The freelancer's guide to... the party conferences

The freelancer's guide to... the party conferences

It’s that time of year again and to mark this special season, IPSE has produced a themed edition of the ‘freelancer’s guide’, turning the self-employed spotlight on each of the key conference cities

Brighton (Labour)

Brighton’s pebbled seafront is a traditional home for party conferences and this year it’s the setting for the Labour Party’s much anticipated annual conference. And no doubt Labour’s counter-cultural Momentum delegates won’t feel too out of place in Brighton’s famous alternative youth scene.

Because if there’s one thing Brighton’s even more famous for than its renowned Gay Pride parade, it’s hipster youth culture. And everyone knows where there are hipsters, there are coworking spaces.

Brighton's pebbled beach

Good news for freelancers thinking of moving to England’s answer to Barcelona: Brighton has more co-working spaces than you can shake a stick of rock at.

Top of the pile is The Werks. Ironically named – and with a quirky aesthetic to match – The Werks has a small empire of homely, affordable workspaces across

the Brighton and Hove area. Perfect for established and aspiring freelancers alike.

And it’s not just the Werks: Brighton has a whole host of other top-notch co-working spaces, including Platf9rm, One Girl Band, the FuseBox and the nautically named The Skiff.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a little less commitment to begin with, Brighton is also saturated with work-friendly coffee shops, from the Mock Turtle just off the sea front, to Coffee@33 and Bread and Milk just round the corner from the train station.

But while Brighton may be a haven for coffee shops and co-working spaces, there’s one thing it’s not great for: living costs.

The cost of renting – let alone buying – a flat in the centre of Brighton can be prohibitive. So if you’re keen on the city’s hip lifestyle, it could be worth looking at renting or buying in one of the smaller towns around Brighton – towards Peacehaven in the East or Lancing in the West, for example.

But overall, it’s clear that whether you’re looking to move to Brighton or just passing through, there’s plenty for freelancers in this coastal city.

Manchester (Conservative)

From the vibrancy of its cobbled Northern Quarter to the bustling university suburb of Fallowfield, there is a feeling in Manchester which few other places in the UK can match. Born out of the warmth and inclusivity of the Mancunian locals, the city is fast becoming a go-to home for the UK’s thriving freelance community.

With strong transport links to many of the country’s biggest cities, the government’s eagerness to build a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and its relative affordability compared to London, the booming city could be set to rival the capital in the coming years.

Perhaps this is why this year, it will the setting for the Conservative party conference.

But if you’re a freelancer just starting out and need a base from which to work, where should you look?

Manchester city centre

Nestled in the heart of the Northern Quarter is Ziferblat Edge Street, a unique pay-by-the-minute co-working space which aims to provide ultimate flexibility for its users.

A self-styled home away from home, Ziferblat charges visitors eight pence per minute - six pence for the meeting rooms - which includes unlimited access to tea, coffee, cake, snacks and Wi-Fi. There is a four-hour cap, after which guests can stay as long as they like at no extra cost.

“There's such a buzz around Manchester at the moment. Not only is the city home to a diverse community of freelancers and businesses doing some really interesting things, the city's creative culture and lifestyle is attracting a lot of great new talent,” Ben Davies, Ziferblat head of marketing added.

“As a shared social workspace, Ziferblat has the pleasure of meeting a broad cross section of people in the city. Our pay per minute co-working and meeting room concept provides a home for all kinds of activities.”

Ziferblat also boats a portfolio of events and networking groups, including Freelance Folk, run by IPSE Ambassador of the Year Katy Carlise. The group is a community of freelancers who come together every Friday to collaborate and negate the potential risks of loneliness or isolation that can come with working for yourself.

Other popular co-working spaces, offering a range of monthly and weekly membership packages, include Beehive Lofts, WeWork Spinningfields and Central Working Deansgate.

Freelancing can be hard work, so it is important to play hard too. With a rich musical heritage and an almost unrivalled nightlife scene, Manchester has it all.  

Ezra and Gil is an ideal venue for a lunchtime meeting, while Albert's Schloss, Liar's Club or Hula Tiki are great spots for those with a later bedtime.

And if football is more your thing, in City and United Manchester has two of Europe’s biggest clubs. The only problem though? Deciding whether you are a blue or a red!


