We've interviewed Chenoa Parr, media & PR freelance strategist, to learn more about her career and how she ended up becoming a freelancer. Originally from Louisianna, Chenoa is now providing a large range of PR services, from classic media relations to corporate crisis communications, mainly in the Liverpool region. Having worked in a large variety of industry sectors, her experience is really inspiring for many PR staff and consultants. Read her top tips to be successful and enjoy work as a freelance worker.
1. Tell us about you and your professional background
I’m originally from Louisiana and came over after graduating from university with a French degree. I was ultimately headed to France but got side-tracked in Liverpool. I loved it so much I stayed and have been here ever since.
In terms of my professional background, I’m a PR and media relations strategist and have spent over 25 years working in the corporate world. I’ve worked in a number of sectors including social housing, public sector, start-up technology, an international aerospace and more recently premier league football. It’s been varied but I’ve found that PR skills and experience can be applied to just about any sector.
I’ve recently started sharing my knowledge and expertise helping coaches and consultants to position themselves as experts in their field by landing high-profile media coverage. It’s an exciting new direction that I’m really enjoying.
2. How did you get into PR and ultimately become a freelancer?
Throughout university, I was a bit of an animal activist and would be the one contacting the local media to get them along to our rallies and protests. I learned very quickly how powerful the media can be to help promote your messages. That’s where I got the bug.
When I moved to Liverpool 26 years ago, I got a job in a local housing association as a receptionist. Within a few months, I was doing all their PR and that’s where my career started.
Then three years ago, I took the opportunity to take redundancy and went freelance. I’ve never looked back.
3. What services do you generally provide your clients?
Until recently I’ve been offering the full range of corporate communications – media relations, internal comms, thought leadership, crisis communications, etc. But in the last few months, I’ve niched right down and now focus on coaching entrepreneurs on how to get media coverage.
It means I can combine the two things that I’m passionate about – mentoring others and media relations. I absolutely love it!
➡ Chenoa's website is here: www.chenoaparr.com
4. How do you find new clients?
I have two main sources - word of mouth and LinkedIn. I get a lot of recommendations from former colleagues. I also get approached through LinkedIn from recruiters who have been asked to fill interim positions.
5. What’s the piece of work you’re proudest of?
I know it’s a cliché, but there are many projects that I’m proud of. If I were to choose one, it would be the Axe Safety Tax campaign where we lobbied the UK Government to remove VAT on all safety products used in homes across the UK.
It’s shocking that 20% tax is applied to things like smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Our aim was (and is) to make them more affordable and ultimately save lives.
6. What has been the biggest challenge in your freelance career so far?
Oooh good question. I guess the biggest challenge was getting used to the quiet periods. My contracts can last anywhere from 3 to 18 months but there will always be periods in between when I’m not working. It’s just the nature of the job.
I plan for those times and put money away to cover it. I also use the quiet times to share content on social media to keep up my visibility. Above all I remember to enjoy those quiet periods because I know a contract is around the corner and I’ll soon be busy again.
7. What makes you keep doing it? What do you love about what you do?
I get bored easily and love new challenges so freelancing gives me the variety I crave. Each project gives me the opportunity to do something new and apply my skills and experience. I’ve worked in sectors I would’ve never worked in before. It changes all the time. One day I’m working in aerospace and the next I’m at a premier league football club. It’s very exciting.
I also love the freedom it gives me. I generally choose to work three days each week and many times that’s remotely from home. That frees me up to spend time with my family and friends and pursue hobbies like gardening, cooking and walking.
8. What are your top tips for aspiring PR consultants?
If you’re on the fence about whether it’s right for you, just do it! If it doesn’t work out, you can always find a permanent job.
It can be a noisy place out there so make sure you find your niche. That could mean offering one type of service or just working with one type of client. In any case, specialise in one area. It never pays to be all things to all people.
Join freelance groups. There are a few on Facebook where they advertise jobs and take opportunities to network. You never know where the next opportunity may come from.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and share content regularly so that potential clients can see that you’re still in the game. Make sure you include keywords like ‘freelance consultant’ in your profile. That’s how my clients have found me.
On a practical note, once you start freelancing, put aside money each month for taxes. When you’re in a permanent role, that’s all done for you but when you’re freelancing it’s your responsibility. It’s a bit of a shock when you’re not prepared for it. You’ll thank me when that first tax bill comes in.
9. What average rate do you charge your clients?
My day rate is £1,000. I keep an eye on what my competitors charge – some charge more, some charge less. Remember to never undersell yourself but be open to negotiating. Bear in mind how long the contract is and charge accordingly. Interim positions mean that they’re looking for someone to hit the ground running, so you’re in the driver’s seat.