Written by Katie McKee.

Get Smart 2016Get Smart 2016



Navigating Overload: Freelance Strategies for Creating Client Buzz

When it comes to marketing and PR, it takes a brave — and smart — freelancer to compete with agency budgets and full-on staffs. Two local rock stars, Laura Beck and PJ Christie, will share insider tips on how they deliver world-class results with modest resources. Learn how to ensure your project, story or product pitch leaves an impression and makes it to the top of the stack. This open discussion will include what marketing tools to use or avoid, harvesting the right data to spot trends for effective programs and making connections that spell out results for your client.
We spoke with Laura and PJ to get a sneak peek of their panel on Oct. 14 at Get Smart.

WCA: How can freelancers compete with the size and budgets of agencies?

Laura: Consultants are more competitive on pricing, and more challenged regarding resources depending on scope of project. I am always more affordable than an agency option. CFOs love independent consultants! We are lean and mean, and individual contributors, doing the work directly versus managing and directing a team, with overhead and administrative processes. You are hiring the actual worker with a consultant, versus a team that needs to be trained, can have inefficiencies and junior people still learning.

However, when you are hiring a consultant, you are getting a one-man band. If you have a really big project, or lots of moving pieces, one person, one body can only do so much, only so many hours in the day. Most consultants know how to manage this, and have a network of peers they can call on to knit together a bigger team, bring in additional firepower when needed.

PJ: It’s actually easier to compete if the freelancer is able to frame the decision properly. Agencies are grabbing long-range agreements and avoiding the kinds of results-based activities that freelancers are inclined to engage in. It’s also pretty clear to the seasoned marketer when they are being sold on a range of service greater than the individual pursuing the deal i.e. agency owner or sales rep.

I’ve worked for those agencies. If they were being honest then their customer would know that so much of the heavy lifting is being subbed out to a freelancer, or by an under paid junior, or even interns. Those agencies can’t compete with good freelancers on price or performance. There are great agencies though, and times where what is needed is a large organization with chemistry. But it’s rarely required.

For the savvy freelancer, some sales skills can go a long way to compete. I think the more important question in my mind is, “why are agencies such a popular choice when 95 percent of owners or in house staff have been burnt or let down in the past?”

The other side of the coin is the dilettante freelancer who claims all skills, including selling themselves. Is that the ideal? I’m not sure.

WCA: What’s the best freelance advice you’ve ever received?

Laura: Set your boundaries and hold them very dear! A good friend of mind said you can make the money you did at agencies working half the time. But only if you hold the line, and protect your time.  If you really want “more balance” and a different work life, and your goal is to work 20 hours a week only, YOU are the one to enforce that, protect it, and make it so. Without diligence and rigor, before you know it, you are working 60-hour weeks again and have no one to blame but yourself. You CAN say no to a project or you can tell a prospect you are already booked up. More work will come your way, but saying yes to everything out of fear of it going away if you don’t is not the answer.

PJ: Treat your time networking as though it’s as valuable as your billable time. Focus on the results of those networking sessions not the session itself. I hope our session is, for someone, a $10,000 value.

WCA: How do you find the creativity to keep up with the latest marketing and PR trends?

Laura: I read! I honestly love watching my Facebook feed — lots of my friends are in the industry, either PR/marketing, or tech — to keep up with what’s happening, what news is breaking, what’s hot, etc. Ditto LinkedIn updates on my peers. I also find that having a variety of clients in a variety of industries, keeps me fresh, just like it did when I was at an agency. Being singularly focused on one client gets you in silo mode far too fast. Variety keeps you learning new things that you can apply to others! I’ve also learned with age that it’s OK to admit you do not know something, or haven’t done something. It’s very liberating to not feel you need to be an expert in everything, and that you, instead, can tap into/bring in an expert in that particular thing to service your client the way they deserve AND learn something new for yourself in the process!

PJ: I’m just creative. My wife is an artist, and I’m a songwriter and musician. I don’t find marketing and PR trends creatively interesting but I do find them often intellectually stimulating.

WCA: Can you give conference-goers a sneak-peek at what to expect during your session at Get Smart?

Laura:  I must owe PJ something! 🙂  We are really excited and almost couldn’t hold ourselves back even in the brainstorming meet to plan the session! There is so much we could talk about, so many avenues we could take.  We are trying to keep it focused on real-life examples of what you can do to deliver value and move your client’s business forward, and what you should NOT do! This from both of our years of real-life experience, as well as tapping into everyone else in the room! I’m looking forward to learning, too!

PJ: It’s going to be awesome. I have admired Laura for years and am thrilled to be a part of it. People will see two seasoned pros at the top of their game exploring data behind engagement and measuring creative campaigns. It’s results-oriented, not just because of ROI (every freelancer lives and dies by ROI), but also where to find inspiration. Stats and happiness side by side. Ideally with happy clients and customers.

Learn more insider tips on how to deliver world-class results with modest resources during Get Smart 2016. Laura Beck and PJ Christie will be presenting the breakout session “Navigating Overload: Freelance Strategies for Creating Client Buzz” at the DoubleTree Austin on Oct. 14th. Register today to reserve your seat!