The blog is three this month (wears party hat and blows party trumpet unenthusiastically).
Coincidentally, June also marks one calendar year since I embarked on a freelance career. So I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned. It’s a more personal post than most, but as I’ve been delivering guest speeches and training events lately, people have said that they enjoy this part and I should be brutally honest more often!
Unlike real-life birthdays, I’m giving a gift rather than receiving, with a FREE eBook based on all that I’ve learned: Getting a Job in Digital PR
To be honest if it wasn’t for Facebook’s helpful, if not eerily-invasive reminders, I may have missed the whole anniversary thing. Lately, life has been getting in the way.
And yet it’s a big deal, a blog birthday. As is a business birthday.
I’m a firm believer that all life milestones should be marked, with lessons learned and achievements recognised. Preferably with cake. Let’s be honest, some businesses don’t even make it 12 months! Most blogs certainly don’t.
What I Learned 3 Years Blogging
I learned a tonne about WordPress, SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, research, data mining, influencer engagement, self-hosting, plugins, online media relations, networking…
But more than that. I learned the art of self-promotion. The art of personal branding. Of digital footprint building.
All the things I read about and would teach others, but didn’t fully practice up to that point - 3 years ago - when I started a blog and my associated professional social channels like Twitter and LinkedIn.
My advice to students is to do it, and do it much sooner than I did. Hence why I’ve put my wistful nostalgic blog post to good use and compiled all my top tips on this into a PDF:
Students can download my FREE 10-page eBook with all my tips on Getting a Job in Digital PR HERE
You’ll have to grow a thick skin if you follow my advice on making a name for yourself.
Some people don’t like it when you put yourself out there. Mostly because they’re too frightened to put themselves out there. They’ll try to put you down for it, claim they’re too busy working harder than you to find the time to do it. Or postulate that they don’t need to do it.
Don’t listen to them.
We’re in the business of publicity and promotion. Practice what you preach. Industry pace will eventually sort the wheat from the chaff.
Digital is the way forward, whether traditional PR agencies want to believe it or not (I’ve blogged about innovation in the industry before).
Likewise high quality content, strategically placed by media relations folk is a PR skill set that digital agencies will have to succumb to eventually if they want to go beyond the SEO basics they can offer to clients.
Whoever wins this battle, will eventually win the war.
So I’m very excited to be starting a consultancy project with a Digital Agency here who have realised this and are prepared to steam ahead with Digital PR for their clients.
I also think the merging of the two skill sets will equal some great future roles for the next generation coming up in the industry, and that’s why I advise them to start working on both their publicity and technical skills early on in my eBook of student tips.
What I Learned 1 Year Freelancing
Christ, where to start…
I learned that there are people who will want to support you only until you start to overtake them. And there are those who will want to support you because you challenge them to be better, primarily because you overtake them.
Stay friends with the people in Camp 2.
I learned that a lot of people in business don’t pay their bills on time. People who will go on holiday before they pay your invoices. Choose no money over no respect. It’s the only way to fix this insidious industry habit.
Whatever you’re charging, it’s probably too low.
I learned the art of failure. That most people, at some point, are BS-ing online about how successful they are. Myself included. Tweeting meetings, checking in on Facebook, commenting on LinkedIn groups; its all vital to business development. It’s also, sometimes, lies. But you have to keep doing it because success breeds success.
As with Instagram bloggers and photoshopped magazines… don’t compare yourself to facades.
Deal in #KarmaCurrency - I once gave away a couple hours of my time to someone with advice on starting their own business. A few months later, that same person wouldn’t give me a tip when I asked for advice via email.
Don’t be that person.
There will be people who feel you should be indebted to them for helping you. That you somehow owe them. Don’t be those people either. The line isn’t “give to receive” it’s “give and you shall receive.” Said people usually have a lot of industry connections, but few real friends.
You will drink a lot of coffee. You’ll get used to it.
I learned that quite a few freelance people have rich partners. Or rich parents. Accept that it is not an easily viable business model when you are juggling children in the mix. It requires more hours than a regular job, you just get to choose when you do them. And choose to be wearing pyjamas while you do them.
Freelance life is repaid more in flexibility than it is financially.
You will doubt yourself. Painfully. You will cry. You will want to run away and hide in a hole. You will hover your finger over the delete button on your social media accounts numerous times and question if it was all bloody worth it. In the end, it was.
Some people will think you don’t need to be successful because your husband has a good job. Try not to smack them in the face.
It can take a while to work out which services, client types and projects are both financially viable and rewarding. Try things and know that just because they didn’t work out doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Likewise, changing what you offer, changing clients, it’s all part of the process. If there was a how-to manual, everyone would be doing it.
Working from your kitchen table is bad for your back.
Don’t take business advice from people who think they’re in business because they have a load of money that they invest in other people’s businesses. It’s easy for famous people to tell you that self-promotion is no-promotion. People pay them to tweet, never mind work.
And Now, For The Good Bits
I swear there are some!
Three years of blogging brought me to the point of even being able to consider going it alone in my field. It gave me a ready-made network of contacts who would subcontract work to me to keep me ticking over.
Along the blogging way I also met some great people, who I will keep in my life, no matter where it takes me.
As a freelancer, people introduce me to groups as some kind of “guru”. I hate that word. But I appreciate being respected enough to have it in the same sentence as my name.
I learned a lot about myself too; how to push outside my comfort zones, what I’m really capable of and how to value myself. I also learned that I’m not a natural entrepreneur. Uncertainty doesn’t excite me. It scares the f*cking sh*t out of me. Best to know that before I get any Dragon’s Den ideations. But it does help me to empathise with business owners.
I realised that even when the chips are down in life; when your parents crash around you, when your child has special needs, when you find someone you love enough to run off and get married… then it doesn’t matter how ambitious you are. Or how good you are. What car your drive. Or how much you earn.
Your career doesn’t define you. It’s just a job.
Thankfully though, the crazy stuff doesn’t happen very often. So for the rest of the time it’s a blessing to be able to do something you love and to have the luxury of trying your hand at making a go of it in the business world.
Be kind to others.
Be kind to yourself.
And keep on trucking.
Oh, and if you’re young and hungry, or you know someone that is who wants to do what I do - send them this.