Karen Swim, APR, Founder, Words For Hire
The freelance or gig economy is thriving! Or shrinking, depending on whom you ask. Over the years, the gig economy has been touted as a disruptor of the modern workforce and as the Industrial Revolution of our time. Yet in many ways, we still have trouble defining this type of work, let alone integrating it into the mainstream fabric of work. The diverse group of solo PR professionals offers insight into the future of the overall gig economy and a window into the future of work.
Independent public relations consultants function more as small business owners rather than freelancers, and many bristle at the latter term. They can be truly solo or “solo plus,” having an employee or two or a virtual assistant, or running a full-service agency by using a combination of strategic partnerships and subcontractors. In many ways, they operate much like any bigger PR agency, working with a variety of clients and holding themselves to high standards, but have much more flexibility and ability to work with clients on their own terms.
The overly broad characterization of the gig economy, in which Uber drivers, knowledge workers and Etsy shop owners are lumped together, fails to consider the nuances of this group and the immense benefits to companies who hire them.
In fact, the solo PR pro may be Corporate America’s secret weapon. They are not limited by size, and work with local, national and even multinational clients. When companies hire solos, they get the benefit of hands-on work from senior-level professionals (almost all independent PR consultants have 20 or more years of experience) who may also be sought-after speakers, writers and subject matter experts. Solos bring broad and deep knowledge combined with a personalized approach.
Gig economy workers are sometimes seen as adversaries to traditional structures, but solo PR pros don’t compete with large or midsize agencies, and often even count them as clients. There’s lots of room (and work) for both larger agencies and solo PR pros, and the two may even serve the same clients with different roles. Hiring a solo PR pro is a great option for any client seeking help and support for their communication needs.
Solos are not only a benefit to clients, but are an economic powerhouse. They are an often overlooked but vital part of the small business segment that accounts for half of U.S. private GDP production. Solos are also trusted to influence purchasing decisions on behalf of clients seeking services, contractors, vendors, employees and other types of creative agencies.
Solo PR pros will continue to thrive and demonstrate how the workforce can evolve. They can scale up or down, move in and out of traditional employment and enhance or adapt their skill sets to market needs. Solo PR pros are a shining example of how people and companies can do their best work when they redefine how work can get done.
About the Author: Karen Swim, APR, is the founder of Words For Hire, a public relations and marketing agency and President of Solo PR Pro, a 10-year-old national industry membership group that provides tools, education, advocacy and community resources for independent PR consultants, with members all over the world. Karen is also a member of PRSA’s National Board of Ethics and Professional Standards and Director of Communications for Impact Church in Detroit.