Are PR graduates ready to be their own boss?

On his PR Placements site Richard Bailey kindly features a communications job that I’d been asked to promote by Honda Motorcycles. 

What interested me about this opportunity is that it is a full-time job, but available in a freelance capacity.  It is increasingly common in my experience of the motor industry PR world for in-house headcount restrictions to result in the use of “embedded” consultancy staff.  Indeed, I used to manage a team of 19 of “contractors” undertaking PR roles within Ford when I worked at a PR agency some ten years ago.

Here though, the contract is open to a graduate recruit as it could “potentially be a great role for early professional development”.

Are graduates open to the idea of freelance work – or do they feel they need the security of being employed either in-house or within a consultancy? 

I’ve been self-employed for nearly eight years, having made a millennium decision to stop being a wage slave.  But working for yourself wasn’t unfamiliar to me, as my parents ran a small hotel in Great Yarmouth (as did my mother’s parents before her) and my dad’s parents worked as independent upholsterers.  I was prepared for the downsides as well as looking forward to the upside – which for me is primarily the flexibility to control what I do in life.

Many PR practitioners seem to come to freelance employment as a lifestage decision, particularly those who need to combine work with caring for a family.  For example, via Strive PR I read Sally Whittle’s post on WorkLife balance – where some of the difficulties are evident.

I’m not sure if graduates are being prepared for the option of self-employment by careers services.  One of the things we focus on in the final teaching session of the CIPR Advanced Certificate course is the idea of managing your personal reputationbrand me

Regardless of whether you are working for someone else or are your own boss, it is vital that you maximise your “brand value”.  In PR, we are often the commodity being sold – our skills and contacts are the true assets being sought by clients. 

Having an excellent reputation also offers security whether in employment or with clients as a freelancer.  I would recommend the opportunity offered by Honda as a good career move – not only for the experience and its excellent brand name. 

I believe future career strategies, particularly in professions such as public relations, will require greater independence – so starting your career in the driving seat has to be a good move.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

6 thoughts on “Are PR graduates ready to be their own boss?”

  1. I worked for myself for ten years, and can operate quite happily and autonomously outside a corporate team. It’s more efficient that way: the time spent in meetings or commuting can be spent in productive work.

    But in reality the workload was much more varied as I often stepped in-house full-time in order to cover for eg maternity leave (a good niche when so many PR managers are young females.)

    What’s new about the Honda post is that it’s giving someone the chance to start off self-employed but in secure employment. I’d say it’s a great opportunity.

  2. I have found stepping from freelance/contract roles into full-time PR the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. Granted, they weren’t with big name agencies; could this be partly why they paled into insignificance at interview stage?

    But, I started a new job last Monday in healthcare PR and I’m fully integrated and in fact sit alongside my marketing colleagues! I’m very excited.

  3. Hi,
    I am a junior in the Mass Comunication dept. at Towson University in Maryland. I enjoyed this post- I am among those graduates (or future grads) you mentioned who have not really considered freelance/self-employment.

    Although advertising is my track, I have recently been considering a career in PR. And I also never really thought about the fact that PR practioners are their own commodities, though I completely agree with you. Marketing my own “brand value” is essential to my career and something I really need to work on, especially as graduation approaches.

    Thanks for this post-it really got me thinking!

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