The challenge of freelancing: what’s more important, a word or a way of working?

7 Sep

Greg Dawson, PCG's Press & Public Relations Officer

Working for PCG has opened my eyes to all sorts of issues and challenges that freelancers face across the UK. In representing the authority on freelance working I have found myself so far everywhere from the Houses of Parliament with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Freelancing to a hotel meeting room in Bristol with some local freelancers and a few snacks.

However I recently faced up to a different challenge for me as we joined the Startup Britain UK Bus Tour at the end of August, the challenge of definition.

I attended the Bristol, Cardiff and London legs of this Government backed initiative to get a feel for what new businesses were cropping up, and also to deliver advice where possible, to those freelance businesses that attended looking to develop – but ended up coming across a foe I had only considered in media terms before.

The Startup UK Bus Tour at Waterloo Place

Whilst standing on the steps of a converted Double Decker painted in a very patriotic red white and blue, I came across many fascinating business people – however, none presented themselves as freelancers.

They were in no way inaccurate in their descriptions but for me it drove home the fact that there are a multitude of terms and nuances that collectively make up freelancing, rather than just a one size fits all word. These words are often used in its place rather than additionally – be it contractor, interim, consultant, small business or independent professional.

For example, I noticed a freelance angle in 80% of the people I chatted too, from impressive new IT consultancy Digital Dragonfly, to Business Coaching by Suzanne Sedgeman and even twitter Guru Mark Shaw (check out @markshaw) , all were freelance in my view.

On top of this observation most were really interested to hear of PCG and Freelancing Matters and could understand our relevance to them. But again the conversations did not begin with hello I am a freelancer.

This reminded me, as it often does in when speaking to journalists, that part of the challenge of being the voice of freelancing is simply education on what entails freelance working….alongside acceptance that not everyone would brand themselves a freelancer.

On close inspection of the bus tour, the issue for me seemed to be nothing more than definition but ‘definition’ itself is clearly a problem in going about our work.

It reinforced to me that despite the fact that the term “freelancer” does not resonate with all, the practice of freelancing is going on everywhere and is helping the economy recover both by those starting nano-businesses and those supporting them and helping them grow. This is of course more important than the term itself.

Freelancing is across all industries and each choose to define it in their own way, this underpins the healthy inherent flexibility in this way of working – that it has so many different forms only underlines its size and importance. The difficulty is getting the message across in the right way to each audience, a challenge we are undertaking with relish ahead of National Freelancers Day.

If anyone has thoughts on this definition issue I would love to hear them but to make a case in point at the event our Guide to Freelancing flew off the shelves on the bus all week……the need for advice and help was definitely there – of course those carrying it were entrepreneurs, interims, consultants, contractors, independent workers, small businessmen/women – for the untrained eye not a freelancer in sight.

For anyone interested in hearing about Start up Britain’s forthcoming bus tour later this month follow the twitter #subtour or their twitter account @startupbritain .

For a first hand account of Startup Britain’s bus tour in Bristol view PCG Director James Collings blog online here.

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One Response to “The challenge of freelancing: what’s more important, a word or a way of working?”

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  1. Some Updates, Changes and Trends with Freelancing : Odysen Blog - September 11, 2011

    […] The challenge of freelancing: what’s more important, a word or a way of working?, Inside PCG, Greg Dawson Discussing the increasing trends of freelancing in the UK. […]

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