As part of our Meet The Freelancer series of blogs, we interview many freelance professionals from a range of industries.
Bristol based freelance PR and marketing professional and director at Admire PR Ltd, Andrea Sexton, has been working in PR for the past 14 years.
Before branching into PR, Andrea, an Equine Science graduate, was working as a sales agent for a sports clothing company. While working for the brand, she was given the responsibility of looking after marketing and PR, during which she discovered a strong interest in PR. After three years of hands on experience, Andrea decided to focus solely on PR.
With a passion for PR, writing and strategy, Andrea now helps businesses to get in front of current customers and potential customers through inventive promotion across both traditional and digital platforms.
After years of hard work, freelance PR and marketing professional Andrea now has 23 clients from independent names to bigger brands, some of which are internationally based.
Main clients include Olympic Dressage Rider Laura Tomlinson MBE (née Laura Bechtolsheimer), Para Dressage Rider Nicola Naylor, clothing brand Loot Vintage, bike retailer Bristol Bicycles and tech company Newicon as well as working with local charities like Empire Fighting Chance. With a love of sports, fitness, fashion and the arts, many of Andrea’s clients perfectly link with her personal interests.
Explaining the reasons behind going self-employed, Andrea says:
“I’ve got three children and I have basically run my own business the whole time they’ve been growing up. I’ve fitted everything around the kids and the work combines into one happy world. Being freelance gave me that freedom to be able to work and be the present mum. It fits together really well.”
Andrea is not alone in choosing to prioritise motherhood alongside a successful career. There are now 287,000 super mums freelancing in the UK, accounting for 15% of the freelancing community – a figure that has increased by 70% in the past decade.
With an independent spirit, for most of her working life Andrea has completed freelancing jobs on the side of a regular job. Taking on contract and part-time roles, such as working as a college lecturer post university, Andrea endeavoured to develop a flexible freelancer career that was on her own terms.
Discussing what she likes about freelancing, Andrea says: “Every minute of every day is totally different. It’s half past 2 and I’ve already worked on seven different client jobs today – all completely different things: talking to the BBC, talking to some local press and writing press releases. There’s always something different going on and I’m always learning. I think that keeps you fresh. It gives you lots of ideas and it enables me to be more creative. I like the fast pace; I think it’s great.”
In 2013, while still freelancing and being a busy mum, Andrea challenged herself by studying for a Masters degree in Strategic Marketing which she found incredibly useful as a basis in understanding how PR funnels into the wider marketing strategy.
Andrea says: “Just this morning I was speaking to a lady about her PR and the first thing I did was take a look at all the marketing she’s doing and made sure that what I’m doing as a PR freelancer will work really well because if we’re driving more customers and more interest to a company we have to know that it’s going to stand up to that.”
Networking had a big role to play in the development of Andrea’s freelance career. She first went to a networking event seven years ago and hasn’t looked back. Since, she has attended a range of business networking events in Bristol and London and now also attends events as a guest speaker.
“You go to networking events to find out about people and build your connections and then you keep turning up, you get to know people and you start to get recommended. That’s how I’ve grown. A lot of it is consistency. It’s simple but you have to keep doing it.”
Andrea discovers new events through EventBrite and local publications.
Ensuring a steady flow of business, as a freelance PR and marketing professional, Andrea splits her week between completing outstanding work tasks, with actively looking for and following up on new leads.
Andrea says: “Sometimes I’ll see something, like a company who’ve had a couple of bad Google reviews and I’ll keep an eye on them and see if any of my contacts know the company.”
“I think it’s important for anyone who is working on their own, to make sure you are constantly doing that. I do it each week; it’s something that’s always on my mind. Once a project is finished, it’s going to take a few months to get a new client on board, so it’s an ongoing process and something you can’t turn off.”
Discussing the challenges she’s faced as a freelancer, Andrea describes the burden of not knowing how to run a business and in the early days, feeling like you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing.
She says: “I did a lot of trial and error – quite a lot of error which I’ve learnt from, but it’s taken time. Now I’ve got a business coach and that’s the best thing I could have ever done. It’s taught me loads of things I just didn’t know how to do. As a freelancer, you have to be your own accountant, sales manager, marketer and everything else in the business. Nobody is going to be good at everything and I’m definitely more naturally a words than numbers person so I’ve had to really learn about the numbers side. That’s been my hardest challenge – getting paid on time and keeping the cash flow right in the business.”
“As a freelance PR and marketing professional, having a business coach or mentor is definitely the best thing.”
Andrea also gained help from the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Business West. Offering free advice, she found them to be a great support. To find out if your local chamber of commerce can assist you, visit https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/join-a-chamber. Other avenues to explore in gaining help are growth hubs which you can find out more on here.
While some of her clients are locally based in Bristol, Andrea also works with clients from other countries who seek her expertise in the UK sports industry, to promote their brands in the UK. In the short term, this is something that Andrea is keen to develop further.
Long-term, Andrea hopes to build a versatile PR company that will bring together freelancers and a core team of in-house staff. She aspires to provide a workspace for people who have taken a career break to raise children or are trying to balance work with bringing up children as well as creating a workspace for young people who are starting out and seeking an opportunity to hone their skills.
“I do sometimes bring other freelancers in on projects I’m working on. When there’s a lot of work or I need a particular skill in something, I use another freelancer and that’s something I’d really like to build on.”
The freelancer & contractor community will be subject to IR35 off-payroll reform in April 2020. When discussing this from a freelancer’s point of view, Andrea says:
“I think that not enough people who are freelance, are aware of it and there needs to be more out there in the public eye. There are going to be some people who are going to get caught out. I know people who are having to think about how they set their business up. I think Brexit almost delayed it being out in the news. There’s going to be a few panics.”
To find out more about Andrea and the expertise she offers, visit: admire-pr.com
We hope that reading the stories of other freelancers can inspire your approach to freelancing and provide you with some useful tips.
Andrea keeps herself protected as a freelance with Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance. Are you protected?
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