Inspiring a Generation of Freelancers

Inspiring a Generation of Freelancers

Nick Walton spends the afternoon at the University of Liverpool with IPSE’s Education and Training Manager, Lydia Wakefield

IPSE’s Lydia Wakefield travels to schools, colleges and universities all over the UK delivering presentations and workshops to young people who are considering becoming, or may already be, self-employed. So what’s the aim? Well, as she puts it: “Typically educational institutions focus on progression to further education or full-time employment. I’m looking to change that.” 

In her capacity as Education and Training Manager, Lydia was invited to speak at the University of Liverpool as part of its Enterprise Programme – its own initiative to help students develop a new or existing business idea. Lydia welcomed the packed room on the day, introducing herself, the work of IPSE and, of course, the world of self-employment. “I know you are all at different stages of understanding self-employment and you have your own interests – and concerns – about this way of working.” 

Using the latest IPSE research and case studies of self-employed professionals, she highlighted the diversity of freelancing – most recently the 15 finalists from the IPSE Freelancer of the Year Awards in 2015. “There is no typical freelancer. Freelancers are a diverse group working in every sector, from marketing and design to IT and engineering. Many people choose to work this way because they are excited about the idea of being their own boss and having control over their work/life balance.”

One of the topics covered was the practicalities of setting up a business and how it can succeed. Lydia introduced the group to business structures, business plans, managing finances – which is often the student’s first introduction to accounting – and marketing and promoting a business. “It’s important to know how to get started and feel confident about going from an idea to actually doing it. It takes courage to start up from scratch, especially while studying.” 

The number of 16-29 year olds going it alone has soared by 38% since 2008

Audience participation was encouraged during the session, and was reciprocated with questions raised throughout the talk, one being a concern over managing personal finances. “Funding is a bit of a concern for a lot of young people. There can be a fear of failure, and of not receiving work without previous experience. Yet there is now a lot of support available to help you start up – and that support is growing.” 

To assure the students, Lydia clarified how they can overcome their concerns by identifying the resources and support available to them; from their current institution – often available through careers services and enterprise clubs – to what IPSE can provide. “There are so many interesting ideas in this room, yet a lot of you may not know where to start or be aware of the sources of support. Support can come from your own university, as well as from IPSE, where our new membership package offers young professionals tools, advice and access to events – including webinars on CV writing, start-up toolkits and plenty of networking opportunities – that can help you to succeed.”

IPSE’s work is helping plug the gap between what’s offered to students by their higher education provider and the information they really need to succeed. Lydia gave the students food for thought with a question: is it right for you? “Self-employment is not for everyone. It requires determination and hard work. You may not be successful the first time, but if you have the right support and a positive attitude, you’ll go far, so I urge you to take the chance.”
So will more young people become self-employed? IPSE’s own research has shown the number of 16 to 29-year-olds going it alone has soared by 38% since 2008. Rounding off the presentation, Lydia tackled the question: 

“I believe there will be a rise in the number of freelancers, with young people being the main drivers of this. An increasing number of people are looking for more diversity in their career. People no longer stay in a role for 20 odd years. They move between jobs more often. Young people have a desire to shape their own career, and self-employment is a great opportunity to do just that.”

Rebecca Donnelly, a student at the University of Liverpool, who took part in the session.

“I freelance at University as it is a good way to financially support myself as I study, while at the same time building experience and creating a small base of clients. It really lets me test the water, so I can find out if it is possible to do this line of work full time.

“My freelance work at the moment sees me go to Secondary Schools around the UK to give presentations and talks to students on a science engineering career, discussing the steps young people can take to get into this line of work, and the benefits and challenges that can come with it. My success so far has allowed me to recently launch my website (, which is really exciting – so I’m hoping it can really take off.

“I’ve been freelancing now for three months and I’m absolutely loving it. It was stressful at first, but now I’ve been doing this for a little while I’m much more comfortable, and I’m really enjoying it.

“I don’t actually know much about the support available for the self-employed, which makes the work of Denise and Lydia so helpful and important.

“I don’t know much about finance and tax – something that is essential to the day to day running of a business, so I do need help. When I get to hear from the likes of Lydia and Denise it makes me feel more optimistic at what the future can hold if I decide to keep freelancing!”

Denise Chilton, Enterprise Co-ordinator, University of Liverpool

“In November 2015 the University launched its Enterprise Programme. This is an opportunity to bring in specialist experts, like Lydia, to provide advice and guidance to those considering self-employment, or are simply looking to be more enterprising. We are holding a number of sessions for students across the academic year to help students wanting to start a business.

“The programme is currently in its pilot stage, and will be adapted to meet the needs of the students. My aim is to embed this initiative so it becomes a permanent offering.

“I’m an entrepreneur myself, and I still run my own company away from the University so I’ve been there and done it and have real experience of the challenges faced. My journey started in 2002, when I jumped ship from the corporate world to start my business. I was probably the least likely person in the world but I still did it, learning and growing in experience as I went along.

“For me not enough young people know about the world of self-employment. We need to engage them more, and be savvier in the language we use when we talk to them. It’s important to create an awareness of all career options available to them and self-employment is one. Giving them the confidence to really believe in themselves is so important, so we need to provide as much practical support as possible.

“Lydia is very good at what she does and has been a popular speaker with the students. I’ve had such good feedback from her previous talks, with students saying they’re delighted to now know the challenges they could face, the available support from IPSE, and other valuable information.”

You can find out more about the Enterprise Programme on the University’s website.


IPSE Student Membership

IPSE recognises that everyone who is new to freelancing and self-employment may need some help along the way. That’s why we now proudly offer IPSE Student membership; a membership specifically designed for students who are considering becoming freelancers or self-employed. And if you are already freelancing, our membership will help broaden your networks and knowledge to support your ambitions.

The package costs just £35 per year.
It has an array of benefits, including:
• Essential ‘New to Self-Employment’ toolkits, including invoicing and contract templates
• Exclusive networking opportunities with experienced freelancers and like-minded students from across the UK 
• Discounts and access to inspiring work-hubs
• Access to discounted training opportunities with leading training providers
• Discounted rates on Apple, Dell, gyms, supermarkets and more
• £35 off Standard membership on graduation
• Recognition and representation as an IPSE member.

Students can join IPSE at