PIC Newsletter - June 2014
Hope you enjoy the latest edition of The Buzz!

A message from the PIC chair, Sharon Aschaiek

Summer can be a tricky time for independent communicators. Many of our clients take holidays or reduce their hours, which means the flow of outsourced work can reach a trickle or a standstill. That's often what happens to me: the first half of the year has a steady or bustling pace of activity, but when July and August hit -- crickets.

Of course, as entrepreneurs, we know there are many things to do for our businesses besides client work. All the business-building, marketing and professional development tasks that are so critical to sustaining and growing our enterprises can easily fall off the radar when we're busy. That's often what happens to me -- after a particularly busy period, I'll lift up my head and realize I haven't prospected or tweeted or networked for far too long. I know that's what causes the feast-or-famine cycle; if I had been doing these business development tasks all along, I might have fewer quiet periods. After 10 years in business, I'm still trying to get a handle on that problem.

In any case, there are many ways to beat the summer slowdown. Here are some of my favourites:

Networking: I love networking in the summer, because the good weather lifts everyone's moods and leads to more carefree conversations. Catching up with communicators you know and meeting new ones seems so much more appealing when it's happening on a sun-dappled patio. Speaking of which, PIC will host its next summer social on July 8 - more details on this event further down in the newsletter.

Website refreshing: This is a good time to consider which aspects of your website need to be freshened up. Updating your blog and your portfolio are obvious places to start, but maybe your content in your other sections also needs to be renewed. Or maybe it's time to add new features to your website, such as a Twitter feed or Google Analytics.

LinkedIn updating: LinkedIn is such a versatile tool for online networking and career building, but when things get busy, I don't use it as effectively as I should. My goal over the summer is to dive back into the site's many features -- participate more in group discussions, make more connections with my business colleagues, ask for and give recommendations, and update the projects section of my profile.

Reading: I'm going to delve into the pile of unread e-newsletters and blog posts that's been waiting for me in my email inbox. And while I'm at it, I'll try to cut down on the volume of messages I receive by considering whether to keep all my subscriptions.

I thought about adding a fifth item to this to-do list -- but who am I kidding? The season is short and the beaches, hiking trails and patios are waiting. Enjoy your summer, everyone, and hope to see you on July 8!

Continued success,



In This Issue
A message from the PIC chair
Next socials July 8, Aug. 6
Scenes from #IABC14
Fee survey results are out
Goodbye Roger, hello Jane
Mark your calendars for fall
Last call to update your profile
Meet Brant Males
Explore the PIC blog
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Tidbits of knowledge
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PIC 2013-2014 Executive
Contact any of us with questions, comments and ideas for speakers or topics!

Chair: Sharon Aschaiek
Past Chair: Donna Papacosta
Communications: Sue Horner
Membership & Events: Elizabeth Trew
Programming: Roger Morier
Social Media: Amy Sept
Next events July 8 and August 6: We're back to party on the patio
Screen Lounge, 20 College Street (just west of Yonge Street), Toronto
Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  

Join PIC members and friends for a relaxing evening of casual networking at what has quickly become our go-to summer spot: the rooftop patio at Screen Lounge. We have two social events lined up, for July 8 and August 6.
As always, it's pay-your-own-way for drinks and snacks, but the great company is free. If you missed the June 11 event at the lounge (shown at right, and you can see more photos here), this is what two PIC members had to say about it:
  • Kelly Sheard: "I enjoyed the event; it was a great chance to meet colleagues, new and old. The venue is great, convenient and friendly. I would have enjoyed a round of self introductions, and maybe some kind of set up that encourages more interchange."
  • Jane Langille: "It was great to touch base with colleagues to chat about successes and challenges and meet new members. The Screen Lounge is a classy, relaxing place to meet, especially in the open-air rooftop area in nicer weather."
The restaurant/bar is located on the second floor at 20 College St., beside Fran's just west of Yonge Street, and we'll be there at 7 p.m. on both dates. If you can make the July 8 one, please email Jane Langille by July 3 so we can reserve enough space.

Scenes from #IABC14
By Sue Horner

Some 1,200 communicators descended on the Sheraton Centre in Toronto June 8-11 for the 2014 IABC World Conference. Included in the crowd were PIC members, as volunteers and speakers as well as attendees. Here is some of the feedback we've collected:

Volunteering on the registration desk allowed Steve Didunyk to attend sessions as well. Among the ones he enjoyed were presentations by PIC members Cyrus Mavalwala, ABC, on how to fine-tune your online brand, and another by Eric Bergman, ABC, APR.

"Eric opened my eyes to what is wrong with so many presentations that rely heavily on PowerPoint at the expense of real audience interaction," Steve says. "Eric's book 5 Steps to Conquer Death by PowerPoint is well worth the read." (Eric explains here why he used slides.)

Sue Johnston, ABC, says she was surprised by how much she enjoyed the conference. "I was able to find sessions that fit where I'm going, not just where I've been. I loved Marilyn Barefoot's session on brainstorming. She helped us find inspiration for our messages in unexpected places -- such as what's lurking at the bottom of your tote bag. And I will absolutely steal Gregg Lederman's brilliant idea of running a webinar a week or so after a conference session so people in the audience can share the learning with their teams or bosses."

