By Mike Hatcliffe
After a really bad day at the office when you feel over-worked, underpaid and pulled all out of shape by your manager, we have that daydream.
“I should do my own thing”.
Friends who are running their own one-person PR shops very successfully, all look happy – right? They don’t have to put up with shenanigans in the office and from HQ. Heck, they don’t even need to change out of their pajamas in the morning.
Well, after more than 25 years at major agencies – 15 at Ketchum and the past 10 at Ogilvy – I just made the transition.
I got great guidance from friends and colleagues. But there were days over the past few weeks when, quite frankly, I was stunned by my own naivete!
So let me share with you the 5 things you really need to know about the first steps to fulfilling that dream to do your own thing:
- It’s harder than you think to choose a focus and name for your business: You worked for an agency that made money by doing everything, never having to say no to a client. But now you have to choose – not only what you want to do, but to match that with what clients will pay you to do (they may not be the same thing!). And then you have to name your operation. Do you have an abstract brand, a title descriptive of your services or something that incorporates your name? Are you an agency or a consultancy? Do you keep communications in the moniker? Do you have Associates – or are you a Group? I went with Group because I have a lot of smart pals who have specialist skills that I want to include in my work when the need arises. I’ll let you know how that turns out!
- It’s easier than you think to legally establish your own company: This is the bit that I thought would be difficult, but is not. You don’t even need a lawyer. The form to register a LLC is on the State of Illinois website and is straightforward to complete. You have to check the name is available – which is not a problem when you are Hatcliffe, but it’s a bigger challenge if you are a Smith. But the site helps you do that as well. If you pay the expedited fee of $600, you’ll have your LLC within 24 hours. It’s even easier to get an EIN – that’s an Employee Identification Number – that you need for tax and banking purposes. The online form takes five minutes and the EIN pops up on your screen at the completion of the process.
- You don’t know as much about workplace IT as you thought: Sure you know how to do all the basic stuff. But, first of all, that really great computer you were using with all the cool software belonged to the company. And second, the IT guys & gals tracked of all the new stuff and kept your laptop and phone up to date. Now that is down to you. My tip – ask around, there are plenty of independent IT experts out there. Get one who will come to your home and help you make good choices in setting yourself up. And if you trust them, allow them to have remote access to your desktop so they can problem-solve easily and quickly.
- But you do know more about accounting than you thought: Software like QuickBooks makes it easy to set up and manage the ‘back end’ of your business – the processes to enter your hours, generate invoices, track expenses and payments and link to your business bank account. If you conquered your big agency’s cantankerous and ponderous time management system, this is a doddle. You probably still want a book-keeper to worry about the big stuff, but the little stuff is so much easier to undertake than I could possibly have imagined.
- You really should change out of your pajamas: Self-esteem is an important concept when working by yourself!
Mike Hatcliffe is Founder & President, The Hatcliffe Group LLC – Reputation, Issues & Crisis Management.