This February I was involved in a really special project with SUBS Altrincham.  Our networking buddies invited me to host a panel chat to discuss the challenges and joys of freelancing with four of the SUBS partners.  I was joined on the morning by Sacha Reesha Moss a design / illustrator ( Reesha Studios ) , Martin Hambleton ( Commerical Photography North West ), Jack Noon ( Popsicle Productions ) and Ellen Kitson a partner at Kitson Architecture.  We were delighted that there was a packed room with a good mix of freelancers and small business owners in attendance.

There are estimated to be 5 million self employed workers currently in the UK with 2 million of these being classified as freelancers ( * IPSE 2019 ).  The nature of work is changing as corporations reduce full time staff and encourage agile working.  This is aligned with a greater number of people striving for an improved work and life balance.  All of the panellists had experience of working in a bigger company prior to going it alone.  Martin reflected that he had left teaching 17 years ago and didn’t really believe that there was a ‘perfect time’ to make the transition to a freelancer.  Further to his children starting school he had the opportunity to work independently and hasn’t looked back.  Personally I could relate to his anecdote about waiting for the phone to ring with new clients.  The trick is to be patient over the months and years, slow growth is underrated but it pays off as word of mouth recommendations spread.

Ellen reflected as a contrast that she and her husband started their practice under very challenging circumstances following the pair of them being made redundant.  The sudden change in circumstance motivated them to start Kitson Architecture and she advocated being brave when facing barriers.  Such restrictions can be financial, practical and even mental in nature.  One interesting story surrounded her approach to networking whereby she still forces herself to attend events alone so that she has to introduce herself and meet new people.  This brave approach can be applied to many situations when we go it alone and is referenced in the startup mantra ‘fake it til you make it’.  It’s impossible to know everything but don’t let that stop you.

As a creative Asher relishes the opportunity to balance his corporate goals with his passion for branding and art.  The progression to being self employed felt natural for him and he now gets a lot out of mixing his work with networking meetings and the chance to collaborate with others.  This can help overcome financial barriers as you can receive some invaluable advice and help at little more cost than a cup of coffee or an hour out of your day.

Following a number of years working in the production side of television Jack started up Popsicle Productions with a partner creating ‘gorgeous videos’ for small businesses.  It can be hugely beneficial to work alongside someone who compliments you during a startup journey.  The associated support and flexibility that this offers can reinforce your business plan over the stress test of leaving an established industry.  When Jack’s partner  had to leave the business it gave him an incredible challenge to counter.  The logistics of changing systems, and helping someone exit a concern are well known.  Three years later and Jack is thriving by showing true grit and approaching prospective clients directly.  His stories about knocking on company doors and offering his services gave the room a real boost and some excellent insight into how we can get through slower periods.

*IPSE – Association of Independents, Professionals and Self Employed