Women in the workplace

Emma Louise Morris: PR and Communications Consultant

Emma Louise Morris, PR and Communications Consultant. Photography by Jessica Howell.

Name: Emma Louise Morris

Job title: PR and Communications Consultant

Career path: After working as a solicitor, (a job I liked but I didn’t love – Ally McBeal has a lot to answer for) I left law for a new career – not knowing exactly what that would look like.

I quickly realised that I had the right skills to move into a career in communications, having always played an active part in marketing and communications for the law firms I had worked in.

My first communications role was within the education sector and the experience I gained there soon led to a senior position working for a new charitable education trust in South Yorkshire. Here, I built from scratch the communications, marketing and press functions. After running a number of high-profile PR and communications campaigns I knew that this was what I was meant to do.

Following that I worked within the PR, communications and marketing team at Leeds Arts University (formerly Leeds College of Art) where I developed and led their media relations. I was responsible for all PR activity across the university, such as major university announcements, promotion of all exhibitions and student, alumni and artist success stories. I’ve now worked in the PR and comms industry for almost 10 years and I haven’t looked back. I love the independence and variety being a freelance PR and communications consultant offers me. I am proud to be working with practising artists, small businesses and start-ups, across the UK.

Ideas & Planning: I work from home so finding a comfortable spot to work is a must. When the sun is shining, there’s nothing I love more than taking my notebook and pen (selected from my growing stash – I’m a huge stationery geek!), and sitting in the corner of the garden. My happy place is enjoying the peace and quiet while sat in the sunshine and it’s where I’m able to be my most productive. State of mind and wellbeing is important when working from home and a dose of vitamin D is a must for me.

I like to think through my ideas and plans, so I often sit and don’t write anything for a while. Once I’ve gathered my thoughts I begin drafting out my initial ideas the old fashioned way – scribbling away.  Once I’ve got them down on paper, then I transfer them to my laptop.

When I’m not in the garden, I’m in my office where I have a little desk by the window. It’s nice to have a dedicated space to work in the house. I have a writing ritual. I like to light a candle and I must have a cup of Yorkshire Tea on the go, usually in a cup with a cheesy quote that I find inspiring (my fave being “Best mummy in Barnsley”). Lighting a candle helps to keep me calm and focused – much-needed when I’m up against a deadline.  

In terms of my ways of working, I’m a planner. My legal background plays a big part here, I like to be very organised and diarise everything! I set calendar reminders that help me work backwards from a deadline. I also love lists! I use Trello to organise my projects and client work and I’ve found it to be a great communications tool to collaborate with clients on.

I take inspiration from people and everything around me. I like to keep up to date with other writers, the media, the arts and small businesses. But most importantly, I’m inspired and fascinated by people. I enjoy working with them to communicate their positive story and do that as creatively as I can.

Finance: To some extent, I’m still figuring this one out as I’m in the early stages of my self-employed journey. I’ve learnt a lot in this past year but I’m still finding my way.

Quoting for work is by far the hardest thing about being freelance for me. It can be easy to undervalue your worth and the time you invest in a client project. I’ve learnt to be confident in the skills and professional service that I am offering. It’s a tough one predicting how long a project will take you but this comes with experience.  

My earnings vary month to month, particularly so in this first year of setting up. I’ve had a lot of one off costs like creating a website, IT, printing and subscriptions to factor in. I have clients that work in the arts so I tend to earn more over the summer months, depending when exhibitions and events fall.

Networking: During my time working at Leeds Arts University I met a lot of creatives and other PR professionals and I’ve tried to keep in touch with as many of them as possible.

I don’t tend to go to many formal networking events but I love to support and get involved in community initiatives, charity work and local events. I find this is an effective way for me to meet new people that need my services either now or further down the line. It’s all about building connections within my industry and keeping in touch with people, so I guess I’m always networking in one form or another, without realising it. Working on your own can be lonely at times. I enjoy meeting up with other PR freelancers for coffee dates. I always feel so much more connected and it’s helpful to bounce ideas around with someone else. I have a network of other business owners that I am connected with and I take inspiration from. I’m also in some helpful freelancer groups on Facebook and I follow other self-employed professionals on Instagram.

Quote to live by: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get and if you don’t try, you’ll never know.” I live by this motto and it hasn’t let me down yet!

Emma’s top tips:

  • Be kind to yourself. Working for yourself requires a lot of self-motivation, but some days the words don’t come. That’s okay though, tick off what jobs you can do that day and come back to the creative parts the next day.
  • Keep in touch with anyone you’ve had a good connection with, as many as possible – you never know when someone’s background or experience might be useful.
  • Do something you love. Making the switch from law to PR and communications was a brave move but it’s the best thing I ever did. You spend a lot of time working and I feel lucky to have finally found a career I love.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The current COVID-19 pandemic has sadly seen a big decline in my business. Unfortunately, I don’t get any government support as I’ve not been self-employed long enough. I’ve been open about this on social media and it has been heart-warming to receive messages and emails from other professionals and businesses that want to support me in any way they can.

All graphics by Hannah McCreath.

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