Following a year in which many PR agencies reduced their headcount, there are likely more freelance opportunities available as agencies hesitate to add permanent staff in a still unstable economic climate. However, with so many more capable professionals on the market, the competition for freelance assignments is fierce. To stand out you have to be aggressive and disciplined in your pursuit of freelance work.
Market yourself. Tailor your resume for freelance work by highlighting your strongest expertise and sector-specific knowledge; when an agency is looking for a freelancer, it is probably for a very specific assignment. Demonstrating experience which closely mirrors the specs will help you land the assignment. The next step is to educate yourself about your target market. After you have identified your most marketable skills and industry experience, it's time to find the agencies whose practice areas match your profile. If you are a food and beverage expert, locate the agencies with the largest food and beverage divisions. If you have extensive experience pitching financial media, look for agencies with strong financial/IR or corporate practices.
Few freelance positions are advertised on job boards, so you must reach out to agencies directly and inquire about work. Reach out to the HR director, as well as senior executives in your target practice areas requesting informational interviews. I regularly conduct informational interviews with interesting applicants in order to keep my network – as well as my freelance and permanent staff pipeline – active. In the meeting, emphasize those skills which distinguish you from the competition, and also try to learn more about the company. After the meeting, don't send your interviewers a LinkedIn request; keep in touch by periodically sharing articles which you know would be pertinent to their work. This is less intrusive than an unsolicited “friend request,” and more importantly, a relevant Wall Street Journal or PRWeek article demonstrates your knowledge of their company and their clients' businesses. It's a great way to remind them that you are not the average candidate, and you're just one mouseclick away from a freelance position.
Steve Seeman is a VP at Makovsky + Company