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IPSE membership covers an amazingly diverse range of self-employed people, with thousands of freelancers, contractors and consultants. Every individual has valuable knowledge, experience and insight in building their business and career. We want to share more of that wisdom with the story of Marketing Consultant Luan Wise.
With more than a decade in self-employment, we spoke to Luan about how she started out, plans for the future, and how she has benefitted from the resources and opportunities available as an IPSE member.
Read the interview
Could you introduce yourself and your work?
My name is Luan Wise and I’m a marketing consultant. I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and running my own consultancy business for 10. I’m just about to celebrate my 10th business birthday, and as a consultancy, it’s just me.
The plan was always to be able to do what I love and what I want to do. I feel very lucky because I’ve been able to work with some amazing people and organisations, and that I have a great mix of work as well. I work directly with some clients on an almost day-to-day monthly basis, I’m trained by a number of organisations to support them, and I also work on ad hoc projects as they come up.
Primarily I work in the world of social media. It could be an audit, or a specific project or programme that I’m working on. And I also teach and train as well. I fell into that by putting my hand up in a situation several years ago and started to share my knowledge and experiences to the point where I run public courses. I now do that for organisations including LinkedIn Learning, on behalf of Facebook and Instagram, on behalf of a number of professional bodies, at university business schools, and also in-house too, when marketers or sales teams want to bring me in to talk to them about social media, get them all on-board, and working efficiently, too.
What key differences have changed in your business over 10 years?
On one hand it feels like it’s flown by, and on the other, it feels like it’s actually 10 years. I was very lucky when I started because it was actually a decision with my former employer, so they were my first client. I finished employment on one day, and carried on with what I was doing the next day.
So, I didn’t have a big transition into a whole new world of setting up and running my own business. I think the key thing for me is that all of my business has come from referrals and networking. From people in my network, speaking at events, attending events and meeting people. Sometimes they would get in touch with me the next day, the next week, or recently, even to the point of eight or nine years later as well.
So, I think if I was to give any advice or reflect on what’s worked for me it’s been networking, people, conversations and staying in touch.
How are you celebrating a decade of self-employment?
I haven’t really thought of a celebration. I’m hoping I’ll have a new website go live, which will be my third site in 10 years. But 2021 hasn’t been a usual year, so I wasn’t thinking of anything significant. On that day, I’ll hopefully do something to reflect on the last decade, a tough 18 months for everyone, and what going forward might look like.
That includes having two new websites. One is purely focusing on my consultancy work. And then the other is supporting my training and the resources I’ve delivered to many people over the years, putting into one place all the news and information I share in a weekly email newsletter.
I wanted to create and share a hub of content for anyone working in social media. So I guess that’s one way of celebrating, by creating a new resource of everything that I know has been invaluable to me, and hopefully will be for others as well.
How did you discover IPSE and become a member?
This is a great story, in that IPSE actually found me. I think it was in 2016 that I was contacted by your events manager to take part and sit on a panel for International Women’s Day in London. And since then, I’ve been involved in many more events, from online webinars to speaking at universities with up-and-coming new entrepreneurs, and National Freelancers Day a few times as well. So yeah, IPSE really found me.
What do you find most useful or valuable about being an IPSE member?
I think IPSE has some excellent resources on the website. It’s the first place I suggest people go when they ask me about wanting to set up their own business or as a freelancer. It’s the website you need to visit because of all the guides, information and resources.
I’ve enjoyed all of the events that I’ve been to, whether they’ve been online or face-to-face, and just the opportunity to speak with other freelancers. Everyone’s in a different place in their freelancing, and I think just to be able to share those stories and speak to each other is really, really valuable.
Has IPSE helped you with any particular circumstances, or issues?
I would say the biggest value has got to be the last 18 months, and how the whole world changed. And we needed information on what support was available, and what wasn’t. Some organisations stepped up, and some didn’t. But I remember actually getting in touch with you at the time and saying you’re really doing everything you can for us, keeping everyone involved and lobbying, and sharing valuable information in webinars, as well. So, I think that’s what has been most valuable.
Also, the weekly emails and social media posts are a reminder of what we should be thinking about/ When you’re running your own business or busy with clients, you don’t sit back and think “Oh, I need to think about IR35 happening”, whereas IPSE is constantly reminding us of the things we need to be thinking about.
Have you supported IPSE campaigns directly?
Being involved in providing a monthly programme of webinars for IPSE, we switched very quickly in March and April last year. We hosted two webinars on how to use and manage social media, and how to start to respond in this Covid-19 crisis. So, I worked with the events team to host those events, which was useful for me in terms of preparing them. And I think we had hundreds of people join those sessions, with lots of feedback and conversations coming from there. So, I think that was really valuable.
Would you recommend IPSE membership to other freelancers and the self-employed?
Yeah, absolutely. Whenever anyone talks to me about wanting to set up their business, this is the first website I share with them. And if I see posts on Facebook groups, I’m always dropping the link in. And that’s not because I’m an ambassador, but because it’s a genuinely useful resource.
People need information on different stages of their careers, and you have everything in one place. It’s a really useful guide for everything someone might need.
What have been your biggest business achievements, or the best projects to work on?
I think surviving and thriving! You know 10 years, a friend said to me, is not insignificant to have been busy. If I reflect over those years, I have had some wonderful opportunities to work with organisations that are large, from Panasonic and Royal Mail to the University of Cambridge and many other universities, to really being able to make a difference to small, local, well-established businesses that might not be so well-known, but are doing great things as well.
And I’ve also had opportunities working with LinkedIn to go to California twice. I’ve been to conferences in New York, had clients working in Paris and Sicily, talks in Lithuania and Dublin, so really lots of opportunities when I did sit back and have a think about what’s happened.
Every day is different and you don’t know what’s going to come along, but I think it’s about staying open to the opportunities and just seeing where they can take you.
What’s your dream location for work?
I think if it had a beach view, I’d be happy! A beach and a sea view would be the dream, and I’d probably work even faster just to get outside!
Do you have any ideas or suggestions on what more IPSE could do in the future?
Something posted recently which I found really interesting was on the definition of self-employment. And I think this is a real challenge. For those of us that are self-employed, do we call ourselves business owners? Freelancers? And there are so many different types of businesses that fall under the self-employed umbrella, especially when we found that Covid-19 support varied so much depending on your particular status.
And I think that’s something that people need help to get to grips with. Sometimes I say I’m just a freelancer, and sometimes I’m a business owner, and it’s kind of a bit of a challenge. I think there was quite a shift early on in working for myself, where I had to say that I am actually running a business.
So really all the content around accounting, IR35, the running the business side of things. I think that’s where freelancers need the most help. Often, we know our jobs, but it’s all the other bits around it where we need support. We might not want to have to do the finances or bookkeeping rather than doing the work we love.
Can you sum up what self-employment means to you?
I think it should mean that I am in control of my own destiny. I take responsibility for my decisions, who I work for, and have flexibility around that.
I’d say that over the last 10 years, I’m probably guilty of sometimes putting my clients over myself and personal time, but perhaps that’s just the kind of person I am. But ultimately it should be about doing what you love to do, being in control, enjoying it, and going with your gut feel.
I think one piece of advice I would give to people is that sometimes when you get an email or conversation which doesn’t feel quite right, at the end of the day there’s a balance between your head and heart. Because you’re responsible for running your own business, I’d say to go with your gut feeling as much as you can.
You can also enjoy our previous member story with International Trade Consultant Lucinda O’Reilly, or find out more about the benefits of joining IPSE. And if you’d like to share your own experiences or know someone who would make a great subject for a quick chat, then let us know via email.