Gary Schlee, ABC, particularly appreciated the insights shared in the "Communicating Values at Work" session by Jane Mitchell, chair of IABC's Research Committee. "Codes of conduct proliferate in the corporate world, but they're often hopelessly obtuse or simply ignored," Gary says. "Mitchell shared research data pointing to a decline in values as an employee climbs higher up the corporate ladder. Her session was a sparkplug to explore the issue further. Good starting points are measuring our own values at moralDNA.org or reading the classic textbook Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... And Others Don't by Jim Collins."

Donna Papacosta says, "My highlights included the opening session with futurist Mike Walsh, who is a powerful speaker, and the keynote by Cindy Gallop -- very provocative for an IABC conference. I was also very impressed with incoming International Executive Board chair Russell Grossman. I met him at the leaders' reception and then heard his speech at the IABC AGM. I think we are in good hands with him and incoming Executive Director Carlos Fulcher."

Participants frequently mentioned the "people" aspect of the conference.

"IABC World Conferences are mostly about people," Gary says. "It's great to reconnect with international practitioners -- communication friends -- I haven't seen in several years, as well as encounter some new ones."

Sue agrees. "For me, the best part of a conference happens in the hallway conversations and coffee breaks. This year's conference did not disappoint. It attracted a diverse crowd with lots of perspectives eagerly shared."

For more on the conference, check IABC's recap and the selfies and other photos (look for Deana De Ciccio, Alix Edmiston, ABC and other familiar faces). IABC/Toronto president Louise Armstrong also recaps the AGM held during the conference, Donna Papacosta shares her slides on Content Marketing Simplified, and I summarize a keynote by MORE magazine editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour.

The 2014 PIC member fee survey report is out!
by Sue Horner

Thank you to again to the 57 independents who answered the 2014 PIC member fee survey, for a response rate of 35.4%. (We said 58 last month, but have since dropped an incomplete reply.)

Here are highlights of some of the results. Where we have overlapping results from our sister group in Calgary, Company of One, they are included in the report as well:
  • 28.1% of respondents have not yet raised their fees. Somewhat surprisingly, this was true among some with 15 or more years as an indie as well as some with less than a year or two in business. 
  • As for raising our rates, 12.3% did so in 2014; 22.8% in 2013; 17.5% in 2012; 3.5% in 2011.
  • Two respondents with an average 12 years as independent lowered their rates, in 2010 and 2011.
  • Nearly half of Company of One's respondents raised their fees in 2011 and 17.6% in 2013. 
  • The rates on which we base our fees range from $45 to $250 an hour, with a median of $100. Most respondents (76.4%) charge the same amount for the majority of our work. 
  • Company of One respondents' fees ranged from $50 to $300, with a median of $123, and 59% charge the same amount for most of their work. 
  • Two-thirds of PIC respondents offer reduced rates (10% to 50% less) for long-term clients, extended projects, working on a retainer or as a single-client contractor.  
  • Nearly 43% of PIC respondents also charge lower fees for charities and non-profits, or use other methods of cutting these organizations a deal.
  • Our years as a consultant range from less than a year to 30, with a median of 10. Our experience in communications range from four to 43 years, with a median of 20.
  • We have a range of clients, from one major or long-term client to 20, with a median of five.
Download the full report from the PIC blog, and let us know in the comments: Were you surprised at any of the findings? Did the results encourage you to raise your rates or do anything different? What else would you like to know related to running a successful solo business?

The PIC executive will be taking the results into account for future professional development sessions.

PIC executive says farewell to Roger and welcomes Jane

Your PIC executive recently said goodbye and thank you to Roger Morier, who has left the post of PIC's Director of Programming. Roger accepted a full-time job in March as Senior Communications Manager, Financial Inclusion for The Mastercard Foundation. (Congratulations, Roger!) We're grateful to Roger for seeing his last PIC professional development and social events through before handing off the role to Jane Langille as of July 1. Thanks again, Roger, and welcome Jane!

We don't want to skip summer, but mark your calendars for the fall

We're already making plans for the 2014-2015 IABC year. Mark your calendars for two sessions already booked for the new IABC/PIC year at Metro Hall:

  • Wednesday, September 3, 2014 
  • Thursday, November 6, 2014.
Watch for more details over the summer.

PIC members, if you have an event you'd like to promote in The Buzz, let us know.

Last call (for this quarter) to add or update your profile in the PIC member directory

As a member of PIC, you have the opportunity to promote yourself at no charge in the PIC directory, located on the IABC/Toronto website. Yes, it's f-r-e-e! Make sure you're taking advantage of the opportunity to share key details about your communications services. PIC member Heather West says her profile was just added in April, and she's already received two calls from prospective clients who found her in the directory.

New this year is that you have even more words to convey your talents. You now have 35 words -- up from the previous 20 -- to summarize your business.

