Starting Your Own Business: Agency + Upwork + Smart Hustle

March 16, 2021
By PRSA-SV Board Member Mar Junge
Starting Your Own Business: Agency + Upwork + Smart Hustle

Looking to start your own PR agency, comms consultancy or build a side hustle? Our #FridayForum guests Flock Marketing Agency Founder Alice Chan, Upwork Director Jeff Kruger and SmartHustle Founder Ramon Ray say the business climate’s favorable to go independent and be successful.

Alice Chan is an entrepreneur at heart. She’s founded and run several businesses, worked inside early- and late-stage startups and held a number of acting VP of Marketing/CMO roles. Alice’s ability to quickly figure out what needs to be done to drive a business led her to start Flock Marketing Collective, an agency designed to meet the evolving marketing and comms needs of fast-growth, innovative and disruptive companies.

Before you take the leap, Alice advises taking stock of what you do best. If you are experienced in many areas of comms and have a good network of specialists to lean on, then starting an agency or consultancy may be a good choice. She said some clients have told her, “We don’t know what to do here. We need you to strategize and execute.”

Flock relies on a network of consultants to help her get the job done. “I have a team. They’re not employees, but we know how to work together,” she said.

Help finding work

If you do decide to use consultants, Jeff Kruger advises you first check out your state’s employment requirements. For example, California’s AB 5 statute considers most wage-earning workers employees and puts the burden of proof for classifying individuals as independent contractors on the hiring entity.

Jeff should know. His company, Upwork, helps indies find work and businesses find freelance talent.

With millions of jobs posted on Upwork annually, independent professionals are earning money by providing companies with over 5,000 skills across more than 70 categories of work.

“The trends are extremely favorable for independent professionals,” Jeff said. “Companies are looking for the specific skills they bring. Upwork lets you dip your toe in the water.”

An agency/consultancy of one

If you’d rather launch an agency than become an indie,  Smart Hustle Media, founder Ramon Ray said, “Don’t hide that you’re a single-person entity. Nobody will tell your story better than you.”

Ramon inspires and educates small business owners so they can be successful, support their families and contribute to their communities. His Smart Hustle website is chock full of articles with good ideas and inspiration for the budding entrepreneur, i.e., “Hesitating to Implement an Awkward Business Idea?” – an interview with Awkward Essentials Founder Frances Tang.

Ready to take the leap?

As is typical of a Clubhouse discussion, there were plenty of good suggestions from the audience. PRSA-SV Past President Ellie Javadi said at Norwest Venture Partners where she’s the VP + Head of Marketing, PR and Brand, “Matching comms talent with startups is about the goals and the fit. If the company is looking for earned media, bringing in a B2B marketing strategist may not be the best fit. At an early-stage company, we ask the consultancy/agency to start by doing a project, rather than a retainer.”

Now that the pandemic has legitimized remote working, opportunities abound for going out on your own. PRovoke Media Executive Editor Aarti Shah said, “Agency owners are turning away work left and right.” Perhaps this is the year you should, as Alice Chan (and Nike) said, “Just do it!”

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