PR Consultants Have the Freedom to be Human

I was recently reminded, once again, of one of the most important  benefits of being an independent PR consultant.

Over the past few weeks, I was away unexpectedly due to a family emergency. Early on a Saturday morning, I received a call that my mother – always the picture of health – had developed a serious condition and was in the hospital in another city. I packed in 30 minutes, hopped a plane, and was at her bedside within hours. As the work week approached, I didn’t give it even a fleeting thought.

I did not need to:

  • Call a boss to inform them I wouldn’t be in the office (and suffer the guilt that often accompanies such calls)
  • Ask for permission to be away from the office for an extended period
  • Worry about whether I had the “leave time” to stay where I was needed
  • Decide how long I would stay (I could make my decision on a day-by-day basis)

Once the work week was underway, I stayed on top of my emails and informed clients of the situation when necessary. I ended up being away for nearly two weeks. No  deadlines were missed, and only two meetings were re-scheduled.

My mom is now doing fine, and I know that my presence was a huge help to her. We all know that our human connections are far more important than work — isn’t it great to have a career that allows us to put our priorities where they belong?

This is just my most recent example. How about you? When has being an independent consultant allowed you to focus on what matters?

  • heatherwhaling

    Kellye, I'm so glad to hear that your mom is doing better! 🙂 Agencies I've worked for have always been very understanding about personal matters, but it's not quite the same. For example, my grandmother recently passed away and my boss was terrific about letting me take off for a few days. But, in reality, I would have liked the opportunity to stay with my grandfather for a few extra days; however, I had to go back to work. Being a solo PR consultant — and taking advantage of “workshifting” opportunities — gives you the opportunity work from anywhere when needed and truly balance the personal and professional in emergencies.

    Heather (@prtini)

    Heather (@prtini)

  • Kellye Crane

    Heather- I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother, but so glad you were able to spend some important time with family. You raise a good point that most employers these days do their best to be accommodating, but as you note there are always demands back at the office. Thanks for the comment from someone who knows!

  • Kellye- I had a similar experience several years ago…ended up working from the hospital with cell phone and laptop. Things worked out okay, no work lost. As a freelancer “have laptop, will travel” means my office goes with me (not always a positive though).

    Like Heather I’ve had understanding managers who let me take time when needed, even work remotely so I could spend extra time with family. But that’s not always the case, and being solo I like setting my own schedule without ever being asked for a doctor’s note.

    Glad your mom is doing better. Thanks for sharing.

  • batchen

    Hi Kelli, I feel exactly the same. since i became an indie project manager I turned into a better mom and wife. I manage my tasks better and in a calmer matter. my last boss had no understanding for family needs…she couldnt see how me being a good mom and wife will eventually be in her own benefit…thats actually the main reason for me to go indie, i couldnt stand to get permission for everything all the time.. 🙂

  • I couldn't agree more. I don't have to apologize to anyone about my family coming first. And as a parent, setting my own hours has been a lifesaver. I feel blessed. I'm glad your mom is doing better.

  • I think I have a solo “human” experience just about weekly. I get to focus on my family daily because of the flexibility. Just this morning, I woke up at 3 AM with my husband. He's working overtime right now, and I wanted to spend some time with him before he left (he'll be too exhausted when he gets home to even complete a sentence. I worked from 4-7, then took an hour beach break. Now I can take a break at 2:30 and only go back to work if something urgent comes up. If not, I'll get to it early tomorrow. Can you imagine me dragging myself to an office after getting up that early and staying efficient until later afternoon/early evening?

    I'm so glad to hear your Mom is feeling better, Kellye. Not recently, but I've had a few family emergencies in the past 5 years (since I've been solo) that allowed me the freedom to fly back to KC to help my family and be there for my husband and his family when his father passed away. It was awesome to be able to be there for those I love w/o even blinking an eye.

    All the while, getting my work done without skipping a beat.

  • arikhanson

    So sorry to hear about your Mom, Kellye. Hope she's feeling better. I'm hoping to learn all about the points you raise above first-hand very soon 😉

    @arikhanson

  • Heather- I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother, but so glad you were able to spend some important time with family. You raise a good point that most employers these days do their best to be accommodating, but as you note there are always demands back at the office. Thanks for the comment from someone who knows!

  • Thanks, Davina. You're right – I never have to worry about a doctor's note — my boss (me!) always believes my “story!”

  • Many moms find success as independents, since they know very well the importance of flexibility. Congrats!

  • What a terrific example, Jen! Many thanks to you for sharing.

  • Thanks, LuAnn! I feel truly blessed, myself.

