What we learned from the Freelance Business Month 2021

60+ speakers from all over the world and more than 40 sessions in October - here are some of the essential takeaways.
In October, the Freelance Business Month once more connected more than 60 thought leaders from various fields with hundreds of freelancers for exciting sessions, inclusive workshops and educational masterclasses. We've collected some of our favourite lessons from the event, just in case you missed them!

You can see the full programme of the event here, and rewatch sessions you've missed on the platform. If you don't have an event ticket, you can buy one here. It also comes with access to a goody bag with materials from our speakers.

Our programme consisted of 5 blocks, divided per week. Each week was focused on a specific domain concerning the freelance economy. Amongst our speakers were TED/TEDx speakers, C-level executives of freelance organisations, book authors, coaches, business experts and entrepreneurs, leaders of freelance communities and platforms. Representatives of Forbes, MBO, Malt, Xolo, London Business School and Cambridge Judge Business School, Nomawo and The Moon Gallery joined us to talk about freelancing.

We welcomed attendees and speakers all the way from New Zealand and Malaysia to Armenia, Canada and the USA.

See the final event video here:
Week 1: Future of Freelance
On day one, Fergal Lennon from MBO Partners set a great tone for the event with his session, which explored the future of independent working based on recent MBO research. He highlighted that people today work not only for a paycheck, but for a sense of purpose too. The shift towards remote and independent working in 2020 was dubbed The Great resignation by some, but for Fergal and many others, it was more like a Great realisation, during which people found out they could have a better work-life balance and work productively without being in the office every day.

More connections between work and a healthy lifestyle were presented by Tom Meyers, an osteopath and wellbeing futurist. He highlighted the negative impact stress will have on us in the future and shared the best way to combat it is to have a proactive mindset and create our own stress management routines.

Jon Younger, a Forbes journalist and HR thought leader, shared fascinating takeaways from the Global study on freelancing. For more information about it, see our article. You can find the full report in our event goody bag, which comes with your event ticket.
I really enjoy being a part of the freelance community. It helps to gain perspective on the practice in general. It helps to understand that where you are at the moment is not where you will always be and to feel supported and understood. This is the place where the successes of others make you feel more confident and empowered. Makes you believe that you can also manage it and build a sustainable business that not just brings money, but makes you fulfilled.
- Attendee

Week 2: Starting Freelancing

If you need a concise template to build your new freelance business, look no further than Dominic Rogers' (Founder / CEO of Siso Solutions) Freelance Canvas. He explained how to use it to its full effect and what questions to ask yourself. You can find it in our goody bag.

Choosing a fitting niche when you start freelancing was a big topic during this week. Jean-François Bodart, a business development expert, described niching as simply answering these questions:

- What's your ideal client?
- What are their challenges?
- What is the solution?
- Why you?

Matt Saunders adds that to be a specialised freelancer, it is best to surround yourself with people who share and support your values. Aim to join a community that supports your vision, not an industry.

Katrien Rennemeier taught us about Corporate Social Responsibility and how freelancers can make their work more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

Frederik Daneels, who helps entrepreneurs and freelancers increase their personal freedom, gave us a clear guide on how to negotiate, presented through the example of him and his wife walking their dog. He also provided a check list for your negotiation process that you can find in the event goody bag.

We know that business coupled with psychology can bring better results. Kamila Zahradnickova joined this event to illustrate how understanding behavioural science can help freelancers land better deals and gave real world examples of implementing the practice.
The Freelance market is growing. Be a part of the community to reach your full potential.
- Nigel T Packer

Week 3: Growing Freelancing

Luk Smeyers reminded us of one of the best things about being independent – that it allows you to have the life you want! He suggested you keep in mind the reason why you started your freelance business and don't spread yourself too thin with all the incoming jobs that are not addressing that initial goal. Building authority around your expertise is what helps you sell your services. Therefore, his advice is always to incorporate visibility time in your work schedule.

