The way we work is changing. Conventional 9-to-5 jobs are on the decline, while the numbers of freelancers and consultants have been steadily rising over the last decade. According to a report conducted last year by the Office for National Statistics and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, the UK is now home to an estimated five million self-employed people, with freelancers comprising 42 per cent of that population and six per cent of the UK workforce as a whole.
The sector is currently dominated by women – the number of female freelancers has grown by 55 per cent since 2008, with new mothers making up a large portion of this demographic, having shot up by 79 per cent in the same period. Comparatively, the number of men freelancing has grown by just 36 per cent over the same timeframe.
Which is why the AllBright Academy has decided to dedicate their latest course to freelancers and consultants. Spread over five modules, the course is designed to equip early-stage or aspiring female freelancers and consultants with the tools they need to thrive in this self-created structure. Taking the plunge can be daunting, which is the why the course focuses on arming graduates with the knowledge and confidence required to go it alone. ‘It can be a big risk,’ admits AllBright member and consultant Tracy Savage, who advises businesses on mentoring schemes. ‘Nothing is guaranteed and so the ever-present knowledge that one should always be seeking new business can cause some anxiety.’ AllBright faculty member Bridget Arsenault, a freelance journalist and presenter who has written for Vanity Fair, Forbes and British Vogue, agrees it takes a certain character to make it work. ‘I am someone who genuinely loves what I do, so I never mind having to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night because I have a last-minute commission – but that lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone. You have to be honest about your personality and what works for you.’
That being said, all the freelancers we spoke were adamant the pros far outweighed the cons. ‘The best thing is the freedom and flexibility it gives you,’ says AllBright member Rebecca Lewis, who has been a freelance PR and communications consultant for the last two and a half years. ‘You have the opportunity to be in control of your own scope and how you want to contribute to various projects. Similarly, you have the ability to be in charge of your schedule – how much time you dedicate to your work and how much time you dedicate to personal life, travel, hobbies or family.’ For Bridget, the main benefit is being able to carve out a better work-life balance. ‘The flexibility lends itself really well to travel and fitness, which is a real bonus when trying to achieve some semblance of a balanced life,’ she says. ‘Also, I like being removed from office politics and having the autonomy to decide what to take on and what to turn down. It’s incredibly exciting and empowering.’
All agreed that building a strong community to combat the loneliness freelance life can bring was key. ‘As much as I complained about 75 per cent of my co-workers and loathed the churn of an office, I missed having colleagues and those conversations by the water cooler,’ says Rebecca. ‘Investing in a co-working space made all the difference.’ ‘Try to find a few trusted people in similar lines of work who you can confide in,’ advises Bridget. ‘It is incredibly important to have a support network and a mentor – be that a formal or informal one. You need someone to bat ideas around with and someone to look over your work.’ Building a strong community is an integral part of the course, where everyone who participates will gain access to AllBright Connect, our online platform that connects like-minded women around the world to create a global sisterhood. ‘Having a network like the AllBright is a game changer for anyone wanting to start freelancing, or as a learning resource for those already working as a freelancer,’ says Tracy. ‘The beauty for me is the reciprocal exchange of ideas and support. Women have always supported each other in some ways – but now we can access that on a global level.’
Applications are now open for our latest Academy course, ‘For Freelancers and Consultants’, with our next cohort beginning in September 2019. To apply, visit allbrightcollective.com