Sheffield-based Freelance PR & Communications Consultant, Matt Needham
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Plus, I love doing them!
Like everyone, I have days where I have to dig deep to find resilience and motivation, reading what previous clients have said about our members and learning a bit more about their professionalism, passion and humility reminds me why I love Everyday People!
This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Matt Needham, Sheffield-based PR and Communications Consultant.
The Guardian once described your writing style as a ‘northern lack of faff’. Tell me a bit about what you do and how you started freelancing.
I’m a communications consultant, but a lot of people don’t really know what that means. Especially my mother-in-law. So I try to break it down: I help organisations communicate with their audiences better. Sometimes that’s through raising the profile through the media, sometimes it’s exactly the opposite (ensuring they aren’t the story). A lot of the time, it’s simply about telling their stories – on websites, on internal channels, through video, via infographics. It’s all very flexible, and varied – which is why I love freelancing.
I always wanted to be my own boss so when the opportunity came up after a contract came to an end, I jumped at it. That was 2013, and I’ve not looked back since. I had an idea that I’d work for a bit, and take loads more time off but it doesn’t quite work like that. I probably do more work, but not to the point I get too stressed. It’s just that I’m now more efficient than ever, offering a better value for money service than I ever could in-house. Less of the office tea break, more of the doing.
You offer media training, tell me a bit about that.
I love media training. I used to be a journalist so when I went into PR and comms, I was like a poacher-turned-gamekeeper. Journalists often get a bad rep, and many people are scared about talking to them in case something goes wrong. I’m there to dispel some of those myths and help people to feel safe to tell their stories. The training I offer is all very flexible, right from a few simple tricks of the trade to full-blown cameras and lighting rigs in your face to get you hot under the collar. One tip for everyone: Unless you’re talking about something very serious, try to smile – even if you’re on the radio. You’ll come across a lot better.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
No matter how good you are, there’ll always be times that you aren’t busy. Going from run off your feet busy to having nothing to do is such a shock. But as long as you put the effort in to keeping clients happy and at least half an eye on the next job, you’ll be fine. You need to embrace the quiet periods and not worry too much – I’m getting a lot better at this, but at the start I got really worried if I wasn’t working flat-out.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while being freelance?
It’s going to sound big headed, but it’s linked to the previous answer. Having the confidence to turn work down, and potentially long-term clients away, was very hard. But I’d rather keep existing clients happy than risk burnout and doing half-baked work for them. Over time, I’ve got used to knowing how much work I can take on and which bits of work I’d be better passing on to my network of associates who can help out.
Dale Carnegie said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” What keeps you going?
The variety of work that I do makes almost every day different and keeps my freelance life exciting. My clients have come from different industries – from employability, skills and training to business, leisure and construction. And as I said before, it’s not all press releases and media briefings. Each client has different needs, so it enables me to think creatively and come up with solutions to help them. One day I’ll be writing about the next big start-up company to hit our High Street and then next I’ll be out with a film crew grabbing some interviews with people.
What app can you not live without?
Without doubt, Twitter. I didn’t even have to think about it. I come from a print journalism background, but it’s been months since I bought a paper. News is instantaneous now, and Twitter’s my source of most of it. It’s where news starts to break, where journalists can corroborate stories and where people can have their say on it all.
Do you have any productivity hacks?
It took me a while to work out when I was most productive, but it turns out I’m a morning person. I tend to be able to write better copy early on, sandwiched by a couple of espressos. Then I tend to do smaller tasks in the afternoon.
Another thing I do is get up from my desk after each piece of work, whether it’s for different clients or not. A quick walk around the house (I generally work from home) resets my mind and I’m ready to get back into things on my return.
Do you outsource any of your work? If not what job would you love to hand over?
I outsource some elements of marketing and comms if I’m either snowed under or what’s being asked is a little removed from my skills set. I’d rather the job be done to the best possible resolution than it look a bit iffy. That’s where my network of associates comes in. I work with some great graphic designers, IT experts, web designers, marketers, copywriters and videographers. Weirdly, I like doing the admin side – especially invoicing. Each month, it allows me to see that I’m still doing a good job, which is really important for my mental health.
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