Our 15 Finalists Brighten Up The UK


The Christmas illuminations fought with the bright lights of London’s theatre land, but in reality it was our 15 finalists who were the shining lights that lit up IPSE’s annual awards ceremony on National Freelancers Day 2015.

The Freelancer of the Year Awards witnessed a stunning array of talent with inspiring stories that demonstrated determination, skill and vision from across the UK.

Opening the event, IPSE Chairman James Collings said: “Freelancing is going from strength to strength, with a report from IPSE just published revealing that nine out of ten freelancers love what they do, and would not dream of doing anything else. Is this a surprise? Not to me. From working to your own timetable, to operating in different locations, choosing your clients and being your own boss, independent professionals have many reasons for taking the leap into the world of freelancing... a world becoming more colourful, diverse and more important to our economy.”

His words were underlined by the enthusiasm of the finalists in our two categories: 10 finalists in the Inspire Award category, each aged 24 or above with well-established businesses, and five newcomers in the Aspire Awards category, aged 23 or below.

When all the glitz and glamour had died away, a young man from Saffron Waldon sat on the stage shaking his head in disbelief. For Paul Allington, 32, picking up the Inspire Award for established freelancers was a vindication of fighting through the bad times.

“I still find it hard to believe,” said the shy and self-effacing owner and director of The Code Guy, the software development company he runs from a shed in his back garden “I love freelancing and the freedom it brings. The freedom to decide which direction to go in next and when, and if, to change that direction. Self-employment has been part of my life for many years, so it’s amazing to get recognition on a national level. I hope this will encourage anyone who’s considering taking up freelancing to do exactly that.”

Paul is a shining example of battling through adversity and coming out at the other side stronger and wiser. The father of two young children, Ethan and Darcey, Paul had to cope with an earlier firm going belly up after three major clients put their contracts on hold. His company, Intelligent Penguin looked like becoming a stuffed penguin, but the brand and assets were bought out of liquidation by another marketing agency. Paul and his wife Sarah took time to regroup.

“With Intelligent Penguin and now the The Code Guy, I have learned a lot about running a business efficiently, the different disciplines and structures of businesses. Looking at the business in the round, there are aspects I never thought I would ever have to do. I suppose that’s just a learning curve; experience.”

Winning the Aspire Award for the best newcomer was 23 year-old Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, who started her copywriting agency Making You Content in Manchester. While Kelly has won acclaim with other awards this was the icing on the cake. Before launching her business in 2014, Yorkshire-born Kelly toured South America. She is also an avid foodie, building up a following for her stylish food reviews of restaurants in and around Manchester.

A clearly delighted Kelly said of her award: “It’s a huge honour and a privilege to receive recognition by the freelance industry for the work I do. These awards support and encourage freelancers to grow and move forwards, so I feel very proud to have won from such a talented bunch of finalists. The awards are a fantastic opportunity to give driven individuals recognition, and IPSE are helping to raise much-needed awareness and support for the self-employed.”

Adding glamour and humour was host for the evening Shappi Khorsandi, an Iranian-born comedian well known for her unique brand of stand-up comedy. As Shappi said, she was right at home with freelancers, “I’m amongst my own people.” Speaking after the event Shappi was unstinting in her praise for the finalists.

“They are a great example to everyone of what can happen if you follow your dream. But the Government must encourage this community and help them in the formative years as they start out on their journey and make things easier for them.”

That call for an end to government red tape was echoed by Chris Chapman, head of research and development for Spitting Image Projects. Backed by Stephen Fry, his latest new technology company HeadcastLab creates a network for animated characters. For his presentation Chris introduced a range of animated characters who looked and sounded remarkably like David Cameron, Nigel Farage and a very spooky George Osbourne – all with messages for IPSE’s big night. Chris’s hope for the next generation of entrepreneurs is that they don’t learn just by memorising facts, but expand their minds, think for themselves and are brave.

Everyone was in agreement that all the finalists, the winners and the two runners-up – Ben Matthews of Montfort, who provides digital, social and content marketing campaigns for a variety of brands and Christina Lister, a marketing and media consultant who is passionate about freelancing – all showed that special bravery in going it alone to try and turn their dreams into a reality.

Before everyone started on the serious stuff, like partying and networking, IPSE CEO Chris Bryce thanked all the entrants, praised the finalists and also thanked the sponsors, saying: “The quality and standard of this year’s finalists reflects the strength and diversity of the UK’s flexible and talented labour market. Huge congratulations to Paul and Kelly. They are worthy winners who embody everything we aim to recognise with these awards.”

The venue for this year’s Freelancer of the Year Awards ceremony was the Hospital Club in London, created by Microsoft founder Paul Allan and former Eurythmics star David Stewart. Their dream was to build an environment to stimulate entrepreneurship and “create, connect and collaborate”.

On National Freelancers Day, the club certainly lived up to the founders’ hopes. Long may the bright lights shine!