can a freelance comms person save your life?

by Jayne Howarth

When the recession began to bite, many organisations started to do the same thing. Cut back on their PR and marketing budget and hoped the subsequent saving would see them through.

Of course, as anyone in marketing and PR would tell them – this is a bad idea. (Well, what else would they say?)

OK, so cuts may have to be made, but in the simplest terms maintaining the PR budget gives a company or organisation a competitive edge in bad times and allows it to preserve its image and safeguard its reputation.

But how can this be done in these difficult times, especially when all departments are being squeezed?

PR doesn’t have to be a massive expenditure for an organisation. In-house provision is ideal; the PR officer knows the company inside out, can access the right people at the right time, and can build up a meaningful working relationship with journalists.

But as press officers and marketing managers struggle to keep up with the demands of their day-to-day work, they are increasingly handing over some work to freelancers.

Over the past three and a half years, since taking redundancy from The Birmingham Post, my workload has broadened considerably to include copywriting and PR. In fact, a good proportion of my work is now from companies who need writing support, but can’t afford to pay a monthly retainer to an agency or who have no need to have someone in the office full-time.

Many PR and marketing companies are calling on their fellow scribes to help out on a project or ad hoc basis. One Midland agency often uses freelance writers to help when the workload gets too much.

The director said: “Using freelancers enables us to manage workloads as and when required, without having the overhead and all the legislation involved in hiring staff. It also means we can tap into specialist journalist writing expertise – we cover many industry sectors, and to directly employ specialist writers in each field would be costly.

“Freelancers, in my experience, are also more flexible with their working hours - freelance journalists with a media background also understand the importance of deadlines.”

There has also been a rise in the number “capsule” companies (my term) that draw upon any expertise they need on a project-by-project basis – whether it’s graphic designers, writers, SEO specialists, advertising copywriters. This too works well.

Freelance writers are being used in all sectors: education, public sector, health, industry to good effect, getting stuck into press release writing, brochure or newsletter copy, blogging or SEO web copy.

Once the project is done, the freelancers go off to look for other work.

If you decide to take on a freelancer, could I offer just one plea? They are sole traders and like to be paid on time. As any self-employed person will tell you, there’s nothing worse than chasing unpaid invoices months after they should have been paid.

Treat your freelancer well and you will be rewarded ten-fold.

Jayne Howarth is a freelance journalist, proofreader, copywriter, PR, children's book reviewer. 

Picture credit