National Freelancers Day 2021

National Freelancers Day 2021

Some personal reflections

Thursday 17th June was National Freelancers Day and I attended a number of sessions from the day long event hosted by IPSE  (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed)The day had three strands finance, well-being and winning work but with the former featuring IR35 and self-employed mortgages I was more drawn to the other two streams. I was keen to see, listen and to commit to doing things differently (or for the first time!).

Winning work stream

John Niland (Selfworth Academy) led a session on how to ace a first meeting with a client and (somehow) condensed a half-day workshop into 30 minutes. He talked about the importance of building a strong professional identity and developing a reputation as a trusted expert. He advocated a focus on the value and considering the question “Why does [the client] want to do [the task/project]?” rather than diving into the benefits you can deliver.

Narmeen Kamran’s story started with her losing her job in the the events industry during the first lockdown. She turned to social media, engaged with colleagues and started the Desert Island Events podcast to add some creativity into the discussions. Being online and contributing to discussions meant she was noticed – leading directly to an approach by TikTok.

Alastair Morris from cvandinterviewadvisors led a session on improving your LinkedIn profile so that it stands out to potential clients using the platform. Obviously being noticed amongst over 770m users is not easy and it was interesting to get a sense of how recruiters use a succession of filters to drill down through the data we provide in our profiles. Presenting a professional image through your image, banner and summary is crucial, as was the need to add case studies to reflect your experiences of working with and supporting clients. I watched the recording of the session after the event which allowed me to look at my LinkedIn profile as Alastair was speaking and make a few immediate tweaks. 

Well-being stream

Josh Roberts shared his experiences of waking-up one day to discover his mind had ‘collapsed’ eventually diagnosed as being due to Generalised Anxiety Disorder. He wrote about his experiences in ‘Anxious Man’ (published March 2020) and he shared six tips that literally saved his life:
1) manage your alcohol intake to balance its impact on your sleep and life
2) regular exercise – 30 minutes three times a week
3) be sceptical about the thoughts in your head
4) ask for help (as soon as you think you have a problem)
5) establish routines, especially for the mornings
6) consume less news / social media

Knowing it was a true story only served to increase the impact of what Josh was saying and advocating.

Jo Clift talked about overcoming your self doubt and encouraged us to think whether there was a specific task or activity that triggered the doubts. Jo highlighted the fact that going freelance did often involve or require trying new things or moving out of your comfort zone. She also suggested that some self-doubt could be a positive thing and help avoid being over-confident. Jo highlighted many ways of tackling our self-doubt including getting feedback, celebrating successes and to acknowledge that “feelings aren’t facts”! 

Lliana Bird (Birdy) spoke about her wide-ranging experiences, prompting her to call herself a ‘slasher’ [as in radio DJ / theatre producer / podcaster / science writer / film-maker / charity co-founder]. She recounted starting out by volunteering, looking to make herself indispensable and then seizing each opportunity that was offered to her. Despite achieving, what many would describe as multiple successes, she seems to have a constant itch to try something else – what a life coach referred to as being ‘like a butterfly attracted to flowers from a number of different plants’ – an analogy that went down very well with fellow ‘slashers’. I was struck by her curiosity and the way she told her story.

The day ended with the showing of ‘Snapshot’ a shortfilm directed by Phoebe Barren and Lliana Bird. The film features three scenes set in a photo booth to consider transformations and the idea of illusion and deception. It was sad, funny and thoughtful – do look out for it.

Panel discussion – freelancing after the pandemic

An interesting panel discussion highlighted the impact of the pandemic on freelancers and those groups of freelancers that were excluded from the government support. Many freelancers choose to go self-employed because of the greater flexibility it offers them regarding their working patterns. With many employers recognising the effectiveness of home-working, there is a feeling that many people will move to a more hybrid working pattern which may reduce the numbers looking to go freelance. The panel were overall optimistic that in the long term (10 years) the numbers would return to pre-pandemic levels.

I really enjoyed the day and the ability to go back and watch any sessions I missed due to agenda clashes etc. My main takeaways from the event were: to take a values-approach when talking with potential clients, the effectiveness of story-telling, to revisit the routines I have created, to manage my occasional bouts of self-doubt and the need to add some case studies of my work with clients to my LinkedIn profile.

Whilst not part of the event I did enjoyed Emma King’s blog with her reflections on 20 years as a freelancer on how to be a successful freelancer from the always useful museum freelance website.

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