He shared his 0,7 – 0,3 – 2,5x formula for work, which allowed him to shorten his workweek to 4 days and enjoy his hobbies.

- Reduce client facing time (to 70%)
- Increase visibility/trust development time (to 30%)
- increase pricing: upstream work (to 2,5x of market)

He reminded us that being a freelancer means having the life you want and to stop being an order taker.

Alison Grade, author of the Freelance Bible, shared that any independent professional should look at their practice as a business and act as a CEO. You need to understand where you are going, who is your customer and what are they trying to solve. Have a plan and don't forget to evaluate your progress. Alison supported her narrative with questions that every freelancer should ask themselves to have a clear picture of the future of their business.

If you want to grow your business and get more clients, Katrina Cobb, Chief Coach at Nomawo, shared how to grow a strong referral business. Her main advice is to be open and easy to speak to, as well as to share what you do with people– they don't know your role unless you tell them. It is also a good idea to describe your ideal client in detail so your referees know what you're looking for.

Geraldine Huybrechts, a personal branding energizer and visibility coach, gave a phenomenal masterclass on personal branding. For her, the most important question you need to ask yourself when defining your brand is how you make a difference. Discover what your talent is and share your gift with the world.

Jean-François Bodart went full-steam ahead when giving us guidance on growing a freelance business. He pointed out you can control three areas: your expertise, (which you can improve by becoming an expert and moving from a generalist to a specialist), your time, (which you can increase by delegating tasks and reshaping your process), and your pricing (which you can increase by moving to a value-based pricing). As a result, will you have more time and revenue, and you will be able to grow.

Anaí Solano, an experienced mindset coach, guided us through emotional intelligence and how it helps build better relationships and overcome difficult situations. She also shared many simple techniques you can use to make yourself calmer before negotiating with a client… such as imagining you are a smiley face :)

Anastassia Dehtiarova, Marketing Manager at Freelance Business Community, highlighted the importance of collaboration and interdependence. Through connecting with other freelancers, collectives, clients and more you can create a stronger network and be able to solve bigger problems than if you were by yourself.

Similarly, Elizaveta Glukhova, graphic designer, art curator and TEDx speaker, revealed the secrets to fruitful collaborations and how to bring people together for a big idea and keep them engaged. Elizaveta is curating a project that sends a mini art gallery to the moon - we can definitely learn from her!
The Freelance Business Month is an event that makes you feel connected to other freelancers. You get to see other freelancer's points of view and gain new insights. Some insights bring new ideas for your own freelancing business. A lot of speakers are very inspirational and motivational. Mainly, the community has a great vibe with respect for each other and being nice to each other. Elina is the perfect host, always finding the right questions to ask and getting to the center of the subject. I love attending as much as I am able to timewise! I plan to watch a lot of replays.
- Astrid @OnlineOctopus
Week 4: European Freelance Week
European Freelancers Week (#EFWeek) is the largest annual celebration of the independent workforce, encouraging millions of Europeans to discover the benefits of the Freelance Economy. European Freelancers Week is a series of events and actions created by and for independent workers held in different locations in October. Freelance Business Month included the #EFWeek celebration as part of its month-long calendar.

We kicked off the week with a session with Jeannine van der Linden, Director of the Co-Working Assembly and Robert Vlach, Founder of the Freelancing.eu, where we discussed the current state of freelance economy and how collective action can help freelancers across Europe to operate in better conditions.

Actions need to be taken across a number of aspects:

  • Freelancers need to be recognised

  • Definition of freelancers is still very confusing, it is not a small or medium business, but we are not gig-workers either. We are highly skilled professionals contributing to countries' economies at large.

  • Policy about employment has to take freelancers into consideration

  • In some European countries, freelancers need to gain access to financial products and services, social protection and other benefits that are granted to employees.

  • We are waiting for a better count and statistics, being recognized as a separate category and not together with small businesses and small independent workers such as drivers or farmers, who represent a different independent business category.

