On 8th March, IPSE’s Women in Freelancing Network (WFN), in partnership with The Talented Ladies Club, brought together female freelancers for an evening of celebration and inspiration on International Women’s Day.
The event celebrated the group of women both organisations represent – bold female freelancers.
Beneath giant chandeliers at St. Ermin’s Hotel, London, Penny Haslam, business journalist, award-winning public speaker and host on the night, spoke passionately about her own story: “This year I celebrated 12 years of being a freelancer,” she said. “My husband said ‘What a success story!’ and I replied ‘More like a story of survival!’”
It was an honest personal account of an issue faced by all freelancers: why do we often overlook our successes when we should celebrate and learn from them?
Penny introduced us to a series of brilliant female freelancers in the course of the evening. Her wit provided a steady, charming undercurrent as the panel, audience and interviewees debated.
One woman band
An issue addressed throughout the evening by the ‘wanel’ (the women-only panel and perhaps Penny’s first entry in the dictionary) was how to take on the challenges that come with being a one-woman-band – particularly the need to be your own HR support, IT expert and marketing guru at once.
As Kate Taylor, founder of Up Coaching, pointed out during the discussion, this can be difficult as you start to manage your own time and resources: “Balancing everything is arguably the hardest thing of all. Sometimes you need to take one step back and think of what you can remove from this balancing act in order to allow space for other things. Allowing for time off is as important as allowing time to do work.”
Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, 2015’s IPSE Young Freelancer of the Year, spoke on this subject in her interview too: “Very quickly after going freelance full-time I realised that at the end of every financial year there are an awful lot of documents and forms to go through. Getting an accountant was the best thing I ever did.”
Client handling – dos and don’ts
Many of those speaking at the event mentioned the potential “toxicity” of difficult clients, and continuing to work with them – a definite ‘don’t’.
Holding a metaphorical warning sign up to the audience, Hannah Martin, Editorial Director at Talented Ladies Club, said: “Beware of the client that haggles. If they’re just trying to get lower costs all the time they generally turn out to be horrible to work with. Bad clients are taking up time that good clients could be taking. They can sometimes bring down your worth if the project becomes bad.”
Finding what works
With client handling, marketing and branding, it all came down to hearing top tips from female freelancers who’d achieved success. Fantastic take-home ideas were suggested to the audience during the evening.
Luan Wise was recognised by LinkedIn as among the top five best connected marketers in 2015. In her interview she advised freelancing women to “demonstrate value” clearly in all that they do. She called it “walking the walk” and said “You must be living and doing what you say you’re good at.”
On the other side of this, Cassie Kolyda, engineer and founder of StraDia Coaching, warned of the pitfalls of being a copycat: “If you base your brand too much around others, it won’t work out. You must be true to yourself, regardless of how good you think someone else is doing it.”
Knowing your worth
International Women’s Day is an ongoing call for diversity and equality. The biggest tip of all from the WFN event in 2016 was the need to remember your successes, and learn from them.
Hannah Martin reminded the audience that “at a company, doors open because of the name behind you. As a freelancer you know that it’s only down to you. There’s a confidence in that.”
The problem-solution approach worked well on the evening as the guests on stage provided clear, actionable advice on each issue.
There to discuss ways in which the community of female freelancers can gain more recognition and also be heard, were Vicki Owen, Small Business Editor at the Mail on Sunday, and Flick Drummond MP, Co-Chair of the Women and Work APPG. Both encouraged the audience to get in touch with their issues and queries in order to support a rapidly growing community facing similar hurdles.
One of the biggest difficulties identified was late payments, which Vicki Owen said was the issue she heard of most. Flick Drummond, in response to this, spoke of the new Small Business Commissioner, a role which IPSE originally suggested. This in particular is a very practicable solution we could see created by Government in the next year, as the Enterprise Bill, of which it is a part, has now passed its third reading and is soon to become law.
This, and many other positive issues mentioned on the night, gave all the more reason to celebrate the ever-growing population of female freelancers in the UK. Now complete with ‘wanel’.
Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, IPSE Freelancer of the Year 2015
“I believe it's essential to promote female freelancers at events like this one. Freelancers rarely take the time to celebrate their achievements, so it's a fabulous opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, share our experiences, and gain recognition for our work.”
Penny Haslam, host and business journalist and broadcaster
“It makes sense to reach out specifically to women freelancing, especially since we are growing in number. These events are a great way to come together, share experiences and show that with every success there may well have been challenges along the way, and that although we're sole traders it doesn't mean that we're alone.”
Caroline Morgan, Non-Executive Board Member at IPSE who plays a key role in the WFN
“International Women’s Day has historically been a shining example of celebrating women’s achievements. This year we saw it as a great opportunity to host an event through the Women in Freelancing Network, and to share some of the inspirational stories from female freelancers that we hear so often. It’s more important than ever that we provide a platform for successful women to inspire others.”