‘What is it you do again?’ or how to explain the indie life

Image from rebelbadges.co.uk.

Image from rebelbadges.co.uk.

It’s surprising how you can be working in the same profession, doing the same kinds of things you’ve always done, but if you’re not attached to a company you become an enigma in the minds of many. Organizations help define who we are, so if you sever those ties to pursue fame and fortune on your own terms—well, that’s gotta be a lark or just pure craziness, right?

So I often find myself explaining—unsatisfactorily, it seems—what exactly it is I do all day long. I’m an independent public relations consultant or “indie”; but I find it easier sometimes to simply describe the projects I’ve worked on for clients or say that I own a small business, which as an LLC I technically do.

Luckily, there’s a group called the Independent Public Relations Alliance (IPRA) that does a better job than I could of explaining the independent practitioner’s story and the virtues of hiring an independent pro to do your PR and marketing.

A couple of months ago, past IPRA Chair Shawn Flaherty had a guest post on the PRSA-NCC blog that I thought made the case pretty persuasively for considering someone from our network, a group of 63 entrepreneurs in the D.C. area who own their own small or solo PR firms.

These indies have impressive credentials, with experience in many disciplines and industry sectors. In fact, many held leadership roles in corporations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies before starting their own businesses.

These seasoned pros average 24 years of experience, nearly half have advanced degrees, and many hold APRs, according to IPRA’s October 2012 member survey.

Most indies offer full-service PR—which includes strategic communications planning, issues management, writing, branding, media relations, speechwriting, social media and marketing. Many have specialties by issue area, skill and industry.

This year, I have the pleasure of serving on IPRA’s board and working on its program committee. The new board met yesterday for its kickoff meeting, and one of the topics that came up is how to better promote our services and create awareness for the indie model. One way, we decided, is for us to talk it up in our own networks and blogs.

I joined IPRA a year ago and found it an invaluable resource as I transitioned from full-time employment to self-employment. Nothing helps to ease the anxiety of a new venture, especially when you are flying solo, than the support of like-minded colleagues and friends. IPRA meets that need in spades, but it also provides professional development to help its members improve and earn more business.

There is increasing evidence that more Americans are leaving regular jobs for their own gigs as “solo-preneurs.” That’s due to many factors, including fewer traditional, high-paying jobs, Baby Boomers exploring second careers and a desire among people of all ages to better balance their work and life goals.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Ford’s “13 trends for 2013” and noted the rise of “do-it-yourselfers.” Among the statistics Ford cited is the fact that we have become a “freelance nation” with 42 million freelancers, including a growing number of lawyers, journalists, videographers and accountants. So I guess my IPRA colleagues and I fit right into this trend!

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