The juggle is real

Being self employed and having a kid is great, but it can be hard. Yesterday my son was unexpectedly ill nothing serious but enough that he couldn’t go to nursery. A day that should have had six working hours in it, minimum, suddenly turned into one where I managed about two hours and that was only because of the babysitting services of Peter Pan and Bing.

Whilst I was trying to work through the shouts of Captain Hook I got to thinking about the pros and cons of self-employed life.

juggling

Pros
• Working when you want to work. The 9 to 5 never really suited me. I am productive in the morning and at night but in the afternoon my brain seems to need a little down time. Fine when you manage your own hours not so cool when you have a boss breathing down your neck.
• I can work with people I like. I am lucky I am in a position where I only work with people I like and get on with. This wasn’t the case when I first became self-employed but seven years on and it is one of my favourite luxuries of self-employment.
• No office politics. I don’t have to listen to who said what about who because to be honest I never really cared.
• Sports day, school plays, mopping poorly brows I can do them all. It might mean I have to use the TV to babysit or work late into the night, but I can be there.
• Social life and holidays. If a friend is off work and fancies lunch if my client work is up to date I can go, I can go for an hour, three hours or all day and nobody will question it. If I fancy a holiday I don’t have to check with HR or make sure that Janet in accounts isn’t off at the same time.
• Having babies, you can have all the time and all the cuddles with them if you choose to.

Cons
• People don’t think I have a job (well not a serious one). Some people talk to me as if it is a little hobby (yes that’ll be my mum). There seems to be far more status attached to jobs I have had previously with titles and company cars, even though I work much harder being self-employed I have to get the work, do the work, keep the client, manage my time, sort my accounts etc.
• Not secure even when you feel secure (could lose a client). Even when things are good and you’re full to capacity there is always that niggling feeling that things could change, that a client could have a change of heart or worse all your clients.
• Money, money, money (or not). I have most of my clients on retainer so have a good idea of my monthly income but there are always often clients that delay paying or struggle with cash flow which in turn affects my cash flow.
• Working holidays. I never really switch off, even when on holiday I check my emails and respond to journalists and enquiries. I keep reminding myself it is PR not ER.
• Having babies can be tricky. You get all the perks of the time with them but you either have to start back working for clients quite quickly and fit work round naps and often ad-hoc childcare or take some time out and go back to what seems like the beginning when they are a bit bigger.

What do you love and hate about working for yourself?

 

Rebecca Slater runs Beck and Call Public Relations http://www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

 

PR Tips 2: What do you want to achieve?

When a new client comes to me very  often they start the conversation by saying something along the lines of “I need PR help.” or “I want a press release writing”.  Both are reasonable requests.  I then asking them “What do you want to achieve?” Very often they respond that they want people to know about x, y or z.

But the question what do you want to achieve?  Is bigger than it may first appear.    As a business tackling PR think about what you want any PR or marketing activity to result in.  Do you want:

  • To increase footfall to a venue
  • Increase sales of a product or service
  • Get more enquiries about the service/product you offer
  • To convert viewers to buyers
  • Drive more people to your website
  • Just generally raise awareness of what you offer

Your answer to this question will determine how the PR strategy is executed and what calls to action are made in any releases, marketing and/or social media.

