The PR profession is growing.
Public relations is projected to be one of the top 10 occupations by 2022, and there are plenty of career options. PR pros can work for a corporation, an agency, a non-profit, a startup or a small business. They can specialize in a variety of areas, including influencer marketing, crisis communications, media relations and thought leadership.
Going solo as a public relations pro seems to be an increasingly popular choice. It sounds so appealing to choose your clients, choose your hours or work from wherever you want. However, there are a few steps you should take before you hang out that shingle.
Here are seven suggestions:
1. Line up potential clients.
In advance of quitting your day job, be thinking—and talking—to those who may be interested in using your services. Certainly, use discretion, but it doesn’t hurt to start putting the word out to those you trust that you’ll be striking out on your own soon.
2. Never stop networking.
Per the tip above, you should be in networking mode everywhere you go. This is good advice even if you intend to keep your day job, because you never know when you might meet someone who can help you in some way—or that you might be able to help.
When you meet someone new that you want to keep in touch with, add them to your LinkedIn network. Look for opportunities to connect with them again. Keep in touch by occasionally dropping them a note or inviting them to coffee or to join you at an event.
Your network is one of your most valuable assets as a solo PR pro (it’s a referral-based business), so always be building and maintaining it.
3. Get some agency experience.
Working at an agency gives you an idea of how client service works and helps you understand what systems you need to have in place to successfully work with multiple clients. You learn procedures like reporting and billing.
Maybe as importantly, you meet a lot of other folks in PR. This turned out to be a huge boost to my solo business. Not only did the agency I worked for hire me back as a contractor, but to this day, I still hear from those public relations pros I worked with. They’ve been a constant source of client referrals and new business opportunities over the years.
4. Work on your branding.
If you’re going out on your own as a PR consultant, you need a website. And beyond that, you need a social media presence.
Get those established before day one. You can always tweak them as you go, but be sure to have something there for potential clients to view.
5. Get your administrative house in order.
You need business cards. You need a bank account. You need software for accounting and invoicing. You need an accountant who specializes in self-employed professionals (and maybe one who knows about home office deductions, if you plan to work at home).
You may need to do things like pay quarterly taxes, and you need to understand how to plan for that. Get referrals and find someone to help you get set up.
6. Make sure your workspace is ready.
You should consider where you’ll be working. A home office is the easiest option for many, but co-working spaces are popular, too. Of course, you’ll need a computer, and you may need access to a media database (those aren’t cheap).
Make sure to think through all the things you may need to have in place when you start.
7. Manage your mindset.
Anytime you change jobs, you should think through how you’ll cope in the early days. Change can be difficult, even if it’s change you proactively pursued.
Remember that you want to be in this for the long haul, so prepare yourself to ride out a few bumps in the road. Give it at least six months to a year to even out. In the long run, that’s a brief amount of time to devote to a career choice that could lead to many fulfilling years.
Granted, self-employment isn’t for everyone, but you may want to give it a little time to know for sure before giving up on your dream.
Those are just a few of the things you’ll want to do before going it alone. If you plan ahead, you should be able to launch your public relations consultancy with fewer, “Oh, no,” moments.
Just keep in mind that once you work for yourself, you may never want to go back to working for someone else.
Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant and writer at Garrett Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PRisUs or connect with her on LinkedIn. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.