We like Jo Smith. She's one of life's great people who really knows her stuff. So nine months into her career as a solo public relations operator in the West of Scotland here are some things that have struck her.
by Jo Smith
It’s nine months since I put years as a full time public sector desk-jockey behind me and set up as a freelance PR consultant.
Going solo isn’t for everyone. But it seems to be working for me. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far...
1. There’s absolute scope for maximum flexibility
Being my own boss rocks. My new work routine suits my natural early bird tendencies. I no longer have Monday morning blues on a Sunday evening and the three o’clock low that used to hit me in my corporate days is a thing of the past.
My productivity has soared – I achieve more in half a day now than I used to achieve in a two. And when I’m done, I’m free to do whatever makes me happy. There’s no clock watching or competitive presenteeism for me anymore. I haven’t worn a watch for months.
I preached the mantra to my former employers that ‘work is something you do, not somewhere you go’ for years. They struggled to believe me but now I’m putting agile theory to the test in spades. Yes I have a desk set up in the spare room and work from there most of the time but I don’t have to sit there and work solidly for eight hours every day - even if the view is to die for. Who cares if I got up at six and sat outside with my laptop for three hours while I wrote their web pages instead of sitting at a desk in an office at 3pm? No one.
2. Mobile makes it easier
The best thing I ever did was order a smart phone. It’s rarely more than six inches from my paw and even in the wilds of Argyll I can receive and respond to emails and phonecalls in a heartbeat. I track web mentions of clients and post on social media sites from the supermarket. I quite often tweet from the back of my horse, which has to be the ultimate in mixing latest technology with old style off road conveyance. I had no idea what I’d been missing out on by sticking with my company-provided free-of-data connection handset. How many other organisations are deskilling their employees and decreasing productivity by limiting data access?
3. Liberated technology – the web is AMAZING
Freedom from crippling IT policies, the internet police and out of date hardware means I’m more tech savvy now than ever before. I’ve not had additional training or invested in super kit. Instead I have uncensored access to the internet and the freedom to learn from my online peers. I’m better read than ever, thanks to articles shared on Twitter. I’ve learned new skills by watching You Tube videos. I Skype with clients, have text conversations with journalists, source new work by connecting with companies via Facebook. I read and write blogs. I’ve pinned and vined and remotely participated in numerous online conferences and conversations. I manage multiple Facebook pages and several twitter accounts on behalf of clients. And I’ve laughed at lots of pictures of cats. None of this was permitted when I was an employee. Crazy eh?
4. There’s some lovely people out there
It can be lonely working on your own. I’ve developed a network of comms pros who are only ever a tweet away and who are generous with their advice. They keep me sane and keep my work up to scratch.
And I’ve found myself working for people who tell me (unprompted) how pleased they are with what I’ve done. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky to work in places without a culture of recognising employees’ efforts, or maybe I’ve managed to find a group of super-lovely clients. Either way, I’ve received more thank yous in the past nine months than in the past nine years. It’s a great motivator – more organisations should try it!
5. I’ve changed gear – in more ways than one
If you remember when telephone and internet banking was new you might recall an advert with Robbie Coltrane preaching the benefits of paying his bills in his PJs. “It’s a very liberating experience” he purred. And to a large extent so is going solo. I’m not actually typing this in my PJs but my suits and smarts have been packed away. I doubt I’ll ever wear them again. I work like a dervish in the mornings when I’m naturally more productive and if the sun is shining in the afternoon I’ll do something that I enjoy. My poor ponies are sick of the sight of me.
The pros of working solo far outweigh the harder aspects - like filling in tax returns, looking for new work, and struggling to proofread your own copy. My ultimate aim is to do work I enjoy, for people I like working with, for an acceptable fee. Sometimes it’s a case of ‘two outta three aint bad’. But largely I’m achieving my own objectives. And I’d recommend it to anyone.