How to work as an independent practitioner

Four years ago I made the decision to work as an independent practitioner and launch All Things IC consultancy.

It was a terrifying and exhilarating decision. And the best career choice I’ve made.

Last week I spoke at #EuroComm17 hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), here in London. I offered advice and guidance on the reality of working independently and being your own boss.

The theme of the conference was transformation: adapt, invent, evolve. I structured my talk around 10 career lessons I’ve learnt along those themes, and thought I’d share the content with you.

You can view my EuroComm17 presentation on SlideShare and below:

EuroComm17 was excellent, well done IABC and Chair Nikki Edwards. I learnt so much from hearing global perspectives.

I particularly enjoyed sessions with Katy Howell, Russell Grossman, the Rapido talks, Louise Wadman’s story of change at Lloyds TSB, Danielle Spencer’s thoughts on OD, Tim Hart’s NHS experience, Hilary Scarlett’s neuroscience session and many more.

It was hard to choose between the sessions as I wanted to hear them all. Further reading: Sheila Parry has blogged her thoughts on the event.

Congratulations to the independent practitioners

On Friday I was delighted to discover I’ve been shortlisted in the Outstanding Independent Practitioner category of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Excellence Awards.

It takes courage to enter awards, but I always find the feedback invaluable to help me constantly improve.

Well done to everyone on the list.

Will be strange to be on the other side of the table as part of the panel interviews next month, having adjudicated the CIPR Inside awards judging a couple of months back, but am looking forward to it ahead of the event in June 2017.

Congratulations to all the IC pros and teams who are up for awards.

June update: I’m proud to have won the award! Being named Outstanding Independent Practitioner is a real honour. Here are my thoughts from the night.

Can you make it?

I’m regularly asked by peers, friends and people in my network if I think they will be able to “make it” if they went solo and left their in-house role.

My answer? Your career is what you make it. 

Working independently requires tenacity, courage and influencing abilities. These are skills any professional communicator should be well-versed in!

They even feature in the revised Institute of Internal Communication’s updated skills map (below). Want to know if you can work independently? This map is a great start to help you chart your career and identify any gaps when it comes to your skills and behaviours.

If you are thinking about making a similar move, my advice is to speak with people who have already done it, get an excellent accountant and build your network.

The power of one can be amplified by your network. I’m fortunate to know a brilliant network of smart independent practitioners and often ask them to join me in working with All Things IC’s clients.

Get used to being uncomfortable

You need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable when it comes to financial forecasting. Unless you take on interim assignments, which I don’t, it’s impossible to accurately predict who and what you’ll be working with and on.

But that’s a huge reason why I love working independently. 

My diary works at least 3-6 months in advance and I build in flexibility where I can, particularly around school schedules to suit my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old twin sons.

Being approached by clients and asked to consider working with them means I’m open to ideas and possibilities to work together, from a one-day to longer-term partnership.

Personal branding

I’m in the middle of a personal branding journey. When I published my 1000th blog post a couple of months ago I mentioned I’m in the process of having a new website created.

As part of the work I’m doing behind the scenes, I spent yesterday in the company of the wonderfully inspirational photographer Becky Rui.

As we documented our thoughts and created images for me to use, I found myself analysing the way I work and the amazing clients I have the pleasure of working with.

I love helping communicators and their organisations achieve excellence though consultancy and training. From conducting comms audits to running bespoke Masterclasses and offering strategic counsel to Comms Directors, the pace and variety invigorates me and keeps me on my toes.

It’s the best job in the world.

Being a trusted adviser to trusted advisers is a role I relish and take great pride in.

In preparation for yesterday, Becky and I talked about how I work, what’s important to me and what I’d like to communicate about All Things IC through photographs.

As part of our photoshoot, we went to Wallacespace in Covent Garden which is where I host my monthly Masterclasses for professional communicators.

Their incredible team was as welcoming as ever and helped us capture the essence of why I chose their venue to be home to my training courses. Thank you to Kane, Hannah and the team there.

There are still some spaces left on my next Internal Comms  Masterclass on 27 April, I’d love you to join me. See the Masterclasses website for more information.

If you’re a CIPR or IoIC member you can save 20% using my discount codes. Nonprofit organisations can also benefit from the saving. My Masterclasses website has all the info you need to know.

I’m excited to share the photos from yesterday with you and will so do in due course.

Further reading about careers on the All Things IC blog

Search the careers tag.

Thank you for stopping by,


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 5 April 2017.



  1. […] Rachel Miller on how to work as an independent communications contractor. Rachel specialises in internal communications (April 2017) […]

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