“Amazing”, “invaluable”, “inspiring”, “brilliant” – National Freelancers Day 2017 certainly went down well with the IPSE awards finalists. And with good reason: with more than 400 attendees and over 20 exciting events across the country, this was IPSE’s biggest and best National Freelancers Day yet.
Held on 8 June, this year’s NFD consisted of a host of workshops and talks during the day, followed by the Freelancer of the Year Awards in the evening.
And this year, there was a major addition to the day’s line-up: as well as the main London event at Kings Place, for the first time IPSE also hosted two satellite events. One took place at Ziferblat co-working space in Manchester and the second at Desklodge work-hub in Bristol. Both included not only talks and networking opportunities, but also live streaming of the London event.
At the main London event, freelancers from across the UK and beyond converged on Kings Place, a breathtaking exhibition centre overlooking Regent’s Canal.
Pouring in throughout the afternoon, guests were treated to talks and workshops, with everyone from Freelancer Club director Matt Dowling and the 2016 Freelancer of the Year Emmeline Pidgen, to former Minister for Europe Doug Henderson and IPSE’s own director of policy, Simon McVicker.
Spread across six rooms and two floors, the talks had something for everyone, from young professionals just starting out on their own, to experienced freelancers looking to build up their client list. There was even a student zone dedicated to giving students the support and knowledge to make it on their own.
The rest of the talks and workshops covered everything from managing freelancer finances and securing higher-paid contracts, to the election and the future of freelancing in the UK.
Guests also had the chance to browse stalls laid on by some of the leading names from the world of freelancing, including HSBC, CMME, Close Brothers, Kingsbridge and the British Library Business and IP Centre.
And, of course, everyone had plenty of opportunity throughout the day to practise that most important of freelancer skills: networking. In the main foyer, over a lavish array of drinks and afternoon titbits, guests were able to meet freelancers and other professionals from every industry and walk of life.
As day turned to night, evening dresses started to glimmer in the crowd and the really serious business of NFD began: the Freelancer of the Year Awards got under way… fittingly enough, with comedian and all-round funny woman Ellie Taylor.
Live streamed to satellite events across the country, the awards kicked off with a warm welcome and round-up of the year from IPSE’s chairman James Collings.
Then it was on to a stirring speech from keynote speaker Carl Camden, a leading voice for freelancers in the USA, who has been featured in everything from Bloomberg to The New York Times.
Striding across the stage, he inveighed against the idea that full-time employment should be the norm, lamented the almost non-existent support for the self-employed in the USA, and raised a rallying cry for freelancers everywhere.
After a round of rapturous applause, it was back to comedian and self-styled “Steve Tylerlookalike” (ask her) Ellie Taylor.
Taking to the stage in a dress she described as like “Theresa May in the 1970s”, she treated the audience to a routine that ran from the joys of having a fit-bit-freak husband, to the trials and tribulations of hosting the Butcher Shop of the Year Awards (“a ‘sausage fest’ in every sense”).
Next were the award announcements themselves, with Ellie and IPSE’s James Collings.
Middlesex University was crowned the University Partner of the Year, and Work.Life in Camden took the title for Co-working Space of the Year.
Then it was on to a new category for 2017, Ambassador of the Year. The first-ever winner of this award was Katy Carlisle. Katy runs Freelance Folk, a Manchester-based freelancer group, which provides one of the things independent professionals need most – community.
Last but not least were the Aspire and Inspire Freelancer of the Year Awards. Nisha Haq, a dedicated young photographer from Southampton, took the Aspire award for the best freelancer aged 23 and under.
Then it was the runner-up prizes for the Inspire award, which went to Melissa Holloway, a medical copywriter, and Chichi Eruchalu, a business coach and strategist. And finally, the headline award itself: the Inspire Freelancer of the Year. Taking the crowning title this year was speech and accent coach Luke Nicholson.
Luke owns the London-based business Improve Your Accent. The judges said he embodied everything IPSE wants to promote with the award: not only had he found a unique niche for his business and made fantastic use of social media to promote it, he also had a comprehensive, impressive plan for the future.
After the excitement of the awards, it was time for everyone to let their hair down and reflect back on the day at a glamorous drinks reception. Friends and colleagues, finalists and freelancers from all over the country drank and chatted long into the evening, savouring the last glimmers of the day and of IPSE’s most successful NFD yet.