Empowering the Freelance Economy

FreelanceHER 100: How an accelerator is jump-starting freelance careers for women who lost their jobs during the pandemic

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What’s happening?

Over the next 12-weeks, 110 women will be kick-starting their careers as freelancers in the North West of England thanks to a fully-funded Accelerator programme called FreelancerHER 100. The accelerator’s mission is to empower women to launch their own freelance businesses across the media, digital, technology and creative sectors, especially if they have lost their jobs or had to re-think their careers while juggling young families during the lockdown.

Why now?

Community and diversity are at the heart of FreelanceHER 100. The aim of the accelerator is to empower women who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic to be strong leaders, create powerful enterprises, and influence and shape the world through their companies.

What’s it called, where is it run and who’s paying?

FreelanceHER 100 is a fully-funded programme. Ten more applicants than anticipated were accepted due to the high volume and quality of applications. In order to support businesses in Greater Manchester, The Landing is working with GC Business Growth Hub, part of The Growth Company. The programme was launched in November 2020 by IN4.0 with The Landing, and has started this week.

The Hub is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and also supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester local authorities.

ERDF-funded programmes are designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. Eligibility criteria did apply. ERDF is a fund allocated by the European Union that finances convergence, regional competitiveness and employment and territorial co-operation.

“We have made a commitment to supporting those who have been impacted by the pandemic. FreelanceHER 100 will champion and help make real the dreams of entrepreneurial women many of whom are from a BAME background, the demographic hardest hit by the pandemic, in the challenging task of setting up as freelancers and business owners. Many have lost their jobs to COVID but have turned adversity into opportunity, which we will help them realise.”

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 Group, operator of The Landing

What does The Hub do?

The Hub assists businesses at all stages of their growth journey with a broad range of services, including one-to-one and peer-to-peer support, events, specialist programmes and funding.

What will participants get out of it?

By the end of the programme, the freelancers should have catalysed their entrepreneurial career change. With the help of workshop leaders and mentors, participants will experiment with freelancing business ideas by building traction before pursuing them full-time, launching their early-stage businesses, focusing on growing them or securing funding.

“With access to The Landing’s facilities, networking opportunities and equipped with skills, self-belief, and confidence, they will be able to pursue their ambitions as freelancers and benefit from collaboration, community and innovation,” said IN4.0 Group, operator of The Landing.

Who are the mentors?

The weekly workshops and peer to peer mentoring will be conducted by some of the UK’s best female micro-businesses and freelance professionals. The programme is also supported by an online community mentoring platform from My2Be.

Peer to peer mentoring will be led by experts including Viv Parry, Board Advisor & Finance Director of Daletech Electronics, and Annette Joseph, Diverse & Equal Founder and Agile Coach.

FreelanceHER 100 ambassadors include Sarah Townsend, Author of Survival Skills for Freelancers, and Tina Boden Co-Founder Micro-biz Matters Day & Micro Business Expert.

What were the market and social drivers behind an accelerator that would support female freelancers?

The distinct gender bias women face puts many female entrepreneurs off starting their businesses, according to a FreelanceHER 100 spokesperson. “Add to this the fact that women still take on a far larger share of childcare responsibilities than men and it is little wonder that comparatively few women are willing to take the plunge into self-employment. This has been a particular issue during the pandemic.”

How is the accelerator being conducted under social distancing measures?

Everything is being delivered online and a community platform will be at the heart of the programme.

Could the programme be repeated later this year or on a national level?

The Accelerator told The Freelance Informer that the organisers would love to run the programme again not only in Manchester but also nationally. (We’ll keep you posted).

What about IR35?

This will be covered in one their workshops.

It takes one to know one

Naomi Timperley, FreelanceHER 100 Programme Director and Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2020 has first-hand experience of going freelance at the height of the pandemic.

“I lost my full-time job during the first month of the first lockdown and went back to freelancing,” said Timperley.

She continued, “Working as the programme lead on FreelanceHER 100 has been a labour of love. I relate to everyone who has signed up for the programme and I am extremely excited to start. I look forward to welcoming the cohort and helping them start their freelancing careers.”

Ambassador & Mentor on the programme Annette Joseph, Founder of Diverse & Equal, said “I’m thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking programme designed to help creative women achieve their dreams and improve our world. Can’t wait to get started.”

Sarah Townsend, Author of Survival Skills for Freelancers, added, “As a FreelanceHER 100 ambassador and mentor I’m excited to get stuck in and meet the amazing women we’re supporting! These are tough times for businesses everywhere, so I’m delighted to be involved in a programme that has the power to bring about not only hope but tangible positive change.”

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