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In communications you are selling yourself -- your talents, experience, credentials and effectiveness. The decision to go from employee to business owner may stem from opportunity, desire, or just bad luck -- such as a job termination. Regardless of circumstance, some planning can bring success to your endeavors. Remember, being your own boss can be liberating and simultaneously exhausting, so forge ahead with your eyes wide open and common-sense preparation.
Your biggest asset in the communications business is you. Depending on your communications specialty, you may not need much more than that. Assess what you are offering and what you need to deliver that with the same reliability as a full-service PR agency. If you are in advertising or graphic design, for example, you will need more equipment than a public relations consultant. At a minimum, plan on conference call or video-conferencing capabilities, facsimile services, and a professional setting in which to meet clients.
Be a Specialist
You have competition, so set yourself apart. All of your prospective clients will expect the basics: If you are in public relations, for example, they will expect that you know how to convince a reporter that he’s doing his readers a service by taking note of a client’s service or product. However, if you have exceptional and notable skills in media training, handling crises or in a specific industry such as healthcare or semiconductors, tout that. Be an expert in your field. Aiming your services at specific clients saves you time, energy and money.
Be a Business Person -- Or Hire One
As soon as you can, avail yourself of business planning resources. If you have time, educate yourself on the financial aspects, such as self-employment tax and your state’s governing laws on small business issues like taxes and insurance. If you need funding to get the necessary equipment, be prepared with financial projections to take to your banker or small business lender. However, if all of this is alien to you, one of your first financial investments is to hire a business or financial guru to help you.
An advantage to being in the communications business is that you know how to get messages to the right audiences. You’ve done it for clients, and now you have to do it for yourself. Use previous contacts to get the word out that you’ve set up your own shop. Attend networking events and join professional organizations. Don’t shun larger, established agencies -- many public relations or advertising agencies need to farm work out to individuals or small firms that specialize in a certain area or to take on extra work.
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.