- Ashley Mann quit her public relations agency job in 2020 after burning out.
- She explained how she earned more as a freelancer in four months than she did in a year at the agency.
- Now, she has greater flexibility and more time to spend with her family.
After 15 years in public relations, Ashley Mann hit her breaking point during the pandemic.
One day during lockdown in 2020, she and her husband were both at the kitchen table on conference calls, wailing kids underfoot.
“The agency had promised a client something same-day which was put on my plate, and I just looked at my crying kids, looked at my husband hunched over his laptop,” she said. “At that moment, I thought, ‘Nope. Not doing it anymore.’ I had felt like a failure both in work and as a mom for months leading up to that point. I spent a lot of time the first few years of my kids’ lives trying to juggle a career while traveling, adhering to a demanding schedule, and living with a low level of guilt the entire time.”
Soon after, she launched her own consultancy, Pinegrove Public Relations. Mann provides services like media relations and brand repositioning for brands like freelance marketplace Worksome, brand management software company Frontify, and virtual reality workplace platform Avatour, with monthly retainers reaching as high as $6,500 per month.
Within four months of going independent in October, Mann had made more than her annual agency salary ($95,000) and is on track to more than double that this year. Insider verified her income and clients through documentation provided by Mann.
A key way Mann got a head start was by doing project-based work for clients on the side while working at her former agency — something she negotiated for with her employer. Two of her clients hired her after she resigned.
“My best advice to PR professionals working in an agency setting includes never signing a non-compete and, if you can, try to negotiate the ability to work on non-competitive side projects,” Mann said.
Relying on her technology PR background, Mann said she courted startups, which often don’t want to be locked into expensive contracts. She won new business through referrals that came from her former colleagues and clients.
“Finding and acquiring business was surprisingly simple,” Mann said. “If you’re a public company and need someone 24/7, an agency is a great choice, but for up-and-coming startups, you can achieve the same thing with a consultant.”
Mann said she also makes one or two posts on LinkedIn every week to gain awareness and pitches for new business through a mom-focused freelancer website called The Second Shift.
Mann acknowledged there are a trade-offs to freelancing, like the lack of predictable work. However, she’s kept up a steady stream of work thanks to client referrals. And freelancing lets her make her own schedule and choose which clients she takes on.
“I still work a lot, but now if I want to drop my daughter off at camp or take her to dance class, I can work that into my day without any external sign-off,” Mann said. “It’s a very freeing feeling. Going out on my own was the best decision I’ve made both from a professional standpoint and for the well being of my family.”