Empowering the Freelance Economy

Manchester’s £300k freelancer fund now open – bid expert shares tips for a winning application

Before you apply for a business grant there are serious things to consider. Photo source: Photo by David Bartus via Pexels
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A £300,000 fund has been launched in Greater Manchester to support freelancers and small organisations working in music and the arts. The Inspire Fund will provide grants of between £500 and £2,000. Where do you even start to pitch a winning bid? We asked an expert

The Inspire Fund is aimed at helping freelancers and small organisations who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Funds will be administered by Salford CVS (Community and Voluntary Services) and applications are encouraged from independent artists, musicians and small creative arts organisations from across Greater Manchester.

The funding will help to ensure that these organisations can continue to operate and create jobs. It will also help to boost the cultural life of Greater Manchester and make it an even more attractive place to live and work.

Noelle, Producer, Performer and Song Writer, says, “Having a small, local grant scheme like this is an incredible opportunity to support freelance artists from the local communities of Greater Manchester.”

Rachel Hayward, Managing Director of Ask the Chameleon, a bid writing business that specialises in freelancers and small businesses, tells The Freelance Informer that the success of the Manchester scheme will rely heavily on the calibre of successful applications and delivery of aligned ambitions.

“I am hoping that other Local Authorities will be inspired and follow suit with different programmes that are tailored to their localities and communities,” she says.

Creatives left out in the cold

Hayward says the funds like these are rare and long overdue. “It’s about time there was a pot of support for the smaller business owners and freelancers. We have historically been left out in the cold, even though we make up 96% of UK SMEs and are a thriving essential part of the economy,” she says.

Hayward says research shows creative industries have been growing at more than 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy over the past decade, contributing £108 billion in GVA annually (gov.uk).

One in 8 businesses in the UK are creative companies. Of that group, about 32 % of the creative sector workforce is self-employed.

“We bring a lot to the table and need to be nurtured as we offer greater flexibility, creativity and future potential for the workforce of tomorrow,” she says.

Rachel Hayward, Managing Director of Ask the Chameleon, a bid writing business, says there are some serous questions you must ask yourself before considering to apply for a business grant

Misconceptions about grants 

There are lots of grants up for grabs

Hayward says she often hears people say there are loads of grants out there. The reality? There isn’t, she confirms. According to the bid writer, when it comes to grants, things get rather granular:

“There are some grants for some businesses in some areas for specific things.  It is not a level playing field at all, and more often than not micro or freelancers are ineligible due to the size and structure.” 

Costs are covered”

She adds, “Also, remember whilst grants are non-repayable, these days it is rare to have all costs covered (i.e., 100% funded) so you do have to do what you said you would do and produce a report to show clear evidence that you did.  This is public money, take care with it.”  

You also may need to have the money upfront, Hayward warns.

“The grant is paid in arrears, and you may need match funding. This means they will fund 60% and you will fund 40%, so you must make sure you have the means to meet these requirements,” she explains.

Be prepared for someone to look ‘under the hood’ of your business.  If you don’t want this, don’t apply.

My objectives will be enough to receive the cash

They won’t just give you the money – you need to apply, often producing a lot of information (forecast P&L/cashflow, 3 years accounts, 3 quotes per item etc) and you need to find the time out of your day/evenings/weekends to do this which may impact on your ability to actually deliver the product/service that pays the bills. 

The funder will also want progress reports, Hayward says, which could include bank statements, “so be prepared for someone to look ‘under the hood’ of your business.  If you don’t want this, don’t apply.”

Hayward, who has been successfully guiding freelancers and small business owners to win bids and put their best foot forward for awards, offers these tips when applying for a business grant:

Expert tips for a winning bid

1. Take your time – can you do this properly?

2. Read the question (more than once) and answer that

3. Do you really meet the criteria and is this really what you want to do/spend time on?

4. Plan carefully – I value a list, it works for me

5. Evidence / additional information – quotes, accounts, company certification etc.

6. Protect your brand/reputation with a professional submission – use their forms/format, spelling, grammar and punctuation – if this isn’t your skill set, ask a friend.

More details about the Inspire Fund

If you are a freelancer or small arts business in Greater Manchester, you can get more information about applying for a grant from the Inspire Fund by contacting Salford CVS (Community and Voluntary Services) on 0161 737 7733 or emailing info@salfordcvs.co.uk. You can also visit the website of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for more information on the Inspire Fund and other funding opportunities for creative businesses in Greater Manchester.

  • There will be 5 rounds of funding 2024 – 2026. Please submit your application for consideration in the round of your choice.
  • Please note that funding is ring-fenced to support each round. 
  • Decisions are expected within 6 weeks of the closing date you have applied for. All projects must be completed by April 2026.

Round 1

12:00PM, Friday 1 March 2024 

Round 2

12:00PM, Friday 31 May 2024 

Round 3 

12:00PM, Friday 1 November 2024 

Round 4

12:00PM, Friday 30 May 2025 

Round 5

12:00PM, Friday 31 October 2025

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