In 2009 Annual Conference, Monday

Opening your own firm can be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done!

This interactive session with Joe Curley, APR, CPRC and Jackie Kelvington addressed curiosity, fears and dreams about taking the major step and setting up your own business.

Questions to ask yourself before making the move:

  1. Do you have the drive and discipline to work unsupervised and meet deadlines with quality work?
  2. Do you need the daily social and personal interaction of a busy office?
  3. Do you possess the aggressive abilities necessary to search out and acquire new clients? (they don’t come to you in the early days)
  4. Can your emotions (and budget) handle the early ups and downs of too-much or too-little client business?
  5. What is the current level and scope of your professional PR abilities? That experience will set the initial benchmark for the PR services you offer and may limit potential projects and clients.
  6. After dividing a typical day into “work segments” with time dedicated to family, client projects, your new company tasks such as bookkeeping, promotion, community and professional networking, etc. can you make the net amount of money you need with the available client time remaining against your established billing rates?
  7. Are your relationships with media well-established  enough to produce results for clients?
  8. Are you well established in the vendor world for project support? Servicing a new client is not the time to trust the Yellow Pages as a primary source.
  9. Do you have sufficient cash to support the first six months of business operations and personal on-going household and automobile expenses (factoring zero income for the first three months)?
  10. Have you developed a plan for health care & disability coverage and retirement savings that you feel will protect your family interests?

Timing is important! If you want to stay small, you can do it on 3-5 years experience. If you want to grow a larger firm, you need more time working for someone else.

Selecting work – the work you take on will define your company and its direction. Don’t  jump at the first client that comes along. Have a plan and stick to it, don’t jump at easy money.

Are you ready to be a solopreneur?

The “FEEL” checklist:
Financial = risk, cash flow
Emotional = stress, patience, sales
Experience = 10 years +; you are probably plugged in to the community (Joe Curley, APR, CPRC, recommends agency as well as corporate; 5 years in an agency will give you what 15 years in a corporation does)
Logistics = a lot! Do you have a Plan B?

Why would clients choose you?
Reputation
Referral
Experience/results
Cost

Be consistent in your billing – don’t fluctuate among clients.

Other things to consider:

  • Who are you? Freelancer, writer, consultant, strategist, etc.
  • What are your core strengths?
  • What clients will you go after (projects vs. retainer)?
  • Operations/logistics (equipment, rates, letterhead, contracts)
  • Time & financial goals (how much do you need to earn vs. how much do you want to earn)? Working from home is potentially a huge  mental distraction.
  • Getting incorporated

PR association involvement, referrals from agencies, volunteerism are three areas to market yourself. Being a public speaker is another excellent source of potential business.

Three criteria Rick Oppenheim, APR, CPRC, uses to determine his involvement in volunteerism:

  1. Select a cause you believe in.
  2. Do you have a good client engaged in the cause?
  3. Is it good for business?

“Run Forrest Run” if you hear:

  • “I’m starting my own business, have no money and a limited amount of PR understanding”
  • “We’ll trade services”
  • Developing proposals or doing work before a signed contract is in place (Joe doesn’t prepare any proposals)

Make friends with those in other professional realms for valuable referrals.

Bill in advance, not arrears.

Best practices for partnerships:

  • Sub s corporation; good buy and sell agreement; all have a life insurance policy on each, owned by the others; keep spouses out of it, don’t want heirs buying in.
  • Investigate “phantom stock option”  for distribution of profits.
  • Pitching retainer work: while I’m retained by you, you are top of mind. Project work – ends with project being completed.

About the speakers:

Joseph J. Curley, APR, CPRC
Joe has practiced public relations in Florida for more than 35 years and is now semi-retired. He was the co-founder and president of one of Florida’s largest PR firms, Curley & Pynn Public Relations Management in Orlando, which he sold in 2004. Currently a public relations and marketing consultant at his own firm, Stingray Solutions, Inc., Joe is retained by Universal Studios Parks & Resorts as Senior Corporate Communications Counsel, international marketing & PR. He is directly involved in theme park projects in Singapore, Dubai and South Korea. He is a past national president of the Public Relations Society of America Foundation and a past state president of Florida Public Relations Association. In 1993, and again in 2005 he was honored with FPRA’s highest statewide award for outstanding professional leadership. He currently serves on the Communications and Public Relations Advisory Board for the University of Florida. joecurley@tampabay.rr.com

Jackie Kelvington
Jackie is a 17-year veteran in the public relations and marketing field, having managed related activities for clients in a broad range of industries, including:  economic development, technology, professional services, consumer products, travel/tourism and hospitality, and not-for-profits.  In 2001 Kelvington established Kelvington Consulting Group, Inc., working with local start-up, established and expanding companies.  Prior to founding her consulting business, Kelvington was director of Public Relations for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC) where she was responsible for strategic media relations, corporate communications, web site development, and creative marketing initiatives that directly positioned Orlando as a top business location.  In this role, she specifically supported the region’s targeted industry development in the areas of high technology, corporate and international business, and film and television production.  Highlights of her work include generating national exposure for the region in BusinessWeek and Fortune, as well as implementing and supporting a new branding campaign and several new business development marketing initiatives.  Before joining the EDC, she was an account manager at Curley & Pynn Public Relations, where she directed PR and marketing campaigns for Tupperware, Kampgrounds of America, Lucent Technologies and Don Pablo’s Restaurants, among other clients.

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