The Time to Think About Your Solo Career is Now

There’s an elephant in the room – in fact, there’s an elephant sitting on this blog. It’s the economy, and it’s become a central issue for just about everyone.   Whether you’re already a PR consultant or currently in a traditional job, we should all take steps now to be better positioned in the months ahead.

If you’re employed, chances are you’re afraid you might not stay that way. Unfortunately, some people could very well become independent without their consent. With this in mind, I encourage employees to give some thought to what you would do if the worst happens, and you involuntarily end up without conventional employment. Before you immediately start pounding the pavement looking for another traditional job, you may want to consider doing some PR consulting. It can be a great way to stay active and visible, and it can earn you some additional income in the interim. Who knows, you may decide you’ll never go back!

Whether you’re solo right now or not, if the past is any indicator of the future, there could be tough times ahead for some in the PR and Marcom fields, and that includes independent consultants. But the good news is there are still many, many excellent opportunities in PR and marketing, and those companies and organizations that are wise enough to continue investing in this space are forward-looking and exciting.

Another thing to keep in mind: hiring freezes at agencies and corporations can actually create openings for consultants. The increased value independent PR/MarCom consultants typically offer can become more obvious when budgets are tight, as clients try to find a way to do more with less. The fact that you can offer the same services as a big agency, but at a fraction of the cost (due to your low overhead) is even more attractive.

To capitalize on the opportunities that will be available, here are some immediate steps both solos and PR/MarCom employees can be taking right now:

Shore up your experience
If you work at an agency, is there a way to get exposure to new clients? If you’re a corporate employee, can you handle a new project in an area you haven’t been involved before? Taking on new responsibilities now can pay off big dividends later. If you’re already solo, it’s always important to vary your experiences (and this holds true whether we’re in tough economic times or not).

Network
Proactive professional networking has always been best. As Forrester senior analyst Jeremiah Owyang said in a recent post, “grow your network before you need them.”

And by networking, I don’t mean spamming people with form emails and resumes. Since you’re reaching out now before the road gets too rocky, your networking can take the form of just connecting with current and former colleagues to say hello. With the holidays fast-approaching, this can be a great time to send out some personal well-wishes by email.

If you’re feeling shy, don’t forget that everyone is feeling a little shaky in this economy, so as long as you aren’t giving a hard-sell the recipient will likely be very receptive (I actually enjoy professional networking, since I look at it as reconnecting with old friends).

It’s also important to make sure you’re on LinkedIn and your profile is up to date – there are many ways to use it, and this is often the first place potential clients go to learn more about you. Plus, LinkedIn makes it easy to reconnect with long-lost colleagues in a low-key way.

Raising your profile elsewhere is also beneficial: provide thoughtful comments on blogs and start attending your local professional meetings and events, if you aren’t already. The most visible and well-connected will fare best. You want to be one of them.

Save
Yes, I know this drumbeat is getting old, and with the holidays coming saving can be tough. But a little belt-tightening can go a long way in helping you feel comfortable if you suddenly lose some income.

There are ways to save a few extra bucks that don’t take much time. Right now you may want to revisit your home’s telecom/entertainment vendors, since there are some great offers at the moment that can be pretty painless to accept (I did this recently myself, and saved over $100 a month by combining services with one company). Raising your insurance deductibles, if you’re able, is another quick fix that can make a sizeable difference. For many more tips, the Get Rich Slowly blog is always a great source of advice for trimming the fat from your budget.

Think about what you want to be when you grow up
It’s valuable for all of us to assess where we are and where we’re going on a regular basis. What kinds of professional opportunities excite you? Where do you want to live? If you think through issues like this now, you won’t be as discombobulated if the negative effects of the economy come home to roost. And you just might find yourself pursuing new goals, regardless.

There are a variety of resources out there to help you work through these questions, including Web sites like Radical Sabbatical, Reboot You, and books like the old standby “What Color is Your Parachute.” For this process, some people also love to use mind mapping, and there is free software available online to help you create your mind map (I find my brain doesn’t work that way, but you might want to try it to see if it stimulates your creativity).

