Michele Hart PR
Michele Hart, age 42
I’m married to Martin with two boys, Alfie 10 and Dylan 8. I live in Stockport,Cheshire. We moved here from London nearly 8 years ago and never looked back. We have a far better quality of life. My oldest son is football mad. The youngest has ADHD and high functioning autism so it has been a challenge at times juggling work and family commitments – lots of appointments with hospital and school over the years.
Before launching my own PR consultancy business I had worked in PR for over 5 years both in agencies, in house and with a charity as PR manager. Prior to that I spent 10 years working as a journalist and editor both in the UK and Ireland.
The decision to go it alone was a big one to make and I had to take a huge risk/leap of faith but it had to be done because working with an agency and trying to juggle everything around the kids, especially the younger one and his hospital appointments etc, was just not working out and causing me considerable stress and to be honest real misery. I felt torn in two all the time and had no time for myself. I was very lucky making the transition because my original agency offered me some freelance work for the first month of working for myself and then a former colleague from another agency got in touch and gave me three days a week freelance work for the next six months which meant I was in a safe position to carry on working for myself and securing other freelance and own client work. I have never looked back.
I launched on 1 February 2005 working from home. Just me, a phone, a mobile and a PC – and it’s pretty much still the same even now. To be honest I did little research before going it alone. I just knew something in my life had to change and had to believe I could do it and just take the risk. So glad I did. The business did not need any money investing in it apart from a few pounds on stationery. Otherwise I had everything else I needed – the PC, the phone and of course me!
Virtually all of my work has come about through word of mouth and recommendation which is a great position to be in. I have never actively marketed my own work as such apart from singing about successful projects and stories through facebook and twitter. I have also picked up some work through attending networking events but mostly it comes from recommendations and referrals.
The best thing about working for myself is the flexibility it gives me. If I need to attend a school or hospital appointment for my son I can, same goes for sports days etc. They just become ‘meetings’ in my diary and I know if I have to I can always catch up on the work alter in the evening or at weekends. Saying that, this is also a downside to working for yourself from home because you can find yourself always working and it can be hard to switch off. I now have a rule that unless it absolutely can’t wait I will not work at weekends or in the evenings.
At first I think another challenge was people including family taking the fact that you are actually working seriously but now after almost five years they tend to leave me in peace and realise I am not lounging about watching daytime tv (I wish!) but working very hard most of the time. The other downside can be the feeling of cabin fever sometimes. However I try to get out and about and attend events, meet up with journalists and other PR colleagues etc at least once or twice a week to prevent any feelings of isolation.
Finally I miss having colleagues to bounce ideas off and generally have a chat with. However I have formed a really nice informal network with three other local PR people and we often pick the phone up to each other to bounce ideas around, have a rant or share our successes. I also find facebook a huge help as I can log on from time to time and have a chat with people which stops me from going totally stir crazy. I consider it the equivalent of my gossip around the office coffee machine!
Fitting in work and family now works really well. I have very supportive in-laws who look after the kids three days a week after school. My husband collects them one day a week and I try and finish at 3pm on a Friday so I can collect them from school and we can all enjoy an early start to the weekend. To be a success as a freelance or PR consultant I think you need considerable experience, really good contacts, a can-do attitude, an open mind and a willingness to give anything a go, even if it is not your normal area of expertise and you need to be very disciplined. You also need to keep a creative eye out for other projects and options – I have started to get involved more and more in events for example. And you need to love it – if you do it shows and the work should come your way!
To contact Michele, email michele @ michelehartpr.co.uk