Hello 2019!

Well, Christmas and New Year are well and truly over. After a quiet Christmas break with loads of much needed rest, I’m now looking to the year ahead, and counting down until our days get longer and warmer.

Having re-read my Hello 2018 blog post, my first thought is that we still haven’t finished our house renovations but at least we’re just (still) painting and all building work is in the past.

2018 was a busy one for work here at Breathe PR, which included working on some really breath-taking art exhibitions for Manchester art gallery Contemporary Six; working on a large RHS Tatton show garden with garden designer Warnes McGarr & Co (pictured) and continuing with PR and marketing work promoting the amazing work of Arc Centre & Gallery in Stockport.

I also started working with a new retainer client, InTouch Ltd, which does some fascinating Internet of Things technology work and has a number of diverse products with very niche markets.

Through last year and continuing this year, I also do project work with brilliant charity City of Trees, which combines my passions of horticulture and the environment, the city of Manchester, as well as working with charities.

Social media management is still a large part of my job, and I am a retained social media manager for a large listed business, which has multiple accounts, as well as posting across all social media channels when required for all of my other clients.

I also started my second horticulture course at Cheadle College in September which gives me a much-needed break away from the laptop and learning new skills. Over Christmas I decided that my garden just wasn’t big enough to grow as many vegetables and fruits that I needed so I managed to bag an allotment plot just around the corner from my house.

In terms of getting out of the home office, I’ve also taken on a part-time office in nearby Levenshulme which means a two mile round trip to get that step-count up and some extra fresh air.

So, 2019 is shaping up to be another busy one and my tenth year as a self-employed PR and marketing consultant, so let’s see what the year brings.

Image: The Poisonous Garden at RHS Tatton by Warnes MccGarr & Co. Copyright: Carolyn Hughes/ Breathe PR.

Benefits of using an independent freelance PR consultant

There is a huge industry of PR and marketing freelancers, quietly supporting businesses all around Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and indeed – the whole of the UK. In fact, recent data by IPSE has found that there were two million freelancers working in the UK, of all professions, in 2016, and that figure increased by 43% from 2008 – 2016.

Of course, there are a huge amount of benefits to employing a freelance PR and marketing consultant to fill a skills gap within a business, as opposed to a full-time employee or a PR agency, for example. However, many businesses have never worked with a freelance marketing consultant before and aren’t quite sure whether it will be worth their investment.

I’ve put together a list of benefits to using a freelance business consultant, but I’d be interested to know of any more that business owners or other freelancers think are important to them.

  1. Lower costs than a PR agency

Let’s go straight in with the money factor, because on top of all the other benefits, money talks. A freelancer on two to four days per month will always work out less than employing a PR agency or a full-time employee.

A freelance consultant will always have much lower overheads than an agency as they don’t have to pay for an office, business rates, employees’ salaries and all the other costs of running a business. Most freelancers work from a laptop, so could be at home, in a coffee shop or a co-working space.

And compared to a full-time employee you aren’t responsible for paying their National Insurance, tax, pension contributions, holiday or sick pay.

  1. No long-term contracts

I usually work on 30 day terms with my clients, which is a definite bonus for any type of business in order to remain flexible and responsive to their own financial needs. If the relationship isn’t working for them or their circumstances change, they can end the working relationship with one month’s notice – and no hard feelings at all. Many times, I find a PR client comes back to me when they have another project in mind, or they need another service like social media or website copywriting, for example.

Compare this to a permanent employee’s rights, and that is an amazing freedom for a growing business. In comparison, many large PR agencies require a three month contract to terminate a business relationship, which can be a significant commitment for a small business.

If preferable you can also employ freelancers on project by project basis if you have specific campaigns that need rolling out.

  1. Top level senior professionals 

All of the freelance PR and marketing consultants that I know (including myself of course) have worked for large agencies and businesses as very senior professionals, so as a full-time employee can command high figures. For their own reasons, they choose to work as an independent consultant, hireable by the month, day or the hour. This means your small business can afford incredibly high quality PR and marketing support, without the £40k+ annual salary.

  1. Becoming part of your team

Like most consultants, I enjoy working alone and am more than motivated enough to get up every day and be very productive from home – with the added benefits of being able to put the washing machine on.

However, my ideal client will treat me as one of their team, sharing information and including me on new developments and updates so I can fully understand the company and how it works and use that to find the best PR strategies and tactics.

This doesn’t mean I need to be invited out on the Christmas do, but you really can get the most of a freelance consultant by treating them as part of your extended team when it comes to day-to-day business.

  1. Flexible contracts

Although any independent consultant will appreciate steady and consistent contracts, I am always willing to work with a company’s ups and downs, as long as they are honest and keep me updated as soon as possible. Many businesses, especially my horticulture or landscaping clients, have seasonal and peak periods, so need to up their media relations and marketing for a few months or the year and reduce them at other times.

