Just this past week I've spoken with three West Michigan PR pros who are striking out on their own as sole practitioners. One of them is a veteran and victim of downsizing. The other two are younger and chose to start working for themselves. All are excited, and amazingly for this economy, doing well.
It may have something to do with the fact that PR and its many functions, from media relations to social media to events, are cheaper--and often more effective than advertising and marketing. It could also be that sole practitioners for project-based work is the way to go with a short-term budget, as opposed to hiring big firms on retainer as AOR (agency of record).
In any event, it's exciting to see so many people out there. I could consider these people competition, but many of them are collaborating in a very generous and professional manner that serves as a win for everyone, including clients.
If you are interested in knowing more about being a PR entrepreneur, you could get involved with the emerging group of West Michigan independent practitioners. They have started a group on Linked In called Grand Rapids Indie PR Pros (more content coming soon I'm told).
If you're interested in networking with independent PR pros on a national scale, the Public Relations Society of America has a special interest section called the Independent Practitioners Alliance.
I think a panel discussion on starting your own PR business would be a fascinating program for WMPRSA in 2009.