking my guts out, thinking I’d never work again.

While I haven’t completely given up stressing out about business, over the years I’ve been happily surprised to make a nice income doing exciting work for lovely people, often while wearing yoga pants and hosting a cat on my desk.Here are three things I’ve done to build my business. I hope they might work for you, too:

  1. Diversify your business. Look for businesses that thrive at different points in the economic cycle. For example, during boom markets, when companies are staffing, my training business prospers. In the midst of layoffs, my writing business flourishes as organizations try to get by with fewer staff members.
  2. Drop your hourly rate. “People who charge by the hour are either poor or tired,” says one of my self-employed friends. If you’re charging by the hour, consider shifting your fee to a project basis. It’s easier on your clients, because they know what to expect and don’t feel nickled-and-dimed for every second you spend changing “whiches” to “thats.” And if you’re efficient, you may find that you earn more by the project than by the hour. About 75 percent of independents charge by the project instead of by the hour or day, according to Advertising Age.
  3. Get help. Would you pay $20 to make $200? If you’re making your own copies at Kinko’s, driving to the post office or ordering office supplies, you’re wasting your billable hours on administrative work. Contract an assistant or office manager to handle these tasks and free up your own time for client work, marketing or product development.  

Build Your Business

Have you ever dreamed of working on your own … boosting your earning power … being the boss … choosing your own projects … fulfilling your lifelong goal of showing up for work in your sweats?

Or has the economy put you in a position where you need to jumpstart a communication business before you intended to?

Either way, you may find my “Full-time to Free-lance” handbook helpful. This is an oldy-but-goody (I had to chuckle at some of the annual salary figures I quoted!) that outlines how I started my business and many of the approaches I still use to run it today.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Creative strategies for earning more money freelancing than you made working full time
  • Two elements to consider when setting your fees
  • How to tap the Power of PIGs: Earn a living while you sleep
  • The three-legged-stool approach to stability
  • Eleven ways to bring home more bacon
  • How to track whether you’re on target to meet your financial goals
  • And more

On a personal note, whether you’re new to business ownership, an old pro or reluctantly starting down the path to self-employment, I wish you the best of luck. I hope your adventure working for yourself is as interesting and rewarding as mine has been.

Ann Wylie, president of Wylie CommunicationsBy Ann Wylie, president of Wylie Communications. Ann works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. She travels from Hollywood to Helsinki, helping communicators at such organizations as NASA, AT&T and H&R Block polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work. As PRSA’s writing coach, she presents programs like “Writing That Sells — Products, Services and Ideas” in on-site sessions across the country. She is the author of more than a dozen learning tools, including the handbook “Full-time to Free-lance” and Rev Up Readership.com, a toolbox for writers. In addition to writing and editing, Ann helps organizations launch or revitalize their Web sites and publications. Ann has served as a public relations professional in an agency, corporate communicator for Hallmark Cards, editor of an executive magazine and as a consultant in her own firm. Her work has earned more than 60 communication awards including three IABC Gold Quills.

In the digital tool “Full-time to Free-lance” from Full-time to Free-lance GuideWylie Communications, you’ll learn creative strategies for earning more money freelancing than you make working full time; how to determine your earning potential; two key elements to consider when setting your fees; and what to do today to begin building your business for the future.

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