Self-employed? European Freelancers Week 2022 is dedicated to how you work

European Freelancers Week is underway and it’s got your name written all over it -- assuming you’re a FreelanceUK reader who is a self-employed worker, a sole trader or a freelancer, writes Jeannine van der Linden, director of the European Coworking Assembly.

Let me explain why. First, if you’re a UK freelancer who used to rely on work and contracts in the EU or in the US, you’ve probably been trying to tackle the issues around Brexit for some time now. So -- you need a bigger network, overseas or not.

All self-employed are battling cost of living, but especially city freelancers

If you’re a freelancer who gets all their work from the UK, you may be struggling to make ends meet, because the costs of living and doing business are continuing to rise. So -- efficiencies can be gained in grouping together, making collaborating with similarly-skilled freelancers to you looking very appealing to your bottom line.

If you’re a freelancer in neither of the above two categories, as you sometimes previously got work from overseas and sometimes get work in the UK, then inflation is likely to still be hitting you hard. That’s because self-employment income is often not increased by clients (whether those clients are in the UK or abroad) at the same rate as the cost of living. This can be a particular problem in big cities, where the cost of living is already high.

Childcare, or accommodation issues, while trying to juggle self-employment?

And if you’re a freelancer unfamiliar with the three sets of circumstances above, perhaps, say, because you have a client who you’re working a rolling contract for, but you have children, or accommodation issues, then you’re probably up against it too! How do we know this? Well, the self-employed historically have had to learn to be creative about finding affordable housing and suitable childcare, because too often the systems providing for these are usually based on conventional employment.

Whichever of the above four freelance camps you fall into, it’s hard to imagine a better time to:

  • diversify your network and gain support from the like-minded;
  • reach out to new freelancers and explore a new way to work;
  • showcase your freelance offering in a way that responds to the current climate;
  • link-up with another self-employed provider of goods or services.

You can achieve any or all of the above by participating in the now-underway European Freelancers Week 2022. It’s a celebration of freelancing which started on Friday and runs until this Friday coming (October 21st).

Expand your horizons with EFWeek 2022...

At the top, I mentioned Brexit. Well, post-Brexit it is even more important for the UK’s self-employed to reach out and make new connections. Many freelancers have been able to adapt by diversifying their client base or offering new services. And looking outside of your usual turf is an excellent way to expand your horizons.

EFW 2022 is ideal for that horizon-expanding, as you can be reassured it’s a freelancer-specific network. That’s important because the freelancer economy is one that is driven by people who are comfortable with navigating uncertainty. During difficult times, networks full of these strivers, doers, and survivors can provide invaluable support and resources. This includes sharing information, connecting with other professionals like you, and providing valuable resources such as job postings, market research, and advice on how to best market your skills.

Virtual working: tick it off your 'to-do' list

Alternatively, why not use EFW to clear off your ‘to-do’ list something you know that your freelancer career absolutely needs to achieve, to put your self-employed career on a firmer footing? For example, virtual working can help freelancers weather the storm by providing flexibility and freedom.

Such virtual and autonomous working allows freelancers to work from home, which can help them avoid the costs and stress of commuting; the problems associated with covid-19 that still haven’t completely abated, and other ‘issues’ that can arise when working in a traditional office. Being a virtual, remote provider of what you specialise in can also allow you to keep earning even if a client’s business or office closes down.

Be aware though, one downside of virtual working is that it can be a lonely business.

Why go alone, when you can grow together?

When you become part of a larger group and work together as a collective network, you can make a lot more noise to affect change and discover new opportunities or ways to overcome challenges in your day-to-day process.

In addition, other freelancers can support you during times of uncertainty. Experienced freelancers who have weathered economic storms can provide valuable input on strategy and approach, while new freelancers can provide innovative insights and fresh solutions.

If you’re a newcomer to freelancing or even a veteran, the EFWeek Freelancers Manifesto, aims to bring focus to the need for governments, businesses, and other stakeholders in the European economy to grapple actively with the changing face of work.

Something we can all get behind, and sign

So please sign up to the manifesto. Created in 2020, one of the manifesto’s main aims is that government policy be made, contracts created, and work done, to incorporate and reflect the innovative approaches and solutions being developed every day in response to the rapid changes we are facing.

Earlier, I touched on childcare and housing. Unfortunately, independent professionals experience a lack of benefits compared to their working counterparts. The manifesto views this challenge as a critical opportunity to get behind, so that freelancers can speak with one voice about what they want to bring forward – but also what the community thinks is best left behind. Why don’t you ensure that, facilitated by EFW, your voice gets heard on these most human of issues affecting people who work for themselves?

Should childcare and housing not impact you, don’t be deterred from getting involved in our seventh annual seven-day event. The manifesto was developed with a set of guiding principles, defined objectives and policy demands. These guiding principles include; Recognition, Definition, Regulation, Access, Counting and Coworking.

My event or yours?

Away from the manifesto, please check out the EFW events on offer between now and Friday, or look at setting up your own ‘EFW’ activity. Online or offline, these events including the ones in Berlin, Split, and Milan in the next few days can offer a great opportunity to dip into approaches to freelancing in other countries. Even though each country is unique, there are a number of virtual events that address pertinent topics universal to self-employment, and offer up insights and key discussions. Fancy an insight into Belgium’s freelancer tech market, for example? Or want five reasons to draw on why ‘freelance’ must never mean ‘free’? Both are offerings on the current schedule.

EFW is our chance – and your chance -- to contribute to a rethink on how freelancers are treated and how freelancers should be treated in a post-Brexit world, with inflation and costs rising, childcare, housing and other key areas playing catch-up, and collaboration often not given enough of a chance in this vitally important but sometimes fiercely independent way to work.

Finally, how I'm going to use EFW 2022

My take which I’m going to put forward throughout European Freelancers Week?  Well, I think we need to rethink the ways that we work, and how we not only rebuild our own country, but how we remake it for the better of us individuals who want to ‘go it alone’ --without feeling alone. Freelancers are the doers and the ones who make things happen. And while a lot can be said for policy-makers, it is more important than ever to turn to each other -- if no one is coming to save us, we will just have to help save each other! I look forward to joining the conversation with you at EFW 2022.


18th October 2022

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