  • Hmmm….. 🙂

  • Talk about being human. Right after I posted, I forgot I had a last-minute meeting that I had to attend this afternoon. So, NOW I'm taking my break. 😉

    That kind of kills my whole point, doesn't it. I'm cracking up. Well, MOST times I get up super early to be with my Ronnie, I get to take a break/nap in the afternoon if I want to. So there. 🙂

  • Being an independent consultant allows me to strike a work/life balance that works for me and my family. It is great to have the flexibility to schedule meetings around school drop off and pick up and have time to spend with my daughter by working flexible hours. Of course, the downside is that when a crisis hits, there is no one to fill in for you and when you get sick, you still need to figure out how to get the work done and put the hours in. Most of all, working in marketing and PR we all know that deadlines change and last minute scrambles are not uncommon, making those lovely perks of flexible hours very challenging at times.

  • Thanks, Tamara – all good points. I think one of the keys is having a network of consultant friends who will happily step in for us when disaster strikes. Another important strategy is to stay ahead of the curve on deadlines — this gives me an idea for a follow-up post!

  • KarenSwim

    Kellye, I'm glad your mom is doing well now and so glad you could be there for her. It's sad that this humanity is not available to all. Imagine how much better corporate life would be if there was an acknowledgment that the people who work there have a life apart from the office. Ninety percent of the time my days are not all that different from everyone else but that other ten percent makes being independent worth the world.

  • “Ninety percent of the time my days are not all that different from everyone else but that other ten percent makes being independent worth the world.” – That is a beautiful statement, Karen. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • I love being a freelance writer for the very reasons you listed. I hated when I had to leave the office to pick up a sick kid, take someone to a doctor's appointment because they rarely have hours after 4pm and so on. Yes, it's all on me to get my work done and I get it done.

    Plus, in 2007 — my dad had a stroke in April, died in December. Being a freelancer allowed me to be with him as much as I could (he lived an hour away from me).

  • Mick Constantinou LLC

    I was an “employee” with billion-dollar, international companies for over 20 years of my career. Becoming a “Business of One” has been a welcome change. While it was initially an involuntary change (i.e. an economic layoff), I now look upon it as a blessing in disguise.

    The “employee” mindset can be a breeding ground for complacency. The notion of self-employment forced me to re-apply, re-adapt and re-define my talents. Self-employment has enabled me to focus on what I love to do and specialize in a ways that attracts companies in need of highly-skilled, project-based support. Service contracts have far more clarity than any employment agreement/entitlement ever delivered. “Climbing the Corporate Ladder” (i.e. job security) has been replaced by income security.

    Most importantly, I control my destiny. I control what I do today and the commitments that I make. That could mean meeting with a client or being able to take my kids to school every morning. It could mean delivering a project or getting more involved in Junior Achievement. It could mean coaching a business team or coaching a Little League team. How I value time and income is up to me.

    I think what stops highly-skilled professionals from pursuing this lifestyle is that, (1) they don’t know where to start and (2) they don’t have the time to maintain a successful solo practice because of the administrative hassles. I know it stopped me from trying again after I failed the first time in the 90’s.

    I could have never made this change, permanently, without the help of BOTH USA.

  • Mick Constantinou LLC

    I was an “employee” with billion-dollar, international companies for over 20 years of my career. Becoming a “Business of One” has been a welcome change. While it was initially an involuntary change (i.e. an economic layoff), I now look upon it as a blessing in disguise.

    The “employee” mindset can be a breeding ground for complacency. The notion of self-employment forced me to re-apply, re-adapt and re-define my talents. Self-employment has enabled me to focus on what I love to do and specialize in a ways that attracts companies in need of highly-skilled, project-based support. Service contracts have far more clarity than any employment agreement/entitlement ever delivered. “Climbing the Corporate Ladder” (i.e. job security) has been replaced by income security.

    Most importantly, I control my destiny. I control what I do today and the commitments that I make. That could mean meeting with a client or being able to take my kids to school every morning. It could mean delivering a project or getting more involved in Junior Achievement. It could mean coaching a business team or coaching a Little League team. How I value time and income is up to me.

    I think what stops highly-skilled professionals from pursuing this lifestyle is that, (1) they don’t know where to start and (2) they don’t have the time to maintain a successful solo practice because of the administrative hassles. I know it stopped me from trying again after I failed the first time in the 90’s.

    I could have never made this change, permanently, without the help of BOTH USA.

  • First off I’m glad that your mom is better. I’m. A college senior majoring in bradcasting tv radio minoring I ad/pr I want to start a independant consulting fir
    M any advise