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June marks my sixth month as the owner of a Comms shop. I worked with clients for a few years before I officially launched Proper Propaganda in January, but had the safety net of a salaried job to fall back on.

This business owner thing has been a ride.

Here are few thoughts on starting a Comms shop.

  1. The cliche about having to suffer revenue loss when you start a new biz is a load of crap. If your leaving a high paying gig to “go out on your own” don’t begin by assuming you need to make less cash for some indeterminant period of time. It’s a loser’s mentality.
  2. The inherent fiscal concerns in the early stages of running a Comms shop can lead to problematic clients. I have had two problematic clients in five months. Both were taken because I needed cash. Both probably ended up as more trouble than the cash was worth. It’s important to think through who you sign, even in the face of financial pressure.
  3. No client is signed until they sign. Simple enough, right? I wish I got paid for the amount of times people told me they were going to sign with me. You too, right?
  4. Most people are shocked by what PR costs. I am not that expensive, but as an owner the sticker shock I’ve seen from prospects after they get a quote has been “shocking” in its own way. People who don’t want to pay a real (and fair) price are probably going to be a pain in the ass.
  5. As appealing as focusing on a specific niche sounds, it is hard. This is especially true when you have a new business and want to do everything you can to mitigate the risk that is life with only a few clients on the roster.
  6. Good help is (effing) hard to find. You knew that, it just seems to matter more when you’re life depends on it.
  7. Referrals are gold. The problem is asking for them and getting them is kinda like panning for gold.
  8. The clients want press. They tend to think they know how to get it. You already knew this, but it’s more troublesome when the PR shop belongs to you.
  9. I will never be an employee again. This is simply too much fun! I was never a very good employee anyway, so this is better for everyone.

That’s it for me. Any of you business owners out there have insights to add?

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Krista says:

    It’s great to hear you are happy and are enjoying your solo venture, Jackson! These are all great lessons, and I can relate to the sticker shock example. Before I made my career change, I spent the better part of two months on a PR/comms proposal for a former employer (a nonprofit) who must’ve thought they were getting my time and talent for free.

    At least you are weathering through the infancy stages of your new business and have lived to tell the tale (or tell it like it is, either cliche works here 😉

  • Great points made! I can relate to all but especially point #6! It’s difficult to find help that shares and fully understands your vision and the drive it takes to become and remain successful/relevant. Finding and staying in one particular nitche is also difficult in the beginning stages.

  • Thanks K! If I had a 10th point to add to the post, it might have been that the “tools of sanity” – like making time for exercise (and sometimes vodka) – are important to when embarking on a new venture! 🙂

  • Thanks Angela! Couldn’t help but notice, what a great name your firm has! Appreciate you stopping by. JW

  • Marc Apple says:

    Jackson, Great piece! Re: #4 – I had a signed client who hired us to do a full website SEO overhaul recently and when time came to talk numbers there was no way it was going to work out, sadly. Developers, writers, programmers, graphic artist, etc all have hard costs associated with them which people outside of our sphere sometimes just don’t understand. Gladly, there are many more people that do understand and we can do some amazing work for them.

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