By proactively taking steps to strengthen your position, you can stay ahead of the pack. Are you thinking about these issues, and what are you doing right now to further your career? Let us know your ideas in the comments!

Photo credit: exfordy

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  • http://miningthestore.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/im-an-idiot/ Mike Buckley

    Thanks for the great web site. I was recently told that I would be “retiring” at the end of next month. After all, what does a 60-year-old with 29 years at the same company have to offer? The short answer is “a lot!” Starting my on consulting practice is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but that weekly pay check is hard to give up. Now that the choice is made for me, I can’t wait to get started. In fact, I’ve already started. I have a podcast and blog, I’m working on the web site, and I spoke recently at a social media event.

    I’ll let you know in a few months who things are going, but for now I’m more excited about the future than I’ve been in many years. This site will certainly be one I add to my blog reader.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://miningthestore.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/im-an-idiot/ Mike Buckley

    Re: my previous comment. I really DO know how to spell. I guess I should have run spell check. I’m starting my OWN practice and I’ll let you know HOW things are going.

    Mike Buckley’s last blog post..Will It Mulch?

  • Kellye Crane

    Mike, you’re an inspiration! Congrats to you for seeing the silver lining — sounds like you’re certainly off and running. We’ll look forward to hearing more from you here as you start this exciting new chapter in your life.

  • http://fumblingtowardsepiphany.wordpress.com/ Susan

    Kellye, Nice post!!! I am currently in a corporate communications job and am one of those working with my fingers crossed. I like the information you have given as I wouldn’t know how to start if budget cuts affect me. Thanks!

    Susan’s last blog post..Too good to be true

  • http://www.rogerowengreen.blogspot.com Roger Green

    Sage advice.

    Roger Green’s last blog post..The Times They Are A Changin’

  • http://www.rockstarcommunications.com Jen Wilbur

    All great points and advice Kellye. For the 1st time in 4 years as a consultant, I’m seeing a slow down in work, but I”m doing everything I can to make sure that doesn’t follow in to 2009. One thing I might add to anyone who’s work is slowing down for a bit or might lose their current job… enjoy the time off! I know it’s cliche, but I’ve seen too many people stress out the entire time they were between jobs, and they all wish they would have used some of that time to relax and enjoy those around them. Work hard, network, save, find your calling, but also have a ilttle fun in between.

  • Kellye Crane

    @Jen That is excellent advice! I think it’s natural for many of us to feel like we need to be busy during work hours, and so we find “busy work” to keep us occupied. I was definitely guilty of this myself during the dot-com bust, when – like virtually everyone – I experienced a downturn in my business. Looking back, I realize I should have taken more walks in the park! You are wise to see this so clearly already.

  • http://www.goodhonestdollar.com Andrew

    Kellye,

    The prospect of unemployment is one which will confront many employees across many different countries over the next year or two, and whilst I do not work in the PR profession, I would imagine many within your profession would be particularly vulnerable as firms cut back on discretionary spending.

    Personally, I will face a dilemma of a different kind next year. I am in the fortunate position of having a secure position as an English teacher in South Korea, but still will have to decide whether or not to stay on or return to my home country of Australia as my contract comes up for renewal.

    On one hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed my four years in Korea, and difficult times are forecast in the labor market back home. But on the other hand, I just feel that it will be time to move on to the next chapter of my life.

    It might seem crazy to be considering leaving secure employment in these volatile times, but fortune favors the brave and personally, I think that is exactly what I will be doing.

    Andrew’s last blog post..Guest post from Brad Shorr

  • Kellye Crane

    @Andrew “Fortune favors the brave” – I like the way you think! I can’t pretend that I’m always brave, but I’m a big believer in listening to our own internal voices that tell us what feels right. Best of luck!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/pirate-hats John the Pirate – Arrr!

    Good post, I like your writing style! I’ve added http://soloprpro.com/ to my feed reader, and will be reading your posts from now on. Just a quick question – did you design your header image yourself, or have it done professionally? If you had it done by a professional, who was it?

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