Freelancing for Students takes to Nottingham

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After the success of our first Freelancing for Students event in London last November, we were delighted to host our second in Nottingham on 15 January. Students from across the Midlands packed out the lecture theatre at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Art and Design. In fact, there were over 100 attendees from 10 universities – twice the number at our first event!

The idea behind the Freelancing for Students series essentially came from research revealing that only two per cent of freelancers found out about working for themselves while at university. IPSE set out to turn that around, bringing together students from across the country in a series of events designed to inform and inspire the next generation of freelancers.

Our Nottingham event was open to students across the Midlands (and beyond), allowing them to come together and network with like-minded freelancers-to-be from outside their immediate peer group. With students from Derby to Edinburgh, and studying everything from Equine Performance to Interior Architecture – and foundation degrees up to masters programmes – the diversity of the delegate list showed the true variety and spread of the freelance sector.

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As IPSE’s Education and Training Manager, I opened the evening with an introduction to IPSE and freelancing, exploring what exactly self-employment is and what it means to work in this way.

Next up was freelance copywriter Gemma Church, who shared her freelance journey, as well as tips for getting new projects and contracts. She particularly emphasised the importance of finding your specialism while also staying open to new opportunities. Because, in fact, although finding your niche is very important, working on projects beyond your initial scope can open great business opportunities and income sources.

As Gemma pointed out, networking (like a ninja!) can be scary, but exciting projects can come from unexpected conversations and connections. She also emphasised how alongside meeting people, it’s also important to know how to talk confidently about you and your freelance business.   

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Then it was on to Di Tunney, from the local business support organisation Creative Quarter. Di opened students’ eyes to huge range of business support available to them – in their universities, locally and nationally.

But of course, although there is plenty of support available, it can only be truly valuable if people tap into it. Di stressed the importance of students attending workshops, using mentoring support, meeting new people and finding business space to work from. She also introduced the support available to new freelancers in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire through The Big House project.

Both Gemma and Di topped their advice off with one final tip: ‘Don’t give up!’ Because although there’s no doubt freelancers face challenges, persisting through them will almost always make for a hugely rewarding career. And because neither had seen the other’s presentation before (we promise!), it just shows how important this advice is.  

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To round off the workshop, we were joined by a panel of freelancers from different specialisms who shared their journeys and advice. They were: graphic designer, founder of District23 and 2016 Aspire Freelancer Awards finalist Caitlin McEvoy; film editor Owen Davies; and sports psychologist and sports liaison professional Chantal Duarte. The panel discussed and agreed on the importance of knowing your worth, persistence and standing up for yourself. Reflecting on their early freelance careers, they encouraged the students to ‘be ballsy!’ and ‘fake it till you make it’. It’s natural to lack confidence in the early stages of a freelance career, but everyone on the panel agreed that testing your boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone really pays off.

We rounded off the event with networking over food and drink in the School of Art and Design’s atrium. It was a great opportunity for students to reflect on the evening and their freelance experiences.

It was a brilliant evening, and we’d like to say a huge thank you to IPSE University Partner Nottingham Trent University for hosting it. We’d also like to thank all our speakers and panel members for helping to make the second Freelancing for Students event such a great success.

If you’d like to talk about becoming an IPSE University Partner, email [email protected] 

Meet the author

Lydia Wakefield

Education and Training Manager