Star financial journalist and author crowned Britain’s best freelancer

© Nisha Haq Photography

Iona Bain, a journalist, author and industry authority specialising in finances for young people, has been crowned Britain’s best freelancer at IPSE’s Freelancer of the Year ceremony.

The awards, the centrepiece of the tenth annual National Freelancers Day (NFD), recognise excellence in freelancing. Sixteen finalists across three categories – Freelancer of the Year, Young Freelancer of the Year and New to Freelancing – were judged on the strength of their portfolio, passion and commitment to freelancing, business acumen and the creativity and distinctiveness of their offering.

In 2011, Scottish-born Iona set up the ‘Young Money Blog’, which has since become the authoritative source of financial guidance for thousands of young people. Following the success of the first British blog to focus solely on the so-called ‘Generation Y’, Iona wrote her first book, Spare Change, published by Hardie Grant in 2016.

The Oxford graduate has written for the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Mirror Money, Herald newspaper, and regularly appears on ITV Tonight, BBC Radio, BBC Scotland, Channel 4 News and across local radio.

A regular speaker at conferences and financial events, Iona was also recently made one of the youngest-ever governors of the prestigious Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) and is a founding member of the agenda-setting Next Gen Pensions Committee.

The full list of award winners are:

National Freelancer of the Year Award, celebrating the innovation and excellence of freelancers in the UK (24 and over): (winner) Iona Bain, a journalist and author from Scotland; (runner up) Frances Ryan, a journalist and broadcaster.

Young Freelancer of the Year Award, celebrating the most talented self-employed people aged 23 and under: 20-year-old Harvey Morton, IT specialist from Sheffield.

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Harvey started his IT support company in 2013, aged 15, as part of a school enterprise competition. Now it offers a whole range of services including social media management, web design, app development and media production. He specialises in digital channel mastery and prides himself on delivering beautiful digital projects to businesses across the UK. Harvey is especially passionate about offering an open, flexible approach and tailoring his service to every client, understanding and effectively meeting all their business needs.  

New to Freelancing, celebrating professionals who have successfully become self-employed in the past two years: Chris Pipe, a town planning consultant based in the North East of England.

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Chris has a wealth of experience in the town planning industry and as former head of planning for a council and a director for a large PLC property company she knows her way through the planning system from a unique perspective. She launched Planning House in 2016 - an independent planning consultancy based in North East England, which specialises in residential development. The ethos behind Planning House is to provide no-nonsense, realistic support and advice for clients but with a personal service being at the core of the business.

Co-Working Space of the Year: (winner) Avenue HQ, Liverpool; (runner up) PLATF9RM, Brighton.

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Avenue HQ is a stunning, glass-fronted co-working space overlooking Liverpool’s historic waterfront designed specifically around the requirements of the local community. Avenue HQ boasts a broad range of member packages from ‘Flex’ membership at £20 per month to private office space for £600. Supported by Eagle Labs – an initiative by Barclays – Avenue HQ hosts up to 200 entrepreneurs and businesses and boasts a maker space to support rapid prototyping for all members. With a diverse calendar of events ranging from quiz nights and pie days to breakfast meet-ups and tester sessions, Avenue HQ provides a work/life balance to fulfil the needs of the city’s growing freelance workforce.

Ambassador of the Year, celebrating membership organisations, support groups, knowledge hubs and individuals who support and represent the flexible labour market: Faye Dicker of Freelance Mum, from Bristol;

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Faye Dicker is a successful voice-over artist who provides the voice of Matalan, LeapFrog and Great Western Railways. She is also the founder of parent-friendly business organisation Freelance Mum – born of her need to provide professional, child-friendly networking opportunities for self-employed parents. The brand empowers parents to grow their businesses without feeling constantly guilty or held back because of childcare responsibilities. A highly driven woman, Faye is on a mission to support fellow freelance parents, and has recently been nominated as one of the Top 100 most influential women in the west.

University Partner of the Year: Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham.

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Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO, said: “In a truly exceptional field of finalists, Iona stood out as someone who epitomises everything that is brilliant, innovative and progressive about freelancing. Based on her existing achievements – which are numerous – and her business plan for the future, Iona was outstanding.

“Through her blog, her book, her regular appearances across national print and broadcast media platforms and her work at the Pensions Policy Institute, Iona is using her financial guidance to make a real difference to thousands of youngsters across the UK.

“Congratulations too to our runner-up Frances Ryan, as well as Chris Pipe and Harvey Morton who won the New to Freelancing and Young Freelancer of the Year awards. People like Iona, Frances, Harvey, Chris and indeed all 12 of our other fantastic finalists, are the real basis for these awards: to celebrate excellence across the UK’s burgeoning self-employed community.

“I would also like to warmly congratulate the winners of all award our categories – they are all inspirational ambassadors for freelancing in the UK.”

Judge Luke Nicholson, a speech and accent coach and IPSE’s 2017 Freelancer of the Year, added: “Iona blew the judges away and is an incredibly worthy winner of this prestigious award. We were judging the finalists against a range of criteria including portfolio strength, business acumen, distinctiveness of offering, passion and commitment, future potential and ambassadorial qualities. It was very difficult to find fault in Iona across any of these categories.

“She has successfully identified a much-needed niche in the market and has built on the success of the Young Money Blog to become a leading industry figure. Her passion for both the industry and the wider freelancing community was contagious and she has the potential to be a fantastic ambassador for not just IPSE, but everyone working in self-employment. If the last few years are anything to go by, watch this space!”  

Iona takes home £5,000 in prize money, one-year IPSE membership and a package of tailored business prizes.