Fun fact: Just because you’re a solo PR pro doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself.
Yes, it’s true. There are many reasons people may collaborate with other PR pros, graphic designers, writers, podcast editors and so forth. Perhaps they need help with a project that’s too big for them to take on solo, or they could use assistance in an area outside of their niche. Or maybe‚ just maybe, you want to actually take some time off every once in a while.
The thing is, eventually your business will grow to a point where you simply can’t do everything yourself — and if you try, you’ll probably end up burnt out and grappling with a fizzling business.
The only solution? Hiring people to help you.
This will allow “you to go after larger bits of business, things with larger scope, things that require more than two hands and one brain,” says Michelle Kane, principal of Voice Matters. “And I think one of the exciting things about working with other people is that energy burst you get from the collaboration, and that you learn from each other along the way, which is another great way to expand your experience.”
In a recent episode of That Solo Life: The Solo PR Podcast, Michelle and her cohost, Karen Swim — president of both Solo PR Pro and Words for Hire — discuss four tips for working with others to help your business thrive.
1. Know your limits — and respect them
It’s no surprise if you feel somewhat, well, controlling about your business. After all — it’s yours, and that means you and only you are responsible for it. But in order to successfully team up with others, you must learn to let go of at least a little bit of that control.
According to Michelle, the best place to start is learning (and appreciating) what your strengths and weaknesses are. Michelle, for example, considers herself to be savvy in social media and public relations in general, in addition to a talented strategist, project manager and writer. But she also knows the things she is not. “I am not a graphic designer, nor should I pretend to be,” she says. “To me, that’s professionally irresponsible. It’s morally wrong.”
That doesn’t mean Michelle can’t take on clients who need some graphic design work — it just means she’d be better off enlisting a professional graphic designer to do that type of work. This also applies to the things you enjoy doing, too. You may be very good at writing social media copy, but you also may absolutely hate it. Why force yourself to do it then? Bring in someone else who can not only do it, but who likes doing it, too.
For instance, Karen is a writer. But she realized that, if she wanted to grow her business and help more clients, she couldn’t keep doing all the writing anymore. Because writing, like many other types of tasks, takes time. And she needed some of that time to focus on client strategy and other aspects of the business. So, she hired some writers.
2. Find the right people and set clear expectations
When you first start your own business, you may be quite the worker bee, always heads down in order to execute all the different tasks a client project requires. But when you begin hiring contractors, you need to adopt a CEO mentality and shift into management mode.
Do your due diligence and prequalify the candidates you’re interested in, just like you would with a client. Hold a discovery call with them, review their portfolio, ask for references from clients they’ve done work for, and consider having them complete a (paid) trial assignment.
You don’t want to enlist any old graphic designer, for example. You want to hire someone with real experience, not someone who’s simply fiddled around on Canva for a few hours (unless what you truly need is a person who can take over your low-level Canva tasks — that’s fine, too.)
In addition, be really honest about what exactly it is you’re looking for from the people you hire, from the type of work they produce to how they communicate with you. Do you expect them to be available five days a week during business hours? Say that. Do you expect them to send you a check-in email at the end of each week? Say that. It’s hard for people to meet our expectations if we don’t tell them what they are.
3. Focus on the goal, not the process
At the end of the day, the work you’re doing really isn’t about you. Yes, it’s ideal if it’s enjoyable and fulfilling (most of the time) — if it’s not, then maybe it’s time to explore a new career field. But above all, your primary objective is to help your clients achieve their goals.
The people you hire may not do the job the exact same way you would have, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If your client is happy, that’s all that really matters.
“I have learned to allow [the writers I hire] to do what they love to do, realizing they may not tell the story the same way I would,” Karen says. “Their process may be completely different, but I don’t care. I focus on the end result: Are we giving the client what they need? Being able to let go like that really frees you up to be more strategic and creative. You find that you gain more time in your day, and you truly do have more flexibility.”
Just produce good work for the client. Don’t argue over how to get there, don’t get hung up on every comma. It doesn’t matter how the dishwasher is loaded as long as all of the dishes are unbroken and clean.
4. Be willing to end working relationships
Unfortunately, not every person out there will be a great fit, and you shouldn’t be afraid to end a working relationship, even if it isn’t the most comfortable undertaking.
However, before you part ways, it’s worth trying to address the things you don’t like openly, honestly and immediately. Try to work through the issues — it could just be a simple miscommunication, after all! — and be more specific with what you need and want. Give them a chance to improve. But if it still doesn’t work, politely tell them that you won’t be needing their work next month.
That’s the beauty of hiring contractors. Their work is never a guaranteed thing, so they aren’t totally caught off guard when things end — unless you both signed a contract in which you committed to a certain number of months and/or give a certain amount of notice. We don’t recommend breaching a contract. (This is also why pre-contract trial assignments are a good idea.) Of course, you should still be gracious. They are human, after all, and they have a life to plan for, too.
“Even if someone is fantastic at what they do, you may not work well together,” Karen says, “And that’s okay. It’s not a commentary on your ability or the other person’s. Sometimes people are better friends than colleagues.”
Ultimately, if you take the time and effort to hire the right people, hiring help can benefit your business and your mental health. “It is a beautiful thing to give yourself breathing room in your business,” Karen says.
We want to hear from you! Have you hired other people to help out with your business? If so, how’d it go? Let us know in the comments or on social media using #solopr!