This just would not be possible with a permanent member of staff, and is harder to negotiate with an agency.

  1. You get a contract with one person and one person alone

It is an enormous benefit to build an ongoing business relationship with just one consultant, rather than employing a PR agency. Having worked for many (very good) PR agencies, as a business owner you still run the risk that the team you meet on pitch day might not be the team you work with on a day-to-day basis. You might only get to see the account director on quarterly meetings, and your day-to-day business is dealt with by junior account execs. With a freelance consultant, you know that is the person you will build your relationship with and who will be representing your business on your behalf at all times.

  1. Remote working benefits

If you find the right freelancer for the job with all the right skills and an amazingly relevant work history, it doesn’t matter if they don’t live in the same city or town as you. I have clients all over the UK, and some of them I might only meet face-to-face once a year.

This means you can expand your pool of talent to find the right person, with the right skills for your business, without being bound by geography and commuting times, as you would with a full-time employee.

Most of our day-to-day work will be via email or updated on Trello, with phone calls for detailed discussion and quick responses. There are multitudes of ways to work alongside a freelance PR or marketing consultant, so unlike a permanent employee, you don’t need them to be able to drive into the office every day.

8. Networks with other freelance consultants and specialists 

The PR, marketing and digital industry, particularly in Manchester, is very close with lots of networks, collaboration and events. When you find a good freelance consultant, they can draw upon their network of contacts across marketing, web design, SEO, digital marketing and graphic design for any other project requirements.

In fact, you can also be introduced to other freelance PR consultants who may specialise in your area. I often make introductions for prospective clients to other freelancers who I think would suit their needs perfectly.

The above tip was added in by Claire Gamble of Unhooked Communications, after I posted it on a freelance forum, in the spirit of collaboration and networking. 

As you can see from the above, there are multitudes of perks to commissioning a freelancer to support your business.

Please give me a shout on carolyn@breathepr.co.uk if you’d like to find out more about what I can do to support your business. I mainly work with clients working in horticulture and landscaping and the environment, arts and charities/ CICs. 



Best coffee shops in Manchester for freelance working

Got your shiny Macbook? Thick black-rimmed glasses? At least one tattoo or piercing? Yep, then you’re ready for some coffee shop freelance working in Manchester!

I work from home a lot of the time, but at least once a week I like to get out the house and get into Manchester city centre. There’s a plethora of coffee shops around the city centre, which are perfect for tapping out an article for a client, or putting together a report. I tend to stick to the Northern Quarter a lot of the time because it’s right near Piccadilly Station, but I have been making the effort to head out to the rest of the city centre recently.

Here’s my favourite places in Manchester for a cup of tea and a spot of freelance PR working:

1. Fig & Sparrow
Set on Oldham Street, right in the heart of the Northern Quarter, Fig & Sparrow is a briliant place to work. I can usually get my favourite table (the booth opposite the till, that’s mine, so don’t sit there), they have lovely fresh leaf tea, Trove bread and great food.
The food is right up my street – salads and sandwiches – with some great veggie options, as well as Greek yoghurt with toppings if I’m there early for breakfast.
When it opened, there was a big focus on very desirable & trendy home products. This section has been reduced to make way for more tables, which we can only thank them for, but there are still plenty of homewares on display, as well as beautiful greeting cards and wrapping paper.
Fig & Sparrow, 20 Oldham Street, M1 1JA.

2. Trove
Not strictly in the city centre, but Trove is just one hop on the train from Piccadilly and it’s one of my regular working spots. I lived in Levenshulme for seven years and Trove was the first decent coffee shop that opened there, so it was BIG news. They then opened their own bakery and sell bread, croissants and cakes from the Levenshulme coffee shop.
They have a brilliant range of breakfasts, including my favourite, the vegan breakfast, as well as loads of veggie and vegan food. I always ask for a sourdough loaf to be put aside so I can take it home as well.
Trove is just 20 minutes walk from my home office, so if I need to get out the house quickly, that’s always where I head.
Trove, 1032 Stockport Road, M19 3WX.

3. Evelyn’s Cafe & Bar
Evelyn’s is a new one on my schedule of Northern Quarter venues, and one that I will be going back to loads. Tucked away just next to where Simple Bar used to be, Evelyn’s is a beauty of a coffee shop and restaurant, with greenery hanging all around and a handy bar and stools area, with a view out to the street. I’ve not tried the food yet, but everything looked and smelled amazing, with brilliant veggie options, so I’ll be back soon. The waitress was really incredibly friendly and helpful and told me all her favourite things on the menu.
Additionally, the owners have opened a members club downstairs called The Daisy, which they are marketing towards freelancers to use during the day. I’ve not had a look round yet, but will report back.
Evelyn’s Cafe & Bar, Tib Street, M4 1NB

4. Manchester Central Library
The Central Library is a beautiful place to work, and has a cafe and plenty of seating space with free wifi throughout the whole of the library. The library closed for refurbishment in 2010 when I was still working in the city centre, and the four years it needed for the £50m refurbishment felt like forever. But here we are eight years later, and it’s amazing to see such a stunning, busy, bustling place.
The library is quiet in the mornings, but does get pretty busy as the day goes on, although you can always find a quiet corner if you look hard.
Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, M2 5PD.

