National Freelancers Day 2016 defied expectation. The theme this year was an emphatic ‘how to be at the top of your game’. With experts on branding, digital skills, intellectual property and networking all producing workshops – there’s no doubt IPSE were at the top of theirs in putting on such an event. But more importantly, all of the media attention, the articles, the debates on the day, all served to offer a platform for the close to 2 million population of freelancers in the UK. Meaning they were at the top of theirs too.
Open any door at The Hospital Club in London and you can understand why this venue was so perfect for the day. The entire building is a showcase for collaborative work from designers and makers, and aside from being a chic hotel in the centre of London, which makes you feel desperately cool, it is also home to many freelancers who are holding meetings and completing projects. Joining them on 9 June were many more, who navigated their way through the labyrinth of rooms to attend workshops and hear panel sessions.
The venue this year was host to a very different format for National Freelancers Day, marking the first time a day filled with back to back talks and presentations was staged.
Behind the door to workshop number one, the sun shone into what appeared to be a woodland in the aptly named ‘Forest Room’. Floor to ceiling forest wallpaper, including even a sly fox, created the setting for what Ade Bambgbala had to say.
Ade is the lead digital trainer for Google's Digital Garage - a free online training course that provides essential digital skills to help grow your business or career. His charismatic delivery left the audience captivated.
“It’s important to remember that when you’re online, you’re part of a lot of noise. Gone are the days when ‘build it and they will come’ applies. You need to be found.” mentions Ade.
The workshop he was running was filled with people taking notes. Topics covered included social media bios and the importance of being personable while also conveying what you do, creating a harmony through digital channels and the impact of Google+.
Feedback from those in attendance showed immediately that this new format was a hit.
“As always, a slickly run IPSE event.” said Natasha Plowman, founder and director of Spinning Red Ltd. “I really liked this years’ addition of workshops, and found the selection difficult to choose from. ‘Brand Me’ was great and cemented a lot of what I know, but don’t necessarily always do!”
The “Brand Me” Natasha refers to was a masterclass given in the cinematic screening room by David Walton and Natasha Munroe from Saatchi Masius. In front of an audience of independent professionals on lux padded cinema seats, the talk covered expectations of clients and having to be consistent in delivering a promise. As David said: “every piece of content should be clear, concise, consistent”. They also touched on the new “nomad class” that technology and the rise in self-employment has created, meaning “brand me” is more important than ever.
As always, a slickly run IPSE event... I really liked this years' addition of workshops
Following the talk, Natalie offered her thoughts on the rapidly growing self-employment industry, commenting: “I think it’s a very empowering career choice. It also keeps creativity fresh because you can collaborate on different projects and work with the people you want to work with.”
“Brand Me” in particular is important in creating a degree of separation amongst the competition, something we can all relate to. But even more so when reading IPSE research released on National Freelancers Day revealing that there are now almost 10 million independent professionals in the EU. This is a rise of a quarter since 2008, and more interesting still is that the number in the UK alone grew by 49 per cent.
Having your own voice amongst the crowd was discussed on the day in a panel session with last year’s winners and runners-up. Experienced impact coach and panel host,
On the subject of late payment, Ben Matthews, 2015 runner-up in the Inspire category, said: “We send automatic emails to late paying clients. It comes from an accounts email address and it really works!”
When things moved on to taking time off, Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, 2015 Young Freelancer of the Year said: “It’s fine to take off the time you need from work. Just be sure to give your clients a heads up.”
As sound, practical advice goes, Esther’s own workshop earlier in the day titled ‘How to network when you hate small talk’ left the audience far more confident about their approach to what can often be quite horribly forced networking affairs. From making uncomfortable small talk about how the far-too-small canapés look on strange faux grass boards, people left with heads held high about how to better present themselves.
If the workshops weren’t enough, also launched on the day was IPSE’s new #BeFreeToCreate campaign. More can be read on the campaign here. This explains the many balloons attendees found either bouncing from string or at their feet. At one point, if you’d poked your head round the corner of a doorway on the first floor you would have found attendees scrambling through an entire room filled with them.
It made a strong point in illustrating the campaign – IPSE can help you to deal with the potential administrative burdens (grey balloons) that go hand in hand with freelancing, so that you are free to create.
Intellectual property was one of these which was addressed directly on the day by a workshop from Merlie Calvert and Rianda Markram of LHS LLP Legal services.
In a true reflection of the vibrancy of the day, a topic which can become a burden was turned into an opportunity. The talk illustrated that IP rights can in fact work to your benefit if properly understood.
The sun which shone into the Forest Room at the start of the day, was echoed in spirit until the end of the day as passers-by began chatting and exchanging business cards. But more importantly, freelancers were given a platform and an opportunity to exchange knowledge and guidance. And on Twitter throughout the day too, stories were being shared on what life is like as a freelancer.
National Freelancers Day truly was a success.