When I started my firm 10 years ago, I had never worked for a PR agency. Needless to say, I made some mistakes as I attempted to figure out the business side of being an independent PR practitioner. And many of these mistakes had to do with wasting time on pointless and/or inefficient activities.
This is for any independent PR pros looking to streamline operations and get more time back in their day. I share my mistakes with you in the hopes you can avoid them.
Here are the first two of my four biggest time-wasters when I first started out as an independent practitioner.
Networking in and of itself is not bad. In fact, my “network” was a critical factor in helping me launch and grow my business. However, trivial networking can be a real time-killer. This is especially true if getting to and from meetings and events requires a lot of drive-time.
Here’s where I was falling short in the True Blue Communications early days:
- Going to networking events with the aim of drumming up business without a clear sense of whether any valid leads would be attending.
- Meeting one-on-one with every person who someone else said “I should really meet.” Ninety percent of these people I never interacted with again.
- Driving all over the Tampa Bay area for coffee and lunch meetings when a phone call (or now video-conference) would have sufficed.
The keys to deciding whether networking opportunities are worthwhile instead of a waste of time include:
- Understanding clearly what you can expect from the interaction before deciding to commit. If you don’t think you’ll find significant value in the event or interaction, skip it. God knows we have enough else to do.
- Being thoughtful in how much time you dedicate to networking so it doesn’t overtake your day.
- Rather than simply showing up at events and exchanging chit-chat and business cards with people you may never see again, really get involved with an organization or group of people. This will create stronger, more valuable relationships that will last long into the future.
Similar to networking, volunteering can be a terrific time investment. Volunteering in a strategic way can be an opportunity to increase exposure, beef up a skill-set and/or build lasting relationships with other professionals. However, as I learned early on, a danger of volunteering is committing so much time to it that you don’t leave enough time in your day for billable work.
I love supporting nonprofits. I used to have a hard time saying “no” when people asked me to volunteer my time and services. And when I was a new independent practitioner still building up my client roster, I didn’t see the problem with dedicating some of my “extra” time to worthy causes. What I eventually figured out was that each hour I was aimlessly volunteering was one less hour spent working on my business. Plus, I was so overextended with volunteering and running a new business that I was stressing myself out.
My suggestions for deciding whether volunteer opportunities are worthwhile instead of a waste of time include:
- Deciding how much time you realistically have available for volunteering so you don’t overcommit.
- Seeking volunteer opportunities that will help you achieve something specific. That could be serving in a leadership role in a professional organization to help build your business. Or, it could be spending time at a local charity because you have a personal attachment to the cause and it’s important for you to feel fulfilled.
- Having a clear understanding of what the volunteer position entails, and being clear with the supervisor about what you’re able to commit to. This should help you avoid ending up taking on more than you can handle.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “4 Ways I Wasted My Time as a New Independent Practitioner,” coming soon.
In the meantime, any thoughts about how to spend your time wisely on networking or volunteering for business purposes? Any other insights to share? Post them in the comments below!