There’s a perception in some circles that freelancers are all old men who’ve worked their way up the professional ladder. Well if there’s one thing that blows that idea out of the water, it’s the Aspire Award for freelancers aged 23 and under.
This year in particular, there was a hugely diverse range of Aspire finalists – from every industry and walk of life, from make-up artists and graphic designers to shop fitters and photographers.
But of all the talented finalists, there was one who the judges said “bowled them over with her enthusiasm for freelancing and her passion for her work”.
Nisha Haq took the crown for Aspire Freelance of the Year award. The Southamptonborn photographer set up her own photography company – Nisha Haq Photography – in 2015. She specialises in professional wedding and lifestyle photography.
“I’ve been photographing people since I was 13,” Nisha said. “And after doing Photography at A-Level, I knew it was the career for me.
“Having the opportunity to be artistic and creative, and to meet so many new and interesting people every day – that’s something special, particularly for a people person like me.
“It’s genuinely rewarding to be able to capture those magic moments for my clients – at weddings, engagements and all kinds of events.”
Nisha decided to go freelance straight after graduating because she realised there weren’t many full-time opportunities in photography.
She added: “During my final year studying Photography at Southampton Solent University, I was looking into ways of getting my career off the ground.
“I realised there weren’t many full-time opportunities in photography: the industry is mostly made up of freelancers.
“So I started looking for ways to work for myself. Not long before I graduated, I decided to apply for start-up funding, and I was lucky enough to be accepted. I also managed to get support from the Solent LEP Young Entrepreneurs Fund, which was a big help with kick-starting my photography business.
“Then a little later that year, I had the chance to photograph a wedding I’d been invited to. I really enjoyed it and realised I had an eye for wedding photography. I’d found my niche, and I’ve been a freelance wedding photographer ever since.
“Being a freelance photographer is really rewarding. When I get great testimonials from my clients – when a mother thanks me for documenting her daughter’s wedding so well – those are the things that make my job really special.
“I also love having the freedom to be creative with my business – with branding, web design, marketing, videos and everything. It’s liberating to be able to build everything from scratch yourself.”
Asked about how it felt to be named Aspire Freelancer of the Year, Nisha said: “It feels amazing – I’m over the moon because I honestly didn’t think I’d win.
“My heart was beating out of my chest when I was on stage, and I was utterly flabbergasted when Ellie Taylor said my name.
“I almost wasn’t going to apply for the awards because I just didn’t think I was good enough, but I think that’s a feeling a lot of creative freelancers struggle with. So for me, it was a huge confidence boost – I feel so honoured to be recognised like this, at a national level.
“It’s also amazing because of the prize money: I’m hoping to go part-time with my business, and the money will help me a lot with that. At the moment, I work full-time for a marketing and design company.
“Having another job has allowed me to grow my business steadily without too much risk, but I’ve been wanting to dedicate more time to it for quite a while now. And the big hope is to take my business full-time in the near future.