The other day I ran into a journalist I used to pitch. These days newspapers and TV stations are shedding reporters like my dog sheds fur in the spring, so it was no surprise she decided to get out of the media business and get into PR. It is also no surprise that in Denver and around the country, many former journalists find out that landing a gig at a public relations firm is not so easy. 

In many cases, they decide to set themselves up as independent practitioners, which is the case with the woman I ran into.  She knew that I opened Pushkin Public Relations years ago (this year is the firm’s 13th anniversary), and she wanted to know the secret to staying in business over the long haul. That got me thinking about what advice I might offer to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur. What advice did people give me when I started out? 

So here are seven keys for solo PR pros:

1.  Your brand is your reputation. Don't screw it up. Don't let the pressure of paying the bills tempt you to do something unethical. The damage to your reputation will cost you much more than the loss of the contract. Maintain your integrity. Say what you mean and back up what you say. It's better to walk away than to work a client you have doubts about.

2. Don't panic. Business is cyclical. You will have good months and bad ones. The trick is to enjoy the down time and try not to stress out when things get really busy.  That is easier said than done but it is something you should constantly remember.

3. Find a mentor. Someone you trust that you can turn to with questions or concerns. When I started out, someone told me that I should spend one-third of my time serving my clients, one-third on administration, and one-third of my time developing new business. That was great advice for someone who knew nothing about running a business.

4. Network your butt off. I know, everyone says this but not everyone is comfortable doing it. The Denver public relations community is close and collaborative. Our business depends on referrals so network with others in your field as well as clients in the industries you want to build relationships with. Join PRSA or another professional association. Join social media clubs or leads groups. Participate in online communities through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

5. Stay hungry my friends. Put yourself out there in a metaphysical sense. Be open to landing new business. Be ready for the next opportunity that comes along. Stay positive and focused.

6. Build collaborations and virtual partnerships. This is a great way to compete for business, expand your expertise, learn from other professionals and get out of your box.

7. Get a closed sign for your door. Repeat after me: "I am not a freelancer I am a business owner." Don’t let the freedom of a home office become a trap that keeps you on the job around the clock. Close up shop when you are done for the day and don't open up after hours unless it is a critical emergency.     
What tips do you have for new solo practitioners? What questions do you have if you are just starting out? Leave a comment and let me know.

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