The freelancer's guide to Birmingham

The freelancer's guide to Birmingham

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Not only is this West Midlands city the largest and most populous UK city outside London, it also has a thriving freelance industry.

Birmingham – home of Spaghetti Junction, the steam engine and even the football league. 

The city has always been a significant hub for the industrial and manufacturing sectors; and although this is still very much true, the last five to ten years has seen Birmingham transform into a popular base for freelancers across all sectors. 

While the service sector, particularly wholesale and retail trade, dominates Birmingham’s economy, motoring and other forms of manufacturing are still among the top high-level industries in the city, with many companies often outsourcing work to freelancers and contractors. 

In fact, this West Midlands city, which is home to more than 1.1 million people, had a total of 904,269 jobs in 2015, according to Economic Modelling. This figure is expected to rise to 929,182 by 2020. 

Top employers in this metropolitan borough, which is also a major international commerce centre, include National Express, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Specialist Computer Centres (SCC) and Whitbread. 

And outside London, Birmingham is the largest centre of higher education, with five universities: University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Aston University, University College Birmingham and Newman University – so there is certainly a wealth of talent around. 

Life as a freelancer

There are an abundance of coffee shops and coworking spaces to set yourself up to work. 

Impact Hub, which is one of the most centrally located, is a popular choice for many freelancers. The space often hosts networking events and is great if you are looking for other freelancers to collaborate with. 

The same goes for The Moseley Exchange – a quiet, contemporary space just outside the city centre, which also gives you the option to rent your own office. 

For a more quirky and cosy co-working space, there is The Transfer, which is based at The Old Print Works in south Birmingham. 

Patrick Wilcock, who runs The Old Print Works and The Transfer co-working spaces explained how the freelancer sector is much more “visible” nowadays. 

He said: “The last five to ten years has seen a huge growth in freelancers. Up to about five years ago, there were very few shared spaces where people could work, but now there are so many more co-working spaces and similarly the number of cafés has grown too. 

“The growth of Wi-Fi and digital has helped enormously, with many of the big companies downsizing and outsourcing their work. That’s the global world we live in, and Birmingham has responded.” 

Where to stay

Prices for hotels and accommodation are relatively cheap in comparison to the likes of London or Edinburgh.

A standard room at a modest hotel like the Briar Rose, which is centrally located, comes in at around £39 per night. 

For something a little more luxurious, the four-star Hotel Indigo certainly will not disappoint. For £69 per night for two people, this unique hotel boasting a retro design offers panoramic views of Birmingham and is just a ten minute walk away from New Street railway station. 

Those looking at making Birmingham their permanent home will be glad to hear that it is  as equally cheap as getting accommodation for  the night. 

Moseley, in south-east Birmingham, was named the best place in the UK for city living this year by The Sunday Times, clinching the title ahead of the highly esteemed Muswell Hill and Mayfair in London. 

To rent a one-bedroom flat in this area would cost between £500 and £600 per calendar month (pcm), according to property website Rightmove. And a three-bedroom house can cost between £750 and £1,200 pcm.

For those wanting to buy a property in Moseley, house prices are fairly reasonably too. According to figures on Rightmove, a threebedroom terraced house can work out around £250,000 and a four-bedroom semi-detached house can be bought in the region of £325,000. 

Getting around

Birmingham has incredibly strong rail links and being based in the midlands, it means cities such as London, Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh are just a couple of hours away. Most trains go from Birmingham New Street, but there are also links to Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham International. 

Birmingham International Airport is just a train ride away and offers hundreds of flights to destinations all over the world. These include Dubai, New Delhi, Hannover, Corfu, New York, Nice, Glasgow and many, many more. 

And of course, there is the famous Spaghetti Junction. With easy access to some of Britain’s busiest motorways, including the M6, M5, M40 and M42, travelling in and out of Birmingham is simple – once you know your way round the intertwining junction, that is. 

With easy access to roads, rail and flights – Birmingham can be an ideal base for freelancers. 

Things to do

Birmingham is a city for football fans; after all, it is where the concept of a football league originated from. There are two main clubs: Aston Villa and Birmingham City, both of which are in the Championship. Whether you’re heading out to Villa Park or St Andrew’s to catch a glimpse of the action, you will not be disappointed by the incredible atmosphere you get on match days at these stadiums. 

If sport isn’t your thing, then why not head to Bullring or the Mailbox for a spot of shopping? There are hundreds of stores, with something for everyone, including the only other Selfridges outside London and Manchester. 

Mailbox, along with Brindleyplace, is great for food and drink. If you want a low-key night out, it also has some very nice bars. 

But the main nightlife takes place along Broad Street and Arcadian, where you will find some of the most popular bars and clubs. 

If you want to step away from the busy streets of the city centre, check out some of Birmingham’s attractions, including Cadbury World in south Birmingham. There is also the National SEA LIFE Centre and the Pen Museum – ideal for family days out.