The motto of Scotland’s second city is, “Let Glasgow Flourish.” The city fathers should consider a 21st century gesture by adding… “Let freelancers flourish!”

This vibrant, friendly and increasing cosmopolitan city plays host to this year’s SNP Autumn conference.

The SEC, where the SNP conference will be held

The futuristic conference centre is set on the banks of the Clyde was recently renamed as the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) - it was previously known as the SECC, which stood for the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.

The city has become a fertile ground for migrating freelancers and there are plenty of great spots to work.

Offshore is a casual, work-friendly café situated in Gibson Street. Wilson Street Pantry is a more down-to-business café providing plenty of space and, crucially, plug sockets.

The Distillery is one of the best co-working spaces in Glasgow and home to “a thriving network of artists, designers, photographers, cultural producers, software developers and other potential collaborators”.

For techies, ‘RookieOven’ is the place to be. The space hosts regular gatherings, meetups and ‘hackathons’. Having recently undergone a £6 million restoration it is an excellent place to work.

Glasgow is a relatively inexpensive place to live and two areas are standout candidates: the West End and South Side.

The West End carries a Bohemian allure; filled with trendy cafes, thrift stores and art venues.

South Side is a little more quiet and family orientated, and home to Glasgow’s biggest green space, Pollok Country Park.

For short stays, Grand Central Hotel is a four star hotel adjoined to Central Station, giving it the ideal location right in the heart of the city.

Brunswick Hotel is another great choice - a stylish & minimalist hotel right in the centre of Glasgow.

For shopaholics, Buchanan Street is the city’s main shopping thoroughfare and is home to a number of designer brands on what is known as Glasgow’s ‘Style Mile.

Observers of ‘the beautiful game’ will know that Glasgow hosts one of football’s most intense rivalries: Celtic v Rangers. The city also hosted the first official international match - an inspired bore draw between England and Scotland. Head to the Scottish Football Museum to discover Glasgow’s outstanding heritage.

For a nice dine out, look no further than La Lanterna, a family-run Italian restaurant in Hope Street, which was voted the best in Scotland for the last two years. For a more casual option, Ho Wong is a cosy spot on York Street with a set of highly diverse and delicious Chinese recipes.

The Horseshoe Bar is a worthy sight – famed for its impressive 104-foot bar.

The West End of Glasgow is just a short ride on Glasgow’s subway from the city centre and has plenty of quirky bars and homely pubs.

Bournemouth (Lib Dems)

Bournemouth, a coastal town renowned for miles of beautiful sandy beaches and a laidback atmosphere, is host to this year’s Lib Dem party conference.

The town is not necessarily known as a traditional self-employed hotspot, but is increasingly becoming an attractive place for those looking to set out on their own. Forever the lesser-known relative of other south coast destinations such as Brighton,

Bournemouth, the self-styled “Jewel of Britain’s South Coast”, is quickly carving out its own identity and, for a town of 185,000, is certainly not short of co-working spaces.

Bournemouth pier

Centrally located on the Triangle and a short walk from Bournemouth’s iconic Pier, Box 44 is among the more popular co-working spaces. Prices start from £100 per month for three days access to a hot desk per week, while, for more permanent freelancers, £250 gets you 24/7 for an entire month.

Other popular venues include Factory Studios and the Old School House. However, if you’re looking for less of a commitment, cafés such as Espresso Kitchen and Jungle Café are popular among locals and tourists alike.

Bournemouth’s pier is a must-see and with over 2,000 acres of glorious gardens and parks, when the sun shines, there are fewer better places to be.

Living costs needn’t cost you an arm or a leg either, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre setting you back £700 per month, it’s considerably cheaper than Brighton and boats a similarly diverse and exciting nightlife.

Smokin’ Aces Cocktail Bar and Whiskey Lounge has a comprehensive drinks menu and hosts regular live music, while the Firken Shed is one of the more impressive micro pubs with a superb range of local beers and ales.

With its football team Bournemouth FC – forever an underdog – now riding high and enjoying the high life in the Premier League, there is an unavoidable sense of momentum and excitement around this picturesque seaside town.

By Tom Hayward, Tristan Grove and Patrick Grady