Going Independent, Starting Up or Starting Out in 2022? Seek and You Will Find


By Rod Cartwright

At the end of 2019 – just before Brexit was finalised – I opened the doors of Rod Cartwright Consulting. Within weeks, COVID engulfed the world.

The next quarter was a tad hairy, but two years on, the business is flowing and flying, with a fascinating, well-balanced mix of crisis preparedness, live issues handling, training and voluntary work.

As we embark on the uncertainties of 2022, the ‘Great Resignation’ is showing few signs of slowing. At the same time, research by Wadds Inc. on the wave of COVID-era agency start-ups in the UK noted the presence of nearly 4,000 UK agencies of four or fewer employees (2017).

Whether you are a seasoned communications professional looking to go it alone, a mid-level practitioner seeking a new challenge or a freshly-minted PR graduate taking your first steps in the industry, the independent and start-up sectors are set to be a major facet of the PR market in the US, the UK and beyond.

So two years in, what would my advice be to those taking the leap into the unknown of independent or start-up life?

  1. ​​​​Find your major (and your minors): Clients buy pretty literally. Being known for one thing – backed by a couple of supporting specialisms – is critical. In big agency, the answer to nearly every question is ‘yes’. As an independent, there is huge value in focusing on the areas you are TRULY excellent at and partnering with real specialists in the adjacencies.
  2. Find your purpose (and stick to it): Disrupt the entire industry? Make enough money to write your book? Spend more time with the dog? If you don’t know why you’ve made the leap, no-one else will.
  3. Find your topics (and your tone): As you build your profile, pick a handful of topics or themes you’re genuinely passionate about and be unapologetically yourself in your tone of voice.
  4. Find your people (and your partners): Independence provides the chance to work with clients and collaborators who give you energy (not drain it) and who you energise in return. Be robust with your choices.
  5. Find your value (and your price point): As Richard Houghton and Crispin Manners will tell you, independent should not mean cheap. Respect your experience, expertise and value in your pricing – not your costs.
  6. Find your collaborators (and your counsellors): As an independent, I have collaborated as broadly and enjoyably as I can ever remember. There’s a world of partnership and advice out there, if you just look.
  7. Find your networks (and foster them): Your network is your lifeblood and is WAY bigger than you’d imagine. Find it, feed it and generously foster the personal relationships.
  8. Find your failure (fast): Experiment like mad, fail fast and be willing to jettison what doesn’t work.
  9. Find your ambiguity (and be comfortable with it): The one certainty you’ll have as an independent is uncertainty. Embrace it, don’t fear it.
  10. Find your generosity: David Gallagher once told me “give and receive in equal measure – and in that order”. Gold-standard advice
  11. Find your life (bonus buy)! Work to live, not live to work? Now is your chance, whatever stage in your professional journey you find yourself at 🙂
Rod Cartwright is the Principal of Rod Cartwright Consulting, a strategic communication consultancy focused on human preparedness, organisation resilience and business performance. Over a 25+ year career, he has worked for international market-leading agencies, including Ketchum (as Global Corporate Practice Director), Text100/Archetype (EMEA Regional Director), Hill+Knowlton Strategies Director) and GCI (Director). He is Special Advisor to the CIPR’s Crisis Communications Network and Chair of the EACD’s Crisis & Risk Communication Expert Group.

One thought on “Going Independent, Starting Up or Starting Out in 2022? Seek and You Will Find

  1. This is such a helpful post given our now not-so-unusual-anymore circumstances. I especially liked the permission to embrace failure–something that is so daunting but a natural part of starting something new!

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