10 Ways PR can help your business

cropped-33362-beck-call-public-relations-logo.jpgIf you think that PR is just for big businesses think again. PR is a tool that can help all businesses. It’s a cost effective way of spreading the word about all the great things you’re doing, which will help differentiate your company from your competitors.
So, how can PR help your business?
1. It’s cost effective
A press release is a fraction of the cost of an advertisement and can often only be the cost of a call or email to the right person. An example of this is, over the past year I have been working with a client. The PR coverage achieved for them has reached more than 800,000 people and if it had been paid for advertising would have cost nearly £45,000.
2. Raises awareness
PR lets people know that you exist and what you offer. The more people see or hear about your business the more likely it is that you will spring to mind when they require your services.
3. Can improve your reputation
Everybody has an opinion about companies they come into contact with whether it be staff, customers, suppliers or investors. Having somebody work with you on your PR will allow you to manage your reputation.
4. It’s good for your bottom line
PR is less expensive than advertising and the benefits of PR can be much more substantial. One good media placement can lead to a substantial increase in sales and growth, and because many small businesses have a unique story to tell, they are interesting to the media.
5. Build brand values
Every business has messages they want to convey to their customers about their product, the type of business they are and who they are. Public relations is ideal for communicating these and, over time, helping you build a loyal customer base.
6. Gaining credibility
Great PR can give your business credibility. A positive endorsement from a third party in the form of a news story generates much more credibility than an advertisement.
7. Builds online reputation
In a world where more and more news is online, PR can help build your online reputation and improve your SEO. Once the positive press is online, there it will stay, meaning that whenever anybody searches for you they find stories about you. Your business will reap the benefits.
8. Supports other marketing and advertising activities
PR is a great way of supporting your other marketing activities. By integrating all of your marketing you can ensure that consistent messages are being delivered. If you are running an advert this will probably see an increase in people searching for information about your company, so it can help to have some positive informative articles out there
9. Can assist in a crisis
No business wants to be in a crisis but if it does happen PR can help turn it around and ensure that you get the right messages out to the public, staff and your stakeholders.
10. Help you achieve your business goals
Whether your goals are to increase sales or to raise your profile, PR can help you achieve them.
Hopefully you found these tips useful and informative. If you would like further advice or support then please get in touch. Call us 07974 306914 or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

Benefits of using a home worker

Since becoming a self-employed homeworker I have pitched for lots of work, some of which are advertised as home-based and others where they have been looking for an in-house employee.

As you would expect some of those looking for somebody office based can be sceptical about using somebody who is self-employed and works from home. Often worried that if they can’t see a person in the office then work isn’t happening, but there are numerous reasons why companies big and small would be wise to consider the self-employed home worker as an asset rather than a liability to their business and luckily for me many do.
If you are looking to recruit here are some reasons to consider the self-employed home worker.
Flexibility for you
With some self-employed people like me you may have the opportunity to pay in a way that suits you whether that be a monthly retainer, an hourly rate or by the project. This can work out cheaper for your company than paying a monthly salary when there may be times when work is lean. So you only pay for the work you need when you need it.
• Paid to get the work done
Rather than paying a salary you are paying to get the work done, so the person working for you may not be in the office and they may be doing work on a Friday night instead of during the 9-5 but they will be getting the work done to meet your deadlines as their livelihood depends on it. So there is less “I’m not getting paid so I’m not doing it” or “it has gone five so I’m going home”. So, whilst a self- employed home worker may have a more flexible lifestyle in that when things are quiet they might take a few hours off when the work needs to be done they are likely to be doing it until whatever time it takes to get the work completed.

• No time chatting to colleagues
Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you view it us home-workers don’t have any colleagues to chat to. Having been an employee myself it is amazing how much of the day people spend chatting to colleagues, sending emails and checking social media, all of which the employee is paying for. I’m not saying these things don’t happen with the self-employed but as mentioned before there can be more impetus from the self-employed to get their heads down and get the work done.

• Technology means it isn’t necessary
I make a point of visiting all my clients as and when they need it for some who are local this can be weekly or monthly and for those further away like my client in Devon we meet as and when needed but with all the technology we have at our disposal the mobile phone, email and of course Skype I can be contacted at any-time and am able to take part in meetings from wherever I am.

• Higher productivity
Studies have shown that people who are allowed to work from home are more productive due to less distractions, no stressful commute and their gratefulness at being allowed to work at home. This can only be a positive for your business.

• No hassle of Tax, N.I, holiday and sick pay
The final advantage is less paper work and less outgoings for you. If you use a self-employed worker they are responsible for sorting out their national insurance and tax. As for holidays and sick pay the self-employed person is responsible for these.
Using a self-employed homeworker may not work for some businesses but I would advise any business not to rule it out.

I run Beck and Call Public Relations, you can find out more at www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

What did you say you do?

What do you think I do?
What do you think I do?

A typical scenario for me is I meet somebody and the conversation turns to careers I get asked “What do you do?” I respond “I work in public relations” cue one of two responses:
1. A blank look and swiftly moving on
2. “Oh so you come up with adverts?”
Many people don’t understand what PR people actually do, which is understandable as it is a job where there is no typical day. To explain what it is I do here are a few examples of things that I have done recently.

