Empowering the Freelance Economy

University’s head of careers to go freelance

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I came across a LinkedIn article the other day that embraced what I have long known to be true: freelance is the future of work.

The LinkedIn post, “Charting New Waters: Navigating the Transition to Self-Employment.” was written by none other than Anne Wilson, Head of Careers at Warwick University, a leading voice for the university’s Springboard programme. A programme deemed so inspiring to fellow university staff and Wilson personally that it has inspired her to set up on her own.

Wilson’s article spotlights a significant and growing trend: the movement towards self-employment. In the piece, she describes her shift from the traditional workplace to a more independent path. This is far from an isolated case and university students should be aware that self-employment is a path that can be taken at any stage of life or career. For some, it will be a choice, for others a necessity.

“Having spent more than 40 years in full-time work, it’s finally time to make the leap into self-employment,” writes Wilson. “I’m not someone who makes career decisions lightly. I’ve spent the last 18 years working for the same institution and have been extremely happy there.”

She continues, “I have so enjoyed delivering the Springboard programme at Warwick that I intend to become a freelance Springboard trainer, enabling me to deliver the programme more widely.

“I’m also planning to design bespoke training, focusing on my skills and experiences as a Strengths practitioner and my many years in leadership and management roles.”

Anne Wilson, Head of Careers at Warwick University

The Freelance Informer asked Wilson, why freelance, why now? And what do students make of self-employment as a viable career path?

Here’s what she had to say:

Why do you think you did not take the leap to go freelance earlier?

“A number of reasons…I enjoy so many aspects of my job. I’m not a job ‘flitter’ …Warwick’s a good employer and the staff and students are great to work with. However, the work I’ve been involved in delivering and developing more recently was what tipped the balance for me. I deliver ‘Springboard’, the award-winning women’s development programme.

The programme has had such a positive impact on female staff.  Many have been promoted as a result of taking part. I’ve had some great feedback from participants and managers. Being directly connected to people I can have an impact on what motivates me more than anything else. Earlier this year I was recognised with an Individual Excellence in Gender Equality award at Warwick.

“So I decided that I wanted to focus my time on the things I wanted to do most. I’m in a fortunate position where I can choose how I spend my time going forward and so I intend to do more training – women’s development in particular, more writing -I have a careers blog www.thecareercatalyst.co.uk and also partake in speaking. I intend to spend some time travelling and continuing to learn.”

As a Head of Careers at a university, what message do you think your new move will have on students? Are you discussing self-employment/freelancing as a viable option in your discussions with students?

“I’d like to think students can see it’s entirely possible to change career direction and that self-employment is a valid option. I hope they will see I am ‘walking the talk!’

“We discuss any career options students are interested in considering when we meet with them, including self-employment. Some of our Arts graduates who want to work in the Creative Industries will need to develop their careers this way, for example.

“We also have an Enterprise department where students can explore business ideas and seek support.”

The Self-Employment Surge: Post-Pandemic Reflections

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the way we work. For many, it offered a chance to reassess priorities and career paths. The result is a notable surge in self-employment with millions of people across the globe embracing this model. While some may perceive this trend as a potential drain on government revenue, it is quite the opposite.

Flexibility, Freedom, and Revenue Generation

Self-employment empowers individuals with greater flexibility and control over their careers and family responsibilities. Entrepreneurs and freelancers can often tailor their working hours and methods to optimise their productivity and satisfaction. This increased sense of agency often leads to higher morale, fueling an ambition that directly translates into revenue generation. No one is holding them back.

Harnessing Diverse Talents

The world of the self-employed isn’t limited to a handful of industries. It encompasses a dazzling array of professionals – writers, designers, consultants, developers, engineers, scientists, lawyers, nurses, carers, teachers and countless others. This broadens the pool of talent and skills that contribute to a nation’s economy. Unlike traditional employment, which can sometimes hinder individuals from fully applying their diverse skills, self-employment encourages people to use all their strengths to generate value and revenue.

Reduced Unemployment, Increased Opportunity

Increased self-employment offers the potential to curb unemployment rates. By creating their own opportunities, individuals take an active role in reducing the burden on government welfare programmes. Furthermore, successful self-employed individuals often create new opportunities for others, through collaborations, outsourcing, or even hiring staff as their ventures grow.

Rethinking Taxation and Support

It’s time for governments to reconsider how they approach self-employment. Rather than viewing it as a threat to the established system, they should see it as an evolving economic model that needs tailored policies to maximise its benefits. This could involve:

  • Simplified tax structures: Complex tax systems can discourage freelancers and entrepreneurs. Streamlining procedures makes tax compliance easier and frees up the self-employed to focus on their work.
  • Access to affordable benefits: Healthcare, retirement plans, and other benefits are often tied to traditional employment. Governments can explore ways to extend similar benefits to the self-employed, creating a more secure environment for entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Entrepreneurship training and support: Initiatives designed to equip individuals with the skills and resources to succeed in self-employment can further boost this sector.

The Future is Freelance

The LinkedIn post highlighting one individual’s transition to self-employment is just a microcosm of a much larger movement. When someone who has guided students towards traditional or salaried career paths embraces the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s a compelling signal to governments worldwide. As the future of work leans towards flexibility and adaptability, government policies need to adapt too. By nurturing, rather than hindering, the self-employment sector, governments can unlock new streams of innovation, job creation, and ultimately, increased economic prosperity.

Read Anne Wilson’s LinkedIn article

1 Comment
  1. Caroline Skinner says

    So proud of my friend Anne Wilson who I have known for decades! I have been a freelance trainer / coach & action learning facilitator for over twenty years & over this time Anne & I have had many in – depth discussions about our careers & why we choose the paths we do. I find self employment suits me well as I enjoy the freedom & control over what I do. Anne has always been more “ traditional” in her choice to work for an organisation but I agree with this article that at any time we can switch & choose a different path. However – running your own business can sometimes make it difficult to return to employment where other people make decisions & choices for you. I personally think Anne is making the right move at the right time for her & I know she will make a success if it. The only advice I would give her – is seek support in a well chosen mentor regarding managing your business as a freelancer, & be careful of taking on too much work as I am sure she will be well sought after. We all need a healthy work / life balance don’t we? Good Luck Anne Wilson!

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