Thursday, 21 March 2013
6 Things to Consider Before Starting a PR Agency
1. Get A LOT of experience first
It seems most newbies are gaining an average of just 3 years PR agency experience before delving into their own enterprise. I don't believe this is enough, but it could simply be down to the chutzpah of Gen Y (as a Gen X'er, I had 7 years experience before freelancing which I thought was quite radical at the time).
The most extreme I've seen of the many calling for my advice on starting their own biz, was a girl who stated her breadth of experience was running an event and a PR campaign. Yup - just ONE of each. When I kindly suggested she perhaps gain some more on-the-job knowledge - she became indignant and more gung-ho than ever. While I respect ballsiness, I just couldn't in this case.
Perhaps if I'd gone straight for her ego she may have listened? Here goes: Make all your mistakes on somebody else's time. Because trust me, you want to be making as few mistakes as possible when it's your name plastered all over the work, your investment on the line and your reputation on the chopping block. In the immortal words of Mr Miyagi: First learn stand, then learn fly, grasshopper.
2. Clients before business cards
Or business before business plan - or dining table before office. Whatever way you look at it, see if you can get any clients first, and if you can do a good job - BEFORE you outlay any money on business cards, a website, office rent or kill yourself writing a 10,000 word business plan manifesto. This is why freelancing is a great middle ground between employment and your own actual business. (kinda the way Carrie describes bisexuality being a layover on the way to Gaytown...)
Stop and smell the roses in freelancing world for a while. Dip your feet in. Paddle around. It's the most inexpensive way to work out if starting your own business is actually going to work. FYI I freelanced for 6 months before my business organically grew from there once I was quite literally working full-time for myself. I never forced anything.
3. Get a mentor
Now that you won't have a boss or superiors who've been around longer than you and know their stuff, getting a mentor is ESSENTIAL. I was lucky enough to have two. Your mentor should be someone who has excelled in the field, someone you admire, and someone who is happy to take your 'this client just asked me xyz what the hell should I do??!' calls. Preferably not every day.
4. Get an accountant
Oh, those dreamy pay days where you worked a fortnight and money magically appeared in your account and you didn't have to do anything else. And I bet the only stress was feeling it wasn't enough, right? Those days are in the past. You now have to stay on top of all of your tax compliance - consistently and zealously. An accountant will help to keep you in line.
5. Create a tax account
Stop looking at that lovely lump sum for that freelance gig you did as if it's all yours with a pair of shoes on top. It's not. Have a set amount automatically transferred from your business account to a tax account on the 1st of each month. This way you won't collapse in a heap of despair when your aforementioned accountant above tells you what BAS you owe each quarter, or your super, or the worst...what you owe annually in personal and company tax in one whopping lump sum.
If you don't keep on top of your tax obligations, yes, the ATO WILL GET YOU one day - it's the one thing you can be absolutely sure of. Welcome to the super-fun side of being your own boss. Woo-hoo! PS: say goodbye to getting any 'tax back' at the end of the financial year...I have very fond memories of those days.
6. Keep up the standards of the industry
Annnnd drum roll for another Karate Kid quote: "Just remember; license never replace eye, ear, and brain." Just because you have a personal ABN doesn't mean you are an island. You are now a part of the Australian PR Industry and you should always respect and appreciate your position within it. We are a highly unregulated industry but it doesn't mean you can get away with unethical behaviour, aggressive competitiveness and general sloppiness.
Concentrate on quality, not quantity. Respect your peers. Keep your finger on the pulse. Get involved in organisations like The Public Relations Council, and be dedicated to lifting the reputation of us all, even if you feel like a tiny player...for now ;)