Social media
Each week I manage the social media for three clients. This includes coming up with status updates, researching relevant content to be used on their chosen social media platforms this might be promoting events on Facebook, sharing relevant news related to their industries or managing Linkedin accounts. I also spend time analysing the stats to make campaigns more effective, what sort of updates are getting the most engagement? At what times are people most likely to see a post? Which updates are most likely to be shared or retweeted?

Blogging
I love writing blogs for clients and currently write for two each week. I come up with the topics, research them and ensure they are written in the voice of the business. This can mean going from writing about cleaning tips to telling people the beauty of holidaying in Devon.

Newsletters
Clients want to get their news and offers out to perspective customers but sometimes don’t have the time or know how, this is where I come in. I’m currently working on the monthly newsletter for a bar/restaurant I work for. I often have to work in advance so although it is only August I have my Christmas head on to make sure that customers know what fun they could have if they booked their Christmas party at this establishment.

Press releases
Lately I have been creating press releases on a variety of topics including an Arctic expedition, an author undertaking some crazy challenges and a charity event. When writing a release I first need to establish what audience the client wishes to target trade, consumer, specialist etc, what the call to action is and what the client wants the outcome to be. I then put it all together into what is (hopefully) an interesting story that will whet the journalists appetite to find out more. This leads me nicely on to what comes after the press release…..

Journalists
I spend much of my time finding the right journalist who will be interested in a client. A lot of what I do is about building relationships and getting the journalist to see my client as the first port of call should they need a comment on a topic related to their field. Journalists can be a PR’s best friend or worst enemy, sometimes they will really get on board with an idea and give more space to a piece of news than I thought, other times they can promise great coverage but if a big story comes in the story can be dropped like a hot potato.

Writing articles
This is different to press releases. Whereas press releases are there to tell the clients story to the journalist who may then wish to do a further interview, send out a photographer and often writer a longer piece. Article writing is putting the feature together for the publication, in their style on behalf of the client I am working for. In the past I have written features for a teen magazine as a 15 year old living with a disability, a thought leadership piece in the guise of chairperson of recruitment company and I am currently working on 1,000 words for a renovation publication on the behalf of an hotelier.

Media events
If you’ve got an event or an activity that you want the media to attend then I’m the person you need. A PR person will source the relevant media and journalist, send them details, invite them, create media packs with all your information in and attend the event to make sure you get to speak to the key people. My most recent press event was for a play that was opening in London, with only four days’ notice I managed to get 20 reviewers from local, national and theatre specific press to attend.

Pitching
Being self-employed means I have to spend much of my time pitching for new business. Pitching can vary some people just want me to produce a breakdown of what I can do along with costs, some want a full presentation and others want a formal interview, whatever the task I spend time researching the client to look at what the most effective way will be to reach their goals.

This is just a small amount of what working in PR means as well as organising events, finding celebrities to front campaigns, promoting my own business and networking. Hopefully having read this the next time somebody says they work in PR you’ll have a better idea of what this means.

If you need help with any of the services outlined above please get in touch at sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk or visit my website Beck & Call Public Relations

I’m the boss of me – Becoming self-employed

Self employment

When I launched Beck & Call PR in November 2013 I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what I would encounter, how to go about it and what challenges I would face.  All I did know was that after 14 years working in the PR departments of various organisations I wanted to take the skills I had gained and use them to help SME’s that may be didn’t need full time PR support or couldn’t justify a full-time salary but had great businesses that people needed to hear about.

So with some trepidation, a supportive husband and a handful of contacts from networking Beck and Call PR came to life.  Whilst I was fine with the setting up of bank accounts, registering with the HMRC etc there were a few things that I wish I had known.

Patience really is a virtue

When it comes to work some clients are really organised and will know in advance that they want help with PR for a project giving you time to plan and execute the work in good time.  Others decide just days before that they want help and it is all systems go and then there are those who get in touch, you discuss, put together your proposal, pitch if needs be only to discover that they either a. Are never going to give you a yes or no answer b. The vanish completely or c. Return saying they want to work with you six months later but the whole planning, pitching process needs to start all over again as the project has changed.

