Freelance Alliance Spotlight: Rob Lawson
What freelance services do you offer?
Media relations, copywriting, crisis management, website copy, newsletter production.
How long have you been freelancing and what did you do before you became a freelancer?
I was an Account Director with Golley Slater in Newcastle until May 2008, when I left to set out on my own.
What triggered your decision to go freelance?
I wanted to work on my own terms with sectors and companies that I could really engage with. The responsibility is greater, but it's potentially so much more rewarding, both personally and financially.
Did anyone influence your decision to start your own business?
I have friends who've done it, with mixed success, and many entrepreneurial clients who inspired me. I'm definitely in search of a lifestyle and, while I'm no stranger to hard work, I would never want to be one of those people who are hugely proud of the fact they haven't had a holiday for 10 years. If you have to work so hard that you have no life, then what's the point?
Being on your own, are there any difficult gaps to fill, knowledge or skills
Running your own business and selling yourself are the two biggest challenges I have faced. I have done as much as I can to learn through Business Link training courses, networking and speaking to friends who also have their own businesses. It's one big learning curve and I come across new pearls of wisdom every day. I'd say stay very organised, keep an open mind and never claim to know it all.
What were your goals when you started your business? Have they changed?
My first aim was to make a living, which I achieved. I then wanted to reach my previous income and I also did that. Now I'm looking to the future with an open mind. I may stay on my own or expand into employing either freelancers or full-timers. It's important to have a goal, but I'm in no great rush.
Were there any crisis points early on? Any moments when you wondered if the pressure of making your business a financial success outweighed the benefits of independence?
Early summer is the worst time to start a service sector business as nobody makes decisions in July or August. You will always have black days when you fail to win a contract or wonder how you're going to pay the mortgage, but the most important thing is to pick yourself up and set your goals for the next day. I have never really doubted that this is what I want to do, but there were times when I considered applying for employed positions, just in case.
What are the best mistakes you've made? (i.e. those you've learned valuable lessons from.)
Plan, plan and plan some more. I didn't have the luxury of a long notice period to get everything in place, so the first month was crazy. In the end though, it was a great way to get focused and decide where I wanted to go.
What is your most triumphant moment so far?
Gaining my first contract. I was up against some large agencies and didn't expect to win in my heart of hearts, which made getting the phone call all the more exciting.
Looking back on your freelancing career now, is there anything that you
would do differently?
Sell more effectively. I've never been a great salesman. I have no problem with presenting the PR strategy, but getting your foot in the door is something I've had to learn as I've gone along.
What things do you find personally rewarding and satisfying as a freelancer?
I like to be in charge of my own day and to stand on my own two feet. I have nobody but myself to blame if I mess something up, but if I do something well the credit is all mine. It makes business a much more enjoyable experience overall.
What have been the rewards, risks, and trade-offs?
You obviously don't know exactly how much you will have at the end of each month, but the potential is there to earn much more than in an employed role. As a smaller operator, it also pays not to put all your eggs in one basket. My time is pretty much my own and it's easier to manage your life around commitments. At the end of the day you only have yourself to blame if you don't put the work in.
What have you been working on recently?
A newsletter for an NHS trust, PR for a business awards ceremony in Manchester, a national online betting company and an expanding security sector business. I've also launched an inclusive press release package for SMEs in the local area.
To see more of Rob’s work take a look at his Point Pleasant Communications profile on Freelance Alliance.