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Life of a Freelance PR practitioner

The freelance workforce in India seems to be on a rise in the last couple of years. More and more professionals are joining the bandwagon and quitting the corporate rut. In the last couple of months, the work from home setting has proved that the PR industry can function without its posh office setups. PR professionals have seen the benefits of working from the comforts of their home and yet servicing clients in the best possible manner. 

This current working set up could soon open up new doors to PR professionals who may take up the option of freelancing instead of working in agencies. These days many agencies tie-up with independent professionals and outsource them jobs instead of hiring full-time staff.

Sure freelancing comes with a lot of perks however it also has its challenges. To understand the freelancing world, we spoke to a few freelance PR consultants from different cities and this is what they have to say.

(Nikita Chodankar – Outdo Media and Events, Goa, Usha S. Shrivastava – Mumbai, Misthy Sablok – New Delhi, Manauti Walecha – Noida & Shailesh Kumar Nevatia – Grandeavour Communication, New Delhi/NCR)

Happy with Freelancing:

Nikita: Yes. My dream did come true. I always aspired to be an entrepreneur. I worked towards my goals and I am extremely proud to be working independently which makes me more passionate and enthusiastic towards my work.

Misthy: Working as an independent PR consultant is rejoicing as well as challenging at the same time. I feel grateful for my learning and experience in the past because of which I can strategize, design, and execute PR campaigns single-handedly. It gives me a sense of freedom and confidence, as I can bring all my creative ideas on the table and advise my clients to strengthen their brand image. I save a lot of time in executing the activities, as there is no requirement for multiple layers of approval. The client is directly in touch with me and it helps in speedy briefing and planning. But at the same time, I am required to multitask and take care of all the related and unrelated activities from end-to-end.

Parameters to choose clients:

Shailesh: No specific parameters as such, but not taking every opportunity knocking. I work on a best effort basis and accept the assignment when I am sure about the deliverables, and the client’s requirement is realistic. Otherwise, the queries are much more with unrealistic demand and expectations in general.

Misthy: I have mostly worked with clients in the space of B2B and Brand & Consumer sectors. I happen to get clients from these sectors only, considering I network with individuals and journalists from this space. But I feel I am hands-on to take up clients from other sectors as well. I am of the thought, that, Public Relations is an ever-learning sector, no matter how small or big the client is, no matter if we have worked on that sector in the past, we are always required to study and research the trends and history of the sector to keep the communication contemporary.

Nikita: We mostly take up clients which show interest in PR. After all, PR is a creative field and it’s our responsibility to meet client requirements. We customize our promotional strategies whenever we find it difficult to manage certain promotions for commercial clients.

Work-life balance:

Manauti: It’s been more than 2.8 years that I am working for my venture. During this period, I have realized a sense of contentment. Managing time is the crux. So whether I have to go to the office or stay at home with my kid, is completely my decision, which depends on where I am required the most.

Misthy: It is very important to have a work ethic and discipline while you are working by yourself and don’t have anyone to look over you. At the same time, it is also important to have a cut off time. I realize being a freelancer I often take work overboard and keep working whenever I have time to myself. Attaining work-life balance is not very difficult, it just requires rational time management.

Standard tariff:

Nikita: No, I do not have a standard tariff as the scope of work varies as per the client’s expectations and needs. Our charges are discussed only after we work on our strategies, ideas & plans. The proposal is then put forth to the client. 

Usha: Tariff varies based on several factors like the city, type of client, products, and brands one is handling.

Shailesh: I don’t think, such a parameter exists in our industry at large, whether being a bigger – mid-level – boutique agency or a freelancer, all have flexible options available. But there are certain clients/agencies, with whom we work regularly, having a fixed tariff without any flexible options available.

Timely Payments:

Manauti: I have been lucky enough to have clients who pay me on time. However, there is only a handful, who, honestly, do not have the intention to pay on time and that’s unprofessional. You can’t do anything about them.

