Can You Leave Your Job to Consult Today?

To me, being a PR/MarCom consultant is the greatest job in the world. I’m so passionate about the virtues of working for yourself versus someone else, I started this blog!

But I don’t advocate everyone take the leap willy nilly. The truth is there are times when a look before you leap strategy might serve you best. As noted in that earlier post, this doesn’t mean you can’t be successful or go out on your own during this phase in the economy. You can! It’s just that different times call for different measures.

We’ve talked about the exciting consulting opportunities available for those who’ve experienced a layoff, but what about someone who is currently employed?

I recently asked the Twitter community, “Independent PR pros: what would you say to someone considering leaving a job right now to become a PR freelancer?”, and some of my wise and witty friends weighed in:

Rachel Kay rachelakay @KellyeCrane From my short term as a freelancer – have a $ cushion. You cannot predict anything.

Marivic Valencia techpr @KellyeCrane I’d say (from experience) plan a multi-stage ramp-up before jumping. Then go!

JMLaw JMLaw @KellyeCrane Have a client lined up. Good advice anytime, but especially now when the market is even more uneven than usual.
Lori Scribner LScribner @KellyeCrane Lots of opps out there for consultants. Recommend getting out, make connections and using PR skills to market yourself.
Rachel Kay rachelakay @KellyeCrane Oh also have a logo created. You can’t have anything else – cards, Web site, anything w//out it. First thing I did.
Gregg Perry GreggPerry @KellyeCrane there is work to be done, and those who can offer senior-level experience and value have a leg up. That said, scary to let go.
Danny Brown DannyBrown @KellyeCrane Stay friends with your co. (they may contract u in future); have money for 6 mths without pay; network network network!!
Rockstarjen_night_normal rockstarjen @KellyeCrane let people know you’re making the leap as early as you can. you’ll want those referrals BEFORE you’re looking for them.
Jeff Pizzino PRjeff @KellyeCrane Depends on the job. Employment doesn’t mean job security. It’s great to be in control of your own destiny.
zackery zakmo @KellyeCrane be aggressive.
Danny Brown DannyBrown @KellyeCrane And have a rack full of wine for the doubting times 😉

What do you think? If you’re one of those thinking about becoming a consultant, what are your thoughts on the matter (feel free to comment anonymously). If you’re a freelancer, how would you advise a friend considering this career path right now?

  • I advise on ramp-up…now that I have made my decision to begin freelancing in September, I am preparing now! Will not bite off more than I can chew. Cannot control everything, but I am making a flexible plan and taking some online business courses for finances, etc.

    Thank you to all for comments!

    Lauren Vargas’s last blog post..APR: Study Time!

  • My viewpoint, from the adjacent world of copywriting/creative direction: I would be very very wary of what might be called a self-actualizing career move at this time, at least in the Mpls-St Paul market. Even more than usual, you would need a real point of difference and an extra cushion of savings. Fallon–our best local agency–was started in the ’81 recession. Their first ad announced, “An agency for companies who would rather outsmart the competition than outspend them.”

    I would however encourage everyone to start thinking about free-lance. You never know when jobs will evaporate.

    I would also consider the flipside of your question: be careful about taking that secure in-house job. If you have a decent free-lance practice, it will likely wither as you take a job which itself might not be secure.

    Kevin Fenton’s last blog post..Ben Franklin’s Rules of Twitter

  • Kellye Crane

    @Lauren- Thanks for your excellent input from someone in transition. Sounds like you’re studying up in preparation for your consulting career, which is great advice!

    @Kevin- Appreciate you weighing in, as someone with experience in the trenches. Different geographies will likely enter the recovery period at different rates, so let’s all continue to compare notes.

  • Kellye – I’m really glad you wrote this post. The recession has created many opportunities for people to become freelancers. It’s created many entrepreneurs, which is a very cool thing. But I think a lot of people also approach freelancing without a true understand of the preparation, cost and commitment needed. I caution people who think freelancing is the solution to a disenchanting job to make sure they are really ready for a new set of challenges.

    Building on my Tweet (thanks for including) I recommend ensuring you have a sizable cushion of money because you cannot predict what might happen. The first lesson I learned was that how much money I billed had little to do with how much money I collected. People run late with bills. People hire you and then lose funding. Contracts ensure nothing.

    People also have misconception that freelancing doesn’t cost much money. If you do it right, it does. When I started freelancing I thought I didn’t need a Web site. I realized quickly that wasn’t the case – I needed somewhere to drive people. Well you can’t have a Web site without a logo. And you need business cards. If you get really busy you might need an intern. All kinds of expenses come up that you don’t anticipate.

    Finally, make sure you have the experience needed to offer client the best possible service. A couple of years in one role or a college degree doesn’t prepare you for the knowledge needed to be a strategic communications counselor.

  • Kellye Crane

    @Rachel- Thank you for such a thoughtful response. You raise a number of important considerations for anyone considering a consulting career path. I think the key is to temper enthusiasm with preparation and a game plan (as Lauren notes above). I’m sure many will learn from your words of wisdom.

  • Two possibly more useful thoughts: 1. If you generally like your current situation but have always wanted to free-lance, this may actually be an opportune time to see if you can’t cut a deal with your employer where you take on a consulting role. It can cut their costs (including benefits) but give you a client. This can also obviously be tricky, if mismanaged, though.

    2. Talk to ad agencies and free-lance advertising writers/creative directors. The good ones know that, except for writing the most dumb dumb press releases, we are not PR people and having a good PR partner is a real plus.

    Rachel Kay is also right: you need at least a logo and a good one gets you a lot of cred. I work with a fantastic designer who actually appears to raise my IQ.

    Kevin Fenton’s last blog post..Ben Franklin’s Rules of Twitter

  • Ashley White

    I am thinking about freelancing, but I am only in the way begginning stages. I am not even all that sure what possibilities this kind of career holds. I have a cubical that I intend to stay close too, however, I do not intend to stay in it forever. With all those things stated, I’m compelled to ask what's the most imporatant tip you would give to an unsure, inexperienced, corporate working person interested in this line of work.

  • Ashley White

    I am thinking about freelancing, but I am only in the way begginning stages. I am not even all that sure what possibilities this kind of career holds. I have a cubical that I intend to stay close too, however, I do not intend to stay in it forever. With all those things stated, I’m compelled to ask what's the most imporatant tip you would give to an unsure, inexperienced, corporate working person interested in this line of work.