Finding the Confidence to Put Ourselves Out There

July 2019
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I’d like to say that my decision to start my own business was part of some wonderful master plan to take control of the next chapter in my career, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I distinctly recall chatting with coworkers one day about how cool it would be to spin off our office’s creative team into a separate business to serve related industry clients, and at the same time thinking to myself, I wouldn’t even know how to go about doing that!

All of that changed in July 2013, when I got the news from my employer that my position was being eliminated. My daughter had just started college at an Ivy League school (with a hefty tuition to accompany her studies) and I was in a panic.

My initial reaction to this unexpected news was to apply to every corporate position I could find, but as the résumé submissions piled up and the phone remained silent, I began to think about other ways I could put my diverse set of skills to work, to maintain my sanity and bring in some income while I waited for a “real” job to come along.

Image Suite PR was born over the course of a few days at my dining room table. I had no entrepreneurs in my family to guide me in establishing the business, so I attended a few local small-business education seminars and connected with a knowledgeable accountant through a business development group I joined to begin making connections. I also discovered the Independent Practitioners AllianceSection through attending a breakout session at the PRSA International Conference, and found a network of solo practitioners there who were smart, welcoming and generous with their time and advice.

With good fortune and hard work, I landed a solid base of clients from former connections and a new business development within the first few months of launching my business, and then it was time to make a decision — to keep applying for corporate positions or charge ahead with my own practice. I began to enjoy the freedom and creativity that communications consulting was bringing me, so I made the decision to commit fully to growing the business and learning everything I could about being a business owner.

Still growing

Six years later, I’m still growing and learning on a daily basis, along with working with a full slate of wonderful clients. I’m passionate about encouraging and supporting my fellow communications professionals who have aspirations of launching their own business, which I’m able to do as chair of the Independent Practitioners Alliance and also through our local independents meet-up group.

I think the biggest hurdle most of us have to overcome is finding the confidence to put ourselves out there and reach for those big dreams. It can be scary, especially at times when business is slow and self-doubt begins to creep in.

I’ve come to appreciate that sometimes it takes that challenging life situation to spur us into action to explore our capabilities and realize our dreams. While I was initially heartbroken to leave a corporate career that I was just certain I’d retire from, as I look back upon that difficult time, it was absolutely the best thing to ever happen to me, both professionally and personally. 

Paula MacDonaldPaula MacDonald is president of Image Suite PR, an integrated communications agency in St. Petersburg, Fla. Connect with her at
Return to Current Issue Going Solo - Independence | July 2019
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