Nick Renaud-Komiya organised an informal conversation over Zoom for freelance STEMPRA members on Thursday 3 February.
As freelance communication professionals, many of us have faced the last couple of years with limited interactions with freelance colleagues, so this proved a really rewarding way to informally swap notes and share our experiences.
Here’s a taster of some of the issues covered in our conversation.
Specialisms and professional backgrounds
The conversation opened with Kim (London) discussing the merits and challenges of being a specialist in a particular STEM area and the different approaches to taking on work outside of a particular niche.
We also spent some time reflecting on the various career routes we each took before ending up where we are today as freelance PR and communications professionals. Contributors to the conversation traced their start back to broadcast journalism, specialist magazine writing and coming from in-house comms backgrounds. This spread of different career backgrounds made for a fascinating discussion over the course of the hour call.
The necessities of running your own business can mean that setting aside time and mental bandwidth to broader goal setting and career development can take a backseat to the immediate deadlines and requirements of client work.
On the call we discussed a series of strategies and techniques that freelance STEMPRA members have found beneficial in helping them to develop their careers as independent communications professionals.
Elspeth (Surrey) talked about the benefits of having an ‘accountability’ partner, someone who can help you set career or business goals and to bounce ideas off. Elspeth explained that the key to making this, from her experience, is to be disciplined in making regular time to check in with you partner.
Types of work
We also touched on the particular characteristics of working with agencies as against working directly for the end client. Another interesting aspect of the conversation related to the differences in experience that came from working for charities, academic institutions and with private companies.
Elspeth shared how her work with purpose-led organisations that align with her own values has been an enormous source of professional satisfaction.
Members who took part in the call cover a range of different work areas, including content, campaigns, media strategy, press office functions and wider stakeholder management.
Further sources of support and mentorship.
One final area that was explored during the call was the benefits that can come from working with a mentor, a more experienced freelance PR and comms professional who can call on their experience to help you untangle any number of challenges or questions you may have about your own work and career progression.
Sam (Kent), mentioned having received mentoring as part of his membership of the Public Relations and Communications Association, and said that this was a very valuable experience, especially because his mentor was a freelancer herself. He also discussed the benefits of PRCA memberships, as well as other networks or groups which freelancers might find useful, including the TechJPR Facebook group.
Above all, simply the act of speaking to other freelance professionals was extremely valuable to all those involved.
We look forward to having more such conversations in the future.