Melissa Talago

In July this year I took my children camping in the Yorkshire Dales. As I sat gazing at the campfire with a gorgeous sunset adding touches of pink to the sky, I mulled over my work situation. I was at a crossroads. Like many expats, I had been forced down the self-employment route due to having no family support in the country to help with the kids. For the last decade I had spent three years being a freelance PR and marketing person, five years running my own PR company which I sold, a year writing a novel and a year trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to do next.

As I sat at my campfire, I clutched my phone, waiting to hear whether I had got a very senior communications job. This was a proper grown up job being employed by someone else for the first time in years. Part of me really wanted it, but part of me was terrified at the prospect of juggling a full-time role with kids. So I mulled further. I needed a back-up plan in case I didn’t get the job.

The flickering flames got me thinking about campfires. They provide warmth, comfort, a sense of excitement and adventure. But best of all, they’re the perfect place to sit and have a friendly chat, to share stories and find out about others.

I took that feeling and thought – how can I make this a business?

Then it hit me. The thing that I loved to do was tell stories. I can spot a good newsworthy story from a mile off. I can see what makes a business different when the business owner can’t. I can convincingly write copy that tells that story. I can help people tell their own stories by teaching them how to do PR. And as someone who has run a small business for years, I know that other solopreneurs like me occasionally need the support, advice and creativity of an expert so that they feel less alone. I imagined sitting around a campfire with these small business owners having a friendly chat.

That was it. I had the spark of an idea.

I left the campsite buzzing. I began to flesh it out in between spending time with my children over the summer holidays. At last I heard back from the company about the job. I hadn’t got it. I was relieved. Because I had my business idea and the more I thought about it, the hotter it burned.

Over the rest of the summer, I fleshed out the business content. I wrote web copy, I created product packages. Once the kids went back to school, I ramped up my efforts. I hired a web designer, I created an entire online PR course. I began to build up a social media following by being helpful to potential clients. I went to networking events, despite having no business cards or a website to share. I even did presentations on what PR is to help build my authority.

Finally, on 7 October, almost exactly three months after I sat next to a campfire, I launched Campfire Communications. I am already taking on clients and I feel alive for the first time in a long time. I have the best of both worlds – the freedom to work for myself, coupled with a sense of purpose.

To any expats who want to set up their own business but don’t know what to do, here are eight tips to get started:

  1. Figure out what you know. What are you an expert in? It could be ‘being an expat!’
  2. Figure out what you love to do. What do you find yourself doing often because you enjoy it?
  3. Marry those two ideas up.
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  4. Figure out who would need this and what problem they face that you could help them solve.
  5. Start to create it.
  6. Get active on the social media of your choice. There are plenty of online networking groups where you can chat to others to refine your offering while building awareness of your skills.
  7. Pay for help where you need it – whether it’s getting a website done, copy written or coaching to get you going. There is plenty of help out there. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
  8. Be brave. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just get started. You can refine as you go.

For any expats already running their own business or just starting up, I offer a range of cost-effective packages to help get your business noticed including an online PR course so that you can learn to do their own effective PR without paying the hefty fees often charged by PR agencies; message and USP development; copywriting bundles; and hourly ad hoc help, for when you need to speak to a marketing expert without the commitment of an ongoing retainer.

I also have a very active Facebook page where I share tips and advice. So do pull up a seat at my campfire and join in the chat.

For more information on Campfire Communications go to www.campfirecommunications.co.uk.

Campfire Communications

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This guest post is by Melissa Talago, expat and founder of Campfire Communications.