Overcome your impostor syndrome: apply for the IPSE Freelancer Awards

There’s no doubt Rachel Mason, the 2019 Freelancer of the Year, is an inspiring person: her freelancing career takes in work as a musician, songwriting, teaching singing, running choirs, running workshops for people with postnatal depression and campaigning for mental health charities.

Rachel Mason standing in front of a wall of  framed records
Photos from Kirsty Northover, Photographer 

But when we talk over Zoom, she tells me she didn’t in a million years think she could win Freelancer of the Year. And her message to other freelancers is: most people in freelancing have a touch of imposter syndrome; so, whatever you think, believe in yourself and put yourself forward.

Toby: So, first of all, could you just tell us how you came to apply for the Freelancer of the Year Awards in the first place?

Rachel: It was the middle of the night and I was up feeding my baby (who’s now almost three). I saw it flash up on my screen as a tiny little advert and I thought: that looks really interesting.

Initially I just thought… it would be great to go along and meet other freelancers. By then, you see, I had two young kids and I guess I’d been feeling a bit isolated. So that was just it: I wanted to connect with other freelancers – I didn’t even think I’d be able to win.

I applied, then when I heard I was shortlisted for the final six I think I replied: "You sure you mean me?”

And then lo and behold I actually won! It still surprises me to this day. It was such an amazing moment: it meant an awful lot. Because you never really get that as a freelancer: you don’t have a boss to say “well done, here’s a pay rise.” So that was a really, really amazing moment for me.

Toby: How would you say the Awards have helped your freelance career? What’s happened since you won?

Rachel: Winning the prize was amazing. It really helped with setting up a new website and an artist development programme and record label I wanted to set up to help young professional musicians get a leg up into the industry.

There was so much publicity around it too, and I’ve done loads of public speaking and become a lot braver with things since. It made me realise I actually do sort of know what I’m talking about, so it gave me the courage and helped me believe in myself.

The pandemic’s set things back a little bit, but I’m still in a very different place now than I was before I won. And a lot of that is thanks to IPSE.

Toby: Did the mentoring and business support that come with the award help too?

Rachel: Yeah, I had amazing mentoring: it was just incredible. For example, I'd never really thought about setting an income target for myself: working out how much exactly I wanted to earn. There were so many other things I was taught too: like different ways of looking for income streams and passive income – things that were so enlightening for me.

That was Aon’s mentoring: they helped with marketing and finance and were just incredible. And they just said anything else I needed help with, just get in touch: and we’ve had a great back and forth since then when I’ve had questions. They went really out of their way to be supportive.

Rachel Mason leaning on elbow in front of records on wall
Photos from Kirsty Northover, Photographer 


Toby: You mentioned about meeting other freelancers at the Awards: have you been able to keep up those connections?

Rachel: Yeah. So I've worked with Olivier, who won the Freelance Project of the Year. We've worked on a few things together, like a mental health and arts project with the deaf community. It was put on hold because of the pandemic, but we plan to get it up and running again.

All the finalists at the Awards are so inspirational: even if you don't get to work with all of them. It was just such an honour to meet everybody. They were all so different, but we understood each other because we’re freelancers. And the ones I met and kept in contact with were brilliant: having those new people in your life is something you wouldn’t get without the Awards.

Toby: What would you say to people considering putting themselves forward for the Awards?

Rachel: So, the Awards kind of take you out of your comfort zone a bit. As freelancers, I think most of us have imposter syndrome. I know I certainly did, but I have it less now. Going for the Awards really pushes you to believe in yourself.

Like me, you probably won’t feel you have what it takes to be Freelancer of the Year: I didn’t in a million years think I would be. But it's amazing what other people see in you and your achievements, the things you've overcome, and the things you've created.

Like I was saying before, as freelancers we don’t have bosses or a hierarchy where you get pay rises and promotions for your work. So this is a wonderful way of actually getting a pat on the back from people who genuinely understand what it means to create your own business and run it successfully.

Particularly with the pandemic, I think the freelancers that are still in business and have got through are absolute heroes. So, I think, particularly now, freelancers need to take a punt on themselves: the worst that can happen is you don’t get chosen. But the best that could happen is you meet some other amazing freelancers, you get great coaching and even maybe get loads of publicity and become Freelancer of the Year. As a freelancer, if you don’t take a chance on yourself, who will?

IPSE Freelancer Awards

Meet the judges and finalists for this year's IPSE Freelancer Awards. The winners will be announced at the IPSE Awards Ceremony on Thursday 14 October at the Kings Place in the heart of London.

Freelancer Awards

Where can IPSE members find support?

Whether you are an experienced contractor or just starting out, your IPSE membership is a gateway to the best guidance, resources, and information to help you make your business a success.

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Meet the author

Toby Tetrault

Head of Marketing, IPSE