The IPSE Freelancer Awards 2021: You may surprise yourself

Toby Tetrault talks to Iona Bain, 2018 Freelancer of the Year, about her experience of the Awards, how they helped her and her business, and why others should apply this year.

Toby: So first of all, could you just tell us a bit about your business and your freelancing career?

Iona: I'm Iona Bain and I'm a writer, speaker, broadcaster and author who specialises in young personal finance. My latest book is called Own It! How our generation can invest our way to a better future. I also set up Young Money Agency in 2016 with my semi-retired father, Simon Bain, to undertake a wide range of corporate and journalistic work. This subsidises my award-winning, non-profit blog Young Money, which celebrated its ten year anniversary in May.

Iona Bain on stage with award after winning Freelancer of the Year

Toby: Could you tell us how you first came to apply for the Freelancer of the Year Awards?

Iona: I applied for the IPSE Awards in 2018 because my former editor emailed me about them. I'll always be grateful to her for sending me the email because I'm not sure I would have done it otherwise. It was one of those things where I thought: “oh, I'll do this application now whilst I've got a spare 30 mins, I don't expect anything will come of it but hey, who knows?” I did it and it was actually really nice to have the chance to set down my achievements and remind myself how far I'd come.

Freelancing is a tough business - I had a lot of setbacks since I first started freelancing properly in 2015 and a lot of doubt about whether I was doing the right thing or whether I should go back into full-time work.

The media industry isn't terribly good at celebrating, acknowledging or even properly respecting freelancers. We tend to get shunted into one category at industry awards, and the full breadth of what we do gets reduced to one or two bits of work in these scenarios. It's not representative of how much freelancers contribute, and indeed how versatile and entrepreneurial they are. So, it was nice to enter these awards knowing that my work would be properly considered in the round.  Obviously, getting shortlisted was fabulous because it meant being able to meet other brilliant freelancers and pitch my business - something I'd never done before. And winning was just one of the best moments of my life.

Toby: What’s been going on in your freelancing career since the Awards?

Iona: Since the Awards, I have written my second book, Own It!, and done a lot of memorable media appearances, most notably an under-30s edition of Question Time in June 2020. I've done a fair few media and educational campaigns with partners ranging from Scottish Investment Trust to Lloyds. I was also immensely proud to become Radio 1's Money Hacker in 2019 and I started writing a weekly column for iNews in 2021, which was a long-held dream of mine.  

Toby: Do you think winning Freelancer of the Year played a part in all this?

Iona: Winning strengthened my business and brand no end. I was able to use the money to properly revamp my site, with the help of a fellow nominee, and also to invest in new equipment to create multimedia content. I was also signed up by a speaking agency on the back of the higher profile I gained and started doing high quality corporate speaking engagements. My agency work became much less feast-and-famine. Now I have a steady stream of clients and jobs at higher market rates that have kept the business viable, and I don't think this is unconnected to me winning the award and getting that vindication and validation. 

Iona Bain with other finalists for Freelancer of the Year award

Toby: Why do you think other people should apply to the Freelancer Awards?

Iona: Apply because you are probably far more capable, high achieving and impressive than you think. I thought I had little chance of winning back in 2018, especially when I saw the quality of candidates who were shortlisted alongside me. But actually, you may surprise yourself.

It's such a good chance to practice selling and pitching yourself, because that's key to being a successful freelancer. You don't need to pay to enter, it doesn't take very much time and you've got nothing to lose. Far from it - you could gain some amazing new friends and contacts, higher exposure and if you win, an amazing accolade that will do wonders for your business.

Deadline for the 2021 Freelancer Awards is 13th August at 5pm- Apply now!

IPSE Freelancer Awards

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Meet the author

Toby Tetrault

Head of Marketing, IPSE