Shailesh: This is one of the most painful and toughest parts, being an independent consultant. We hardly get paid on time and not so easy, we get the desired committed payments! Apart from a few, almost 90% of clients/agencies have reason to reduce/cut-down the payments. I can’t say about others, but for me when it comes to payments, its 70:30 ratio annually. At the same time, 10% of agencies, individuals, and clients are a real gem, who cares about work and their teams, associates & vendors.

Nikita: Most of my clients do pay regularly. But there are times when the payment is stretched over for very long. Constant follow-up is the only way to recover the payments. 

Challenges freelancers face:

Nikita: While you work as a freelancer, you are certain to handle all aspects of the project right from client servicing to accounting. It is more stressful working as a freelancer as you need to dedicate your entire time and energy to fulfilling the client’s expectations. In an agency, you work as a team and the workload is distributed fairly. Being a freelancer, I need to be on my toes working round the clock right from its planning to execution. While working independently, I also update my skill and knowledge to understand every domain of PR. A freelancer is also solely responsible for its failure.  You also depend on your earnings and make up for the entire month which is quite challenging.

Usha: When you work with an agency, you are supported by various teams in pitching clients, initiating PR exercise, follow-up with correspondents as well as clients, etc.

Manauti: Freelancer means ‘all by yourself’. If I would have been in an agency I would have had a BD team, support of a media team, and a client servicing person. But being a freelancer, you have to take care of all the things at the same time. Multitasking with good quality deliverables becomes a challenge for me.

Shailesh: Quite a lot! In the first place, creditability issues are there. The client hardly trusts if it’s the first time they are working with us. The reason being they have brunt their hands earlier or had a pretty bad experience with someone else, resulting in losing their client, money as well as goodwill. Secondly, the payment terms at large! Most of the agency side who outsource doesn’t understand the reality and challenges even being on the same side, they expect us to deliver greater results at no cost, they always have budget issues or are paying from their pockets. Our industry has a mind-set that freelancers have no expenses and they can work for free! Also, in today’s competitive scenario agencies work on a lower fee which ultimately affects our business.

With Co-working spaces, collaborations with digital agencies, and mutual setup, things are promising and a little better than before, which is positive for the freelancers.

A job would give more money:

Usha: Probably yes. Though the joy of being your boss and getting to decide what kind of work you wish to do and with whom, as an Independent PR Consultant, is unparalleled. Also, there is the flexibility to fulfill your other priorities and personal commitments and still be able to pursue your passion.

Manauti: It’s a feeling, which comes and goes. It depends on the amount of invoices I raise to my clients. Of course with an experience of 13 plus years, I would have been earning a good salary if I had been with agencies or corp comm. But the months when I get good work and a nice remuneration are the ones that keep the motivation going.  

Misthy: One can always make more or the same money as a freelancer, compared to what you would earn while working at a firm. There is a lot of roof space to grow and increase your earnings, as a freelance PR practitioner. You are not restricted to the set of work assigned to you by your company, you can always take on more clients as per your convenience and enhance your income. With the global pandemic, things are changing and so is the world of business. We can already see a lot of companies emphasizing ‘work from home’ pattern in the future and there are lesser F2F (Face to Face) interactions and higher adoption of virtual communication. Every sector baring a few has taken a big hit financially, therefore budgets are a big concern for companies while selecting agencies and vendors. Freelancers always quote lesser professional fees as compared to agencies/firms, for the same set of work. All of this will give a big push to freelancing professionals (across sectors) in the post-pandemic world and is likely to give freelancing an edge over companies hiring full-time working professionals.

Shailesh: No! I don’t think so. Good practice, professional attitude, and being a go-getter individual altitude takes you to greater heights. Many freelancers are earning far better than a CorpCom head at a larger corporate, there’s no limit for an individual, who works to live and live to work, they have a better life in comparison to many. For me, it is not just about money! Being an independent consultant, I have various luxuries that many working professionals don’t have. It gives me flexibility and a great work-life balance as well as personal satisfaction and the choice to do things my way.

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