  • Make Europe the best place to be a business by building world-class infrastructures for freelancers, making government contracts freelancer-friendly and incentivising the use of shared workspaces.

See the EFWeek manifesto

During this week, we have also held 2 exciting debates. One with the Freelance Business Communities and another one with Freelance Platform owners. We discussed what makes a freelance community successful and how new-generation freelance platforms help freelancers to find customers and build relationships.

We will share more take-aways from these discussions in the coming weeks. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified.

We were pleased to welcome Quentin Debavelaere, COO of Malt, who revealed the status of freelancing and maturity of the freelance ecosystem from Spain to Germany. He made a strong statement that 57% of the business value comes from freelance digital profiles (marketing and communications, art and design and IT and Tech).

We concluded the week talking about Blockchain, NFTs and freelancing with Stylianos Kampakis, Data science advisor of London Business School and Cambridge Judge Business School. He revealed how NFT and blockchain solutions may benefit freelancers and create an opportunity for an additional revenue stream.

We were also delighted that the Freelance Network Italia joined the Freelance Business Month with 2 sessions featuring their speakers and expertise. It was insightful to learn that freelancers in Italy are challenged with the same business issues: personal branding, legal aspects, finding clients, building a sustainable business. Both sessions were translated in English and can be watched on the event platform.
Week 5: The Future of Work
Denise Brouder opened the fifth week talking about the main components of the Future of Work. She has defined 3 main points: Workplace Revolution (moving from offices to flexible working conditions), Employment Revolution (moving from employees to flexible workers) and Skills Revolution (she revealed that the gap between the required skills and skills available on the market is growing and freelancers are there to close this gap). Apart from the expertise skills that workers need to have, it is important that freelancers develop human skills such as empathy, problem-solving and adaptability.

Matt Mottola
, co-founder of Venture L and Matt Coatney, C-Level Technology Executive, Award-Winning Author and TED Speaker, both are authors of The Human Cloud, explored how freelancing will be one of the biggest factors in shaping the workplace of tomorrow. They say forward-thinking leaders are already taking a stance on hiring freelancers and that the practise will only become more and more commonplace in the future. They added that the main struggle for clients will be to choose between freelancers and agencies, but since independent professionals are often faster and more flexible, they have an advantage.

Jasmine Haria, CEO of Nuway CFR, and Co-Founder at FluidTal, strengthened the notion that a diverse, hybrid workforce with skilled and agile workers will become the new normal. Freelancers can contribute to the diversity on the work floor as they are easy to get on board and complement in-house teams with additional resources with diverse backgrounds. Ashmita Krishna Sharma, Owner and Creative Strategist of Sparkling Gems, confirmed the idea when she spoke about how cognitive diversity cultivates the power of creativity and innovation. She has illustrated that diverse teams reach solutions much quicker than homogeneous teams. The lesson for freelancers is that we should surround ourselves with a diverse community, which is open for discussion and dialog.

Ian de Swart, Co-founder of Charipickers, calculated the total cost of ownership of employees and freelancers, and explained that hiring independent professionals makes much more sense for companies.

Likewise, Cindy De Bleu, Talent Manager at Crosscast, shared how freelancers fit in a blended corporate team and what are the client expectations. The main take-aways for freelancers: you need establish a clear communication, focus on the project, tasks and timeless and act as team player and adjust to the company culture.
There were countless other bits of useful information shared during the event. Feel free to share what YOU learned on our Linkedin page or by joining the Slack channel. We'd like to thank all of our speakers again, as well as the many freelancers who joined, asked questions, added connections and made the event so friendly and welcoming. We're looking forward to seeing you all next year!

You can rewatch sessions you've missed on the event platform. If you don't have an event ticket, you can buy one here, which will also give you access to a goody bag with materials from our speakers.

Goody Bag includes:

  • Presentation slides
  • Negotiations check-list
  • Global Freelance Study Report
  • Personal Brand workbook
  • The Freelance Canvas
  • Discounts on mentorship programmes, books, memberships and insurance
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