Sometimes you’ll feel rich and at others poor

I’m really hopeful that this will be a new business problem rather than an on-going one, cash flow.  Some months it seems like you’ve cracked it, your income for the month is great then the following month projects come to an end, work you’re waiting to start isn’t quite ready and your finances dip.

The same goes for work itself….

Feast or Famine

There have been periods where clients have been few and far between especially at the start, followed by periods where I am working all the hours I can to get projects completed.  What I would say is enjoy it, all of it.  When it’s a famine use the time to do more work on your own business, look for new clients and get out networking.  When it is a feast enjoy it to, you’re doing something you love and getting paid for it.

Some people won’t take your advice

I’d experienced this whilst working in companies but for some reason didn’t expect it when I was self employed, but alas it is so.  Some clients will employ you for your expertise and then choose not to take your advice.  The way I deal with this is to ensure that I explain why I think something won’t work, offer alternatives but ultimately it comes down to what the client wants which unfortunately doesn’t always mean they get as good a result as they could have done.

The work/life balance is worth it.

When I decided to work for myself I had all the usual worries about finances and finding clients but one of my main motivators was I wanted a greater work-life balance.  I was tired of having to travel miles each week, sick of having spent years in various office environments and having to wrangle to get time off to go to the doctors or dentist.  Having to cancel things with friends at the last minute because of work and the lack of flexibility.

Working for myself is hard, my brain is always on the go thinking about how I can improve things, get more work, manage workload but the plus side is I have time to go to the gym everyday, if the only appointment I can get for the dentist is at 11:45am then so be it.  If I want to go and have lunch with a friend and it looks like it will be a three hour lunch that’s fine or if I want to take my niece for her last swimming lesson I can.

Self-employment has given me a greater freedom than I could ever have imagined.  I have to be more organised, if I want to take half a day to do something fun I know that I am going to have to still get the same amount of work done in less time but that’s my choice.

I would say to anybody thinking of embarking on self-employment go for it.  The hours can be long, the team spirit non-existent (I work at home, alone) and the money not always great but it’s most definitely worth it.

 

To find out more about Beck and Call Public Relations visit my website Beck & Call PR

 

 

 

 

 

Network, network, network

Networking can be daunting, walking into a room full of strangers and been expected to speak about your business and yourself can be something that even the most confident amongst us dread.

I was in the fortunate position that when I started Beck & Call PR at the end of last year, my previous role had expected me to do lots of networking, but it was still scary going it alone, as now I wasn’t going to be excelling the virtues of the organisation I worked for, but my own business and more importantly me, but I overcame that and networking has worked well for me.

Since the launch of Beck and Call four of my clients have been companies that I have met at networking, which isn’t bad going in a few short months.  Here are a few tips I have for successful networking.

 

Don’t flit

If you’re going to network go to as many groups as you like but go regularly.  People buy from people so going to lots of groups once probably won’t result in much business but if people get to know you as a person, somebody they chat to on a regular basis and have learnt to trust they are more likely to think of you if they or somebody else they know needs your service.

Be true to your word

If somebody you have met networking asks you to do some work for them or somebody they know, no matter how big or small tell them what you will be able to do, by when and how much it will cost and then stick to it.  Don’t over promise and don’t under provide.  Your reputation is key to getting work.

Don’t sell

At some networking you might get chance to give a small talk about your business and what you do, at others it will be more informal where you mingle and get to know people.  If it is informal don’t go for the hard sell, chat to people, ask them questions about themselves and what they do and they will do the same in return, which is when you have the opportunity to tell them more about you and what you do.

 

Follow up

After attending a new networking event I always like to follow up, so I will drop an email to people I have met just saying hello.  With some businesses where I feel there is a natural link or where they might be able to help me or me them, I try and set up a meeting, just something informal a coffee and chat to give me the chance to learn more about them and vice versa.  Even if you get no business from these people you can make some good friends and contacts.

 

Finally…..

Be yourself

Remember everybody in the room has been new to networking at some point, so they will understand your nerves but as I have said all along people buy from people so just be yourself and you’ll do well.

 

To find out more about Beck and Call PR visit http://www.beckancallpr.co.uk