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Real World Career Preparation

A Guide to Creating a University Student-Run Communications Agency

Douglas J. Swanson

University student-run communications agencies allow students to work with real clients and get real world experience before they graduate from college and enter the workforce. Student-run agencies are increasing in popularity, but building a successful agency is challenging.

With more than ten years of experience supervising a student-run agency, Swanson examines the three critical roles a student agency must fulfill in order to be successful. First, the agency must be an exceptional environment for learning. Second, it must be a successful business—without satisfied clients, the agency will not survive. Third, it must be a supportive partner in both on- and off-campus communities.

As the first book to address student-run agencies, Real World Career Preparation offers extensive ‘how to’ guidance, and is supported by 22 Agency Spotlight best practice examples from student-run agencies across the U.S. The book ends with a comprehensive directory of 158 university student-run agencies in operation all over the world.

Real World Career Preparation is essential reading for any faculty member or administrator who is involved with an agency, or who plans to launch one in the future. This book is also valuable for college students working in an agency who seek ‘the big picture’ view of how their work for clients has long-lasting impact on the campus and the community.

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Chapter 12. To Charge, or Not to Charge – That is the Question


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One of the biggest questions student-run agencies must address is whether they will perform services for clients at no charge, or whether they will compete with private-sector agencies and execute client work on retainer or by hourly or per-project billing. A third approach taken is the philanthropic support option whereby agencies seek client support through donations without directly engaging in work for hire.

Each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages. Each links to a very different concept of what the agency is and how its mission is to be addressed. This chapter offers a comparison and contrast of these options, and prepares the way for Chapter 13’s ideas on how to recruit and retain the best quality clients.

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