If you want to enhance your existing profile, or if you don't have a profile up yet and would like to add one, now is a good time. We update the directory quarterly, and the next round of updates will take place by the end of June.

You can complete or update your profile by emailing the information below by June 30, 2014 to Sharon Aschaiek, chair of PIC, at sharon@cocoamedia.ca:

Your name:
Company name:
Email address:
Brief Professional Description (up to 35 words):

PIC Personalities
Meet Brant Males
by Heather West

Based in Toronto Ontario, Brant Males is a senior writer and marketing consultant with 25 years of experience. Brant's current list of active clients includes advertising agencies, marketing, web development and production companies, design and communications firms as well as direct clients. You can learn more about Brant at www.clearwatercreative.com and can reach him at (416) 941-9260 or bmales@clearwatercreative.com.

What's your background?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer in the advertising industry. I graduated from university with an English degree and minors in business and economics and went directly into that field. I worked with agencies until I decided to become a freelance writer 15 years ago.

The agencies I worked with had national level accounts, so I was lucky to work with national brands and launches starting with the first agency I worked for. I was also fortunate to work with extremely competent creative directors and art directors, so I understood the strategic work that needed to be done.

Why did you decide to launch your own business?

When I came to realize what the agencies were billing for my time, I knew it would be financially viable for me to go out on my own. It would be a win-win; I would make a comfortable living and my clients would be charged much less than an agency would charge them.

My father had his own business. I grew up understanding the value of being independent and self-employed -- making your own way. It felt natural for me to go out on my own. It's hard work and sometimes it's difficult, but there are great rewards in being so independent.  

What do you enjoy most about being an independent?

I love feeling that it's up to me. I know that if I need more revenue to do something in my life, I don't have to walk into someone else's office and ask for it; I need to work extra hours -- sometimes hundreds of extra hours, it's true -- but it's up to me to make that happen.

I know it sounds cliché, but I do love the flexibility and being able to create your own path.

And I enjoy variety in the projects and clients I work with. In an agency, you work with two or three key accounts and you do that for a long time. With freelancing, I never know what's around the next corner and that's fun and exciting.

What are some of the things you're working on right now?

I have good things happening in the travel and tourism industry; I'm working on web content. And I'm continuing my work in the luxury condominium sector. There is a lot happening in Toronto in that area. I'm also working with companies that have loyalty programs.

Do you have any advice for those who are new to or are contemplating taking the leap to independent life?

You have to take a long view of this; if you have an idea that everything will come together in just a few months and it doesn't, you might be deterred or give up. It may and it can happen, but it took me a long time to develop real relationships with my customers, agencies, production companies. The length of time it takes really depends on the person.  

You have to make a real commitment for the long term. I have planted seeds with clients and then didn't hear for a year or a year and a half and then they suddenly call about a project. If I had been expecting a quick response, I might have figured they were never going to respond. It takes a while for things to come to fruition.  

Some people feel that freelancing is precarious. I'm not necessarily of that mind. I think to a certain degree there is more control in freelancing. Job security is an oxymoron. Very few people feel secure in their jobs. There is always change happening above them and they can't be sure when there might be cut backs and then they are starting from scratch. In freelance, I feel we are better prepared to weather uncertainties. If I need to, I can always go out and get more clients.

What value have you experienced from your PIC membership?

I wondered at first about networking with other writers -- basically networking with the "competition." But what I've found is that peer-to-peer networking can generate opportunities you might not expect.  

I have had PIC members seek me out when they know a client needs additional help. And, when members are aware of what you do, they will pass opportunities along and vice versa. A project might not be my thing, but I know it would be right up someone else's alley.

It's also nice to not feel isolated. PIC provides a great opportunity to get out have fun and also have a productive evening.


We count more than 160 members in PIC, offering a range of talent from coaching and media relations to video production and writing. Do you know everyone? PIC Personalities introduces new members and randomly profiles existing members. Let Sue Horner know if you'd like to be profiled and she'll be in touch to set it up! You can find previous PIC Personalities posted online.
Need help with some aspect of the independent life? Check out the PIC blog

Check PIC's IABC eXchange site, listed upper right as "PIC Toronto blog," for the information you need to help you start, run and grow your business. You'll also find past PIC event reviews, podcasts and previously featured PIC Personalities.

If you find a dead link or inaccurate information on the site, please let us know. If you'd like to volunteer to update specific sections of the blog, tell us that, too! 

PIC is a special interest group of IABC/Toronto. PIC's mission is to support independent IABC/Toronto communicators through professional development, networking and marketing. 
The Buzz is PIC's e-newsletter, intended to inform independent communicators about our activities, share professional development tips from past meetings and keep us aware of what's going on. Connect with us on the web at pictoronto.com.

As the largest chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, IABC/Toronto provides access to products, services, activities and networking opportunities in Toronto and around the world. IABC helps people and organizations achieve excellence in corporate communications, public relations, employee communication, marketing communication, public affairs and other forms of communication. For more information, visit the
IABC website.

Sue Horner                                                           Heather West   
Director, Communications - PIC                              Copy editor