Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
If you want to make big money in PR (although we are not suggesting for one second this should be your main motivation for a career in this illustrious industry!), you should set up your own business. As Andy Turner, founder of agency SixSigma PR, says: “You have to separate out income from wealth creation. You can be extremely well-paid as a corporate/city PR role and have a very comfortable life. But you’ll always be making money for someone else. The only way to create life-changing wealth is to be a company founder or a shareholding director with a significant stake.“
For those of you not willing to go out alone, but keen to get as large a salary as possible, you need to get to the top of a business, and it doesn’t make much difference whether this is in-house or agency. Recent research into salaries in PR, shows that a head of comms’ average salary is £140,000 with the maximum being around £260,000. Agency side, a managing director’s average salary is £135,000, with the maximum salary being around £250,000.
Create your own agency
But let’s get back to where the real money is, running your own company. For top tips on starting up your own PR business, it is worth listening to those who have successfully made this leap. There are plenty of PR leaders offering advice in our PRmoment podcasts, for example Daljit Bhurji, co-founder of agency Diffusion PR, describes how he set up the agency when he was just 27 years old. He says it was partly luck and partly his entrepreneurial spirit that led to this brave decision: “I was lucky in starting my career as part of a start-up (Hotwire) and thought I’d like to do the same someday. After seven years I was perhaps naïve in thinking I knew enough of what was required in running an agency, but a lot of it was down to an entrepreneurial streak that had always been there. I think it was also inspired by the great entrepreneurs I was working with.”
If you are thinking of setting up your own firm, Giles Fraser, co-founder of communications agency Brands2Life, has this advice: “Don’t be scared to do it. Most people who have good skills and a good network have the capabilities, but you must be prepared for the stress, the long hours and the uncertainty. The start-up phase is massively hard work and you have to make sure your partner and family are on side.”
If starting up your own firm is too big a step, then being freelance can be lucrative too, as independent consultants discuss below.
Be your own boss
Ronke Lawal, founder of Ariatu PR: “My clients are stand-alone business owners as opposed to agencies requiring additional freelance support, so I am constantly on the go in terms of business cycles. Offering accessible one-off services has helped and been quite rewarding financially as it opens up my business to a good range of business sizes from SME clients to individual entrepreneurs and even professionals who require media training and personal branding training as well as having retainer clients.
“According to my colleagues in PR some of the best sectors to make money are the non-glamourous (not my words) sectors like cyber security, finance and construction.”
Nicki Rodriguez. director and agent at R&R PR Management: “I decided that the best way forward was to rebrand my PR agency to being a businesses where I could charge a monthly retainer fee in exchange for my services. This has been the positive financial route forward for me and taken the stress away.”
Aisling Gray, self-employed PR consultant: "For as long as I'd worked in PR I had an ambition to head the comms team of a household name/FTSE 100 business. Fifteen years later with big FS agency and in-house property sector experience under my belt, I was right on track. That is until motherhood arrived. In search of a better work/life balance I reluctantly set up on my own. Nearly two years in, I'm earning more money and I'm working super flexibly. My advice to others in a similar situation is to know your worth and prove your value. Use recruitment sites and surveys to benchmark your day rate and constantly review to make sure you're not underselling yourself."
Jasleen Saran, freelance consultant: “I've only been freelancing for about six months but having worked agency side and in-house, across a range of clients, I know that B2B pays better for me. I never have to negotiate my day rate for B2B clients such as law firms.”
Should you not fancy going it alone, then at least as a PR employee your wages should be decent, with an average salary of £45,950 according to the latest census from the PRCA.
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