So first off, let me just say that I can't believe it's been a year since I was up on that stage: tear on my cheek, a waver in my voice; receiving my 'Freelancer of the Year' award from IPSE. A year?! To be fair, an incredible amount has happened over the past twelve months, and I find myself a stronger, more confident and more focused freelancer - and so much of that is thanks to the opportunities and support that came from both winning the award and through IPSE.
One of those opportunities, of course, was judging this year's awards! Knowing how much the award meant to me, I felt the full weight of the responsibility I held in scoring the finalists. We had ten incredible Inspire finalists, and five Aspire young freelancer finalists, you can read more about them over on the IPSE site (you definitely should, they're all awesome!).
We were judging for almost a full eight hours, fuelled by pastries and mint tea over at super tendy 'The Trampery' in Shoreditch. We interviewed each of the finalists; keeping our eye out for passion for their field, a love of freelancing, an inspiring plan for the prize money, and their potential as a freelance spokesperson. It was a tough call, and we had some serious discussion before deciding on our two top freelancers and runners up, but we left feeling confident we'd picked the right winners.
Finally on National Freelancers Day, we got to spill the beans on our winners! First up was the absolutely lovely photographer Nisha Haq. Nisha was so incredibly passionate and full of energy in her interview, and when she was announced as Young Freelancer of the Year you could see how much it meant to her! Following on from Nisha, we had two runners up in the Inspire category, and those awards went to the wonderful Chichi Eruchalu and Melissa Holloway - both incredibly inspiring, strong female freelancers! Finally, our winner was announced as Luke Nicholson of Improve Your Accent, a business set up to help people hone their communication. Luke's business was so unique, and he gave such an incredible interview, again it was that sheer passion for his work and a really strong plan for the prize money which really made him shine through. I spoke to Luke about his win:
"I'm delighted to have won the Inspire UK Freelancer of the Year award – and humbled given the quality of the other candidates. Winning this prize gives me the boost I need to grow and develop my business. It’s such an honour to receive acknowledgement from the freelancer industry."
Earlier in the day, I'd been able to share my own freelance story as I spoke on the National Freelancers Day panel with fellow award winners from past years. So, quite surprisingly, I wasn't really nervous about this at all! Seriously, a few years ago if you told me I'd have been speaking on a panel infront of a room full of people I would've actually been on the verge of a panic attack, honestly. So it's seeing how far I've come over the last few years, and in particular the last month, which has made me realise how important it's been to have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and to grab new opportunities.
The panel itself was great, we talked on everything from freelance motivation, to that infamous dad-in-a-skype-call-gets-interrupted-by-his-kids video; pricing illustration work and maintaining a work / life balance. I love the chance to talk honestly about life as a freelancer - it seems so often that top freelancers won't share their challenges as they think admitting that vulnerability makes you appear less successful - but I'm here to say, yes, you can be successful and still struggle - it's not binary, so let's talk about it!
I was also interviewed by the lovely 'Freelance Mum' about my year since winning the award, and my next steps! Please excuse my wind-sweptness, and listen to that here: Emmeline Pidgen inverview.
After the awards, we all celebrated in London until the early hours - ending with a few glasses of champagne and some takeaway pizza on the floor! What an amazing event. Here's to a perfect National Freelancers Day 2017, and to freelancers across the