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The Manchester Gig Economy – Manchester Freelancers Share Their Stories

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Is becoming a freelancer or contractor truly a smart career move?

It sounds like a sweet deal. To be your own boss, choose which projects to work on and who to work for, all the while doing something you love.

But is it a journey you can survive? Will you make enough money? Have sufficient support?

We can’t predict the future for you. But we can provide hard evidence that being a successful freelancer or contractor is possible.

In this post, you’ll find inspiration, confidence and advice to help you kickstart a new venture, no matter your work experience. Here are four stories from some of Manchester’s most successful solopreneurs.

Katy Carlisle – Squarespace Web Designer and Trainer

Katy not only runs her own web design business, The Wheel Exists, but is also the founder of Freelance Folk and hosts co-working sessions for freelancers in Manchester.

Before starting out on her own, she used to work in the non-profit sector where she was exposed to the challenges small organisations face, especially in relation to their websites and technology. This ignited her career as a freelance website designer and trainer:

“I wanted to help more people to take advantage of tools like Squarespace and show that it is possible to have a professional online presence on a small budget.”

But her journey wasn’t without its hurdles. She soon realised she needed coaching to help her succeed:

“Like many freelancers, I didn’t charge enough when I first started out, and I wasn’t particularly strategic. Having a business coach made a massive difference and it’s great to have that support and accountability.”

Katy also emphasises the importance of finding other self-employed individuals to work with:

“It can feel quite lonely if you’re self-employed and work from home. That’s why I set up Freelance Folk. We run pop-up co-working sessions in cool, independent venues so people can chat and work alongside other freelancers.”

Mike Pye - Marketing Consultant

Mike has been working in the Marketing industry for over 12 years. It’s all he’s ever done. Working both agency side and client side, up to strategic level within successful businesses, Mike launched his own marketing consultancy business in 2015 to provide an alternative, more collaborative approach to the traditional agency model. He now provides bespoke consultancy to businesses across the UK as well as marketing training, mentoring and public speaking.

"Starting my own business has been life changing for me. I'd always wanted to do it but never had the guts when I was working in good jobs in the corporate world. However, there really is nothing to be scared of. Yes it's hard work and yes you have to hussle, but there is plenty of work out there for those who are willing to put themselves forward and have confidence in their ability".

"Time management is one of my biggest tips. When you work for yourself you really need to get that right. Devote too much time to client work, you neglect your pipeline which means you have to leap from job to job out of urgency rather than choosing those that are best for your skillset...and your pocket. It's also important to make time for down time. It can be tough and you need to look after yourself. I'm a big fan of mindfulness and mediation, it really helps me focus and be more productive."

Phil Singer – Freelance Email Marketing Specialist

Phil has been working as a part-time email marketing freelancer for seven years. Today, he supports a large travel brand in the North West.

Having such a flexible role benefits both him and his clients:

“I do a fair amount of freelance work outside of my ‘day job’ in evenings and weekends. This gives clients the chance to have work done ‘out-of-hours’ on their projects and gives me flexibility to learn about new industries and ways of working whilst also saving for holidays.”

However, as Phil experienced, there are challenges every freelancer or contractor must face:

“Sometimes you get tight turnarounds for projects and vague briefs. Occasionally, you’ll have to chase late payments.”

But the benefits outweigh these issues:

“You have so much freedom and autonomy. I can pick and choose work to do myself or pass to other freelancers if I don’t have the capacity to do something.”

Phil advocates Upwork as a great starting point to find gigs:

“Something like Upwork can have quality projects in amongst the people looking for cheap work. It’s a great chance to build up a varied and interesting portfolio. Also, having clear expectations between both parties is essential – what are the deliverables and when will they be expected by? – that kind of thing.”

As for contractors, around 80% of contract work is sourced through agencies. Sending your CV to agencies and uploading it to contractor job boards or CV libraries is a smart way get yourself noticed.

Una Cottrell – Freelance Telemarketing Consultant

Una Cottrell, founder of Authentic, had a slightly rocky start to her freelance career. After a few months of trying to grow her own telemarketing business from home in rural Cheshire, she realised potential clients were few and far between.

So, she focused on getting business in the city of Manchester. But, due to being absent from the city for several years, she needed help tapping into its thriving business community.

Attending networking events helped Una connect to new business allies:

“They spotted my potential and were influential in helping me to break into the right networks where I could establish myself. From this base, over time, I was able to curate my own network and also find other relevant and supportive business groups.”

She emphasises how Manchester is a brilliant city to break into as a freelancer or contract worker:

“It’s been wonderful to watch how Manchester has grown economically. Exponential growth in the digital sector means there are amazing opportunities in the city, not to mention incentives such as the Northern Powerhouse and a dynamic mayor in Andy Burnham.

“If ever there was a place to launch and grow as a freelancer, you could do a lot worse than base yourself in Manchester.”

Sarah Childs – Freelance Operations Specialist

For Sarah Childs, the pull of temporary and freelance work was a better work-life balance and the chance to stay in an industry she knows and loves. Since making the leap, she has never looked back.

Sarah has been a very successful business operations specialist for over fifteen years and has recently carved a niche for her freelance business:

“I support marketing and creative agencies with operations, studio and project direction. Manchester has a huge amount of agencies and business owners out there who need a wing-man (or woman, in my case) to sound ideas off and give some operational support so they can drive their business forward. That’s what I do!”

As with everyone else who goes out on their own, she has had to overcome certain challenges:

“The biggest challenge I’ve experienced is learning how to sell myself – it’s scary and nerve-racking. But the feeling of achievement when a potential client commits to working with you is fantastic.”

Sarah explains how working in Manchester has been instrumental to her success:

“The Manchester scene is very supportive. There are lots of great social groups, from which I’ve sourced some of my clients. There are also plenty of networking events and co-working spaces to choose from.”

She also offers her two cents to freelancers:

“Have a stack of cash to live on, start networking and make allowances for the personal time you need to input from the beginning.”

Opportunity Awaits

Fantastic companies and business owners want YOU! Creative, passionate, committed and skilled individuals will always be in-demand.

But it can be tricky to navigate this freewheeling environment on your own. You need support from people who understand the trials and tribulations of gaining temp or contract work. Who can help you find game-changing gigs.

We Are Adam has been supporting contractors and freelancers for over a decade. The team helps talented people secure their ideal projects or temporary contracts. They take the time to get to know you, so they can match you with work that suits your needs perfectly.

Even when work has been secured, the job is far from over. Finding the next contract is always on the team’s agenda helping you secure long-term success.

Think you can benefit from Adam’s expertise? Then drop us a line on 0161 359 3798 (Manchester) or 0207 871 7665 (London) – we can’t wait to discuss your future.