5. The Pen & Pencil
This is my go-to stop off at the end of a busy working day in Manchester, sometimes when I’m waiting for my husband to finish work at his studio at the top of Fourways House. I like to grab a booth, order a G&T and finish off my last few bits of work before we head home. This ultra-cool industrial style bar, set in a beautiful Edwardian former warehouse, does get pretty busy, always plays good music and is right near Piccadilly Station, so thumbs up all round.
The Pen & Pencil, Hilton Steet, M1 2EJ.

6. Grindsmith
Based right on busy Deansgate, Grindsmith is a great coffee shop. Now I don’t drink coffee at all, but from what I’m told, their freshly-ground coffee is VERY good. This is a brilliant spot if you’re ever at a meeting at the Deansgate end of the city centre and I like to perch on the high table and stool right at the front so I can watch the world go by as I’m working.
This cafe also has a free hireable space, which is brilliant for putting on events.
231-233 Deansgate, M3 4EN.


Hello 2018

Well 2017 was an extraordinarily busy year. After setting up my business trading name as Breathe PR at the very end of 2016, I didn’t quite stop for air in 2017.

One of my largest projects was working as a horticulture freelance PR for the award-winning garden design consultancy Warnes McGarr & Co. The design and build duo had exhibited a show garden at RHS Tatton for the previous two years, but in 2017 they were widely tipped for a much coveted gold award, which they then won – and some. A more detailed case study on this will follow.

I also work as a freelance social media manager for an international company, managing a number of Twitter accounts, a Facebook page, Pinterest account, as well as advising brand managers on running their own sub-pages. This keeps me very busy, and, of course, I have to stay well up-to-date on frequent changes to social media platforms.

I also completed a LOT of copywriting projects, most of them with SEO as a strong focus, as I do a lot of website writing for various agencies and organisations.

One of the biggest difficulties in working as a freelance PR consultant is scheduling work – you need enough work to cover bills, but enough flexibility so that if an amazing client comes your way you have the capacity to say YES please! After nine years of working an independent consultant, I’ve got a lot better at this.

On the other side of life, I also took a bit of down time in the Autumn to project manage a new kitchen diner extension at my home. For someone who usually works alone, having a house full of loud builders was unusual, and at times, difficult. But that’s the beauty of managing your own workload as a freelance PR and marketing consultant – you can take it up and down for completely flexibility on your own terms.

And the plus side for 2018 is that now I have a completely renovated and dedicated home working area. I tend to work from home around 50% of my time, with the other half being based either in a workspace in Stockport or an office in the Northern Quarter in Manchester city centre. I also spend a fair amount of time finding the best coffee shops for the perfect freelance working set-up.

Looking ahead to 2018, I’m happily very busy at the moment getting booked up with projects that I’m 100% passionate about. I specialise in working with lifestyle and interiors, horticulture, arts and events and charities PR and marketing, so have some very exciting clients about to be signed off.

I think I’ve almost recovered from the Christmas break, although I do miss eating Terry’s Chocolate Oranges for breakfast. Anyway, hello 2018!



A new business name for 2017

So, I finally decided to change my business name from that of a freelancer to a small PR consultancy. And so, Carolyn Hughes Communications Ltd became Breathe PR at the end of 2016, which was timely for a fresh January start.

The name Breathe PR reflects a way of life that is probably opposed to the way most PR agencies work. As a former stress-head, my new business name is a reminder to just breathe. And as stupid as it may initially sound, sometimes we all need to remember to just breathe in these stress-filled office-based lives.

I initially set up as a freelance PR consultant in 2008 and since then I have run my own business and worked for quite a few PR agencies on long-term contracts, which has meant some very busy and stressful times. I then had two children in quick succession so the busy times got even busier.

I feel that the new business name reflects a shift in mindset to remember to enjoy life instead of being stuck in a head-down work mode. This can be hard when you enjoy your work and really enjoy getting stuck into a project. But I’ve (finally) realised that it’s better to be fresh and work smarter having taken a proper break from work at the weekends and evenings.

The name Breathe PR also takes into account my love for nature, gardening outdoors as well as growing indoor plants, so I used a terrarium shape for my new logo to reflect that part of my personality. I have also decided to specialise in doing PR and marketing for environmental, horticulture, interiors & homes business, independent businesses as well as arts organisations and charities.

I work with all kinds of clients, and also do some white-label work for some larger PR agencies and digital agencies. Although I’ve named my business as a PR agency, I actually have just as many copywriting, SEO and social media clients as PR.

Follow me on my new business pages for updates and over-sharing on growing a small business.