Who needs PR? No shortage of opportunities

Pick up PR Week or the Guardian Media pages on a Monday and you'll see just how many organisations want PR. 

There are ads for health authorities, universities, charities, major retail organisations and multinational companies, as well as staff for PR consultancies big and small. And these are just the ones that get advertised.

But how many of them will be looking for freelancers? A big difference between looking for freelance work and looking for a job is that freelance work is not usually advertised, which is where a bit of inside knowledge and experience is required. This can be gained by doing a bit of homework before you get started. 

There are various types of organisations - or individuals - who might hire freelancers. PR agencies might take on extra help when they are particularly busy. They may not want to increase staff numbers during busy times because their levels of business can go down just as easily as they can go up, so often they take on freelancers to plug the gaps for short periods of time. And if they do need to take on more staff, they may need freelance help during the recruitment process. 

They might also take on a freelancer to cover maternity leave, holidays, or to help out with a major pitch. They may also need someone based in a particular region to give them on the ground support for a launch or event. Whatever reason they take on a freelancer, they usually want someone who can hit the ground running, so they'll require experience in a particular business area. They are paying you a daily or hourly rate so they don't want to spend it on a learning curve. Because they know the work inside out, many freelancers start their freelance life working for former employers, be it an agency or in-house team. It's worth asking. 

Companies with large in-house departments may also need cover on similar occasions. And, as well as larger established agencies, smaller ones, who aren't yet up to taking on staff but do from time to time need some extra help, may also employ freelancers.

A lot of freelance business though comes directly from clients, usually working from your own office or home office. These are usually small or medium-sized companies and organisations or individuals who don't have the budgets to employ staff or large agencies but do need PR help. It could be a new company with a product to launch or an event to hold, an individual such as an artist, who has an exhibition to promote, or a company that wants an experienced consultant to give them ongoing PR support. 

Other freelancers may also be a source of business. It's worth getting to know the freelance community through networking. This is because your contacts in the community might be approached to work on a business area of which they have no experience - but you do. They may be too busy to work on that particular project, so they may recommend you. Therefore, invest time in networking and really get to know the community that you are working within.

Once you've worked out who needs PR it should help you focus on how to go about finding it. And as more and more organisations recognise the benefits of using freelance PR it's becoming a thriving area for those who are prepared to take the risks and, with a bit of luck and lots of good judgment, enjoy the benefits. 

Judith Gaskell 

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