The 2017 Freelancer of the Year Awards were the biggest yet, and not just because of the audience. IPSE also had more awards this year than ever before. As well as the Aspire and Inspire Freelancer of the Year Awards, there were also two Inspire runners-up, who each took away £2,500 as well as a whole range of business support products.
There were prizes for the IPSE University Partner of the Year and the Co-Working Space of the Year too. Not to mention a completely new award for 2017: the IPSE Ambassador of the Year, celebrating the people who provide the products and services that support freelance professionals, from knowledge hubs to membership organisations and support groups.
IPSE Magazine spent some time getting to know the winners and finding out what the awards mean to them.
Chichi Eruchalu, Runner-Up for the Inspire Freelancer of the Year Award
Chichi, a business strategist and coach, said she works with “women ready to stand up and stand out in their business and life. I empower women to stop hiding, build a profitable business and create lasting freedom for themselves”.
She added: “I’ve been a natural troubleshooter for as long as I can remember. And because of my family, I’ve always been surrounded by entrepreneurship.
“So eventually, I found myself having everyday conversations where I was just naturally identifying where people were struggling with their businesses – pinpointing the things that were holding them back.”
After she graduated, Chichi spent several years working in corporate banking. When she had her two children though, she decided things had to change.
“I didn’t want to be tied to a desk any more: I wanted freedom. So when my daughter was born, I started building up my business, and last year I finally made the leap and left my banking job.” Now, just a year later, Chichi is the runner-up for Freelancer of the Year.
“It feels incredible! IPSE are a fantastic organisation, and although I don’t do what I do for outside praise, it’s great to have your hard work recognised,” she said.
“It’s also brilliant because of the prize money, which I’m looking to invest in more marketing for my business and in a new training academy for business owners.”
Melissa Holloway, Runner-Up for the Inspire Freelancer of the Year Award
Based in central London, Melissa is an in-demand medical copywriter with two businesses.
She explained: “One is M Holloway Limited, which provides medical copywriting and consulting services, and my new venture is Speaking Diabetes, which works with NHS stakeholders, companies and investors to help increase the adoption of diabetes services.”
After four years at a healthcare advertising agency, Melissa decided on a change of direction. “I realised what I really wanted was to be freelance – to be able to have more of a say in which projects I took on, where and when I travelled and the types of clients I worked with.”
Now not only are her copywriting skills in high demand across London and beyond, she’s also been recognised at the Freelancer of the Year Awards.
She added: “Being runner-up in the Inspire Award was fantastic! I was absolutely shocked and so flattered.”
Melissa has got big plans for the prize money too: “With the money, I’m going to develop and launch my social media strategy, take training to enhance my negotiation and project scoping skills, and attend a major diabetes conference to get in touch with prospective clients. I’m keen to start branching out beyond London too.”
Sarah Mourtada from Work.Life, the IPSE CoWorking Space of the Year
“We opened our first space in Camden in August 2015, with the aim of changing how people feel about Monday mornings,” said Sarah. “We think you should enjoy every day you spend at the office, so we provide a flexible, creative and intimate space where you can do your best work and feel part of a community.”
Two years, five locations and 1,000 members later, it seems to be working.
“We are absolutely delighted to have won IPSE’s Co-Working Space of the Year Award. Freelancing is without doubt the future of work, and we are passionate about giving freelancers a better working environment – an alternative to the coffee shop and the kitchen table.”
Building on their success, Work.Life have even bigger plans for the future.
Sarah added: “Last year, we launched our brand new Flex membership, which basically offers pay-as-you-go rates for as little as £3.50 an hour. It’s been very exciting to see our freelancer community grow through Flex, and we plan to give many more freelancers an alternative to the coffee shop and the kitchen table in the future!”
Katy Carlisle, founder of Freelance Folk and IPSE Ambassador of the Year
Katy is the first-ever winner of IPSE’s Ambassador of the Year Award, primarily for founding Freelancer Folk, a Manchester-based freelancer community that runs “regular pop-up co-working sessions and socials so self-employed people can work, chat – and drink – with other freelancers”.
She said: “It’s so if you’re working from home and want some company, or if you’re thinking of going freelance and want to chat to people who are actually doing it, you’ve got somewhere to go.
“We’ve now got over 1,000 members in our online community and have plans to expand, both online and with our face-to-face events.”
And after Freelance Folk’s rapid expansion, Katy is now the first-ever IPSE Ambassador of the Year.
“It’s amazing! I started Freelance Folk because I thought that there was a need for it, but it was always very much a side project – it didn’t even cover its own costs! So, after such humble beginnings, I’m beyond happy that it’s won an award from the association for freelancers.”
She added: “Winning the award is a great springboard for growing Freelance Folk. I’m already doing a lot of work to build our online presence, including a new logo and rebrand.
“Being a web designer, I’ve naturally put together a shiny new website too, which is going to be a hub for useful resources and guest posts from the community. I’m also keen to push ahead with our expansion into new cities like Sheffield, and create a model that anyone can replicate, wherever they are.”
Simon Best, from Middlesex University, IPSE’s University Partner of the Year
IPSE works with exceptional university partners right across the UK. But one university in particular distinguished itself with its breadth of research and the scale of support for the selfemployed. It is why Middlesex University was named University Partner of the Year.
Simon Best, a project leader and teaching fellow at Middlesex, explained why they do so much to teach their students about self-employment: “We understand that the shift in working practices is leading more and more students to selfemployment, both as an additional source of income while they study and, in many cases, as their mai n source of income when they graduate.
“It’s also important to teach students about self-employment because some of the skills involved – like enterprise and entrepreneurialism – are becoming absolutely essential for people entering the labour market, even if they’re not becoming self-employed.”
Simon himself has played a significant part in Middlesex’s success: “I set up and run the enterprise development hub at Middlesex University, EDH@MDX.
“We provide workshops and mentoring to help support new businesses and the self-employed. In particular, we focus on the 93 per cent who aren’t necessarily innovative or tech-oriented.” As for the future, Middlesex is keen to step up its partnership with IPSE.
Simon added: “We recognise the role that IPSE plays in supporting and representing selfemployment, and we’re looking to build on our partnership even further – particularly in terms of policy development and research."