For many freelancers, a day at work doesn’t involve working alongside colleagues, having lunch together and sharing office jokes. Even though most freelancers opt for this way of working, whether it is to gain more freedom at work or because it suits their area of expertise, it can, at times, be a lonely way of working. This is why communities such as Freelancers in Belgium and their conference, Freelancers in Belgium Day 2020, attracts so many workers from this style of employment: it is the perfect way to connect, support and learn from the other ‘lone wolves'.
Freelancers in Belgium is an online community which helps freelancers gain expertise, share knowledge and be supported, whether they are starting off or have been successful for ten years. The conference, ‘for freelancers by freelancers’, is an opportunity to meet fellow freelancers, learn skills to start, run or develop your business (depending on how far along your business is), and to find opportunities for the future.
Although it was still quite early on a Friday morning (luckily the bar provided coffee on tap to boost everyone’s energy and cake for a little sugar high), it was clear people were eager to learn more about how to grow their business, sustain themselves financially and how to meet new clients and collaborators. This enthusiasm was mirrored by London-born, Brussels-based event moderator Katrina Sichel, who warmed up the crowd and was eager to get people involved and talking.
The first part of the day focused mainly on the shift in the way we work and the spaces we work in, both of which are Workero’s specialities. The first speaker to take the stage was Marleen Deleu - founder of The Flex Academy and Director of Trends and Insights at NextConomy. She rightfully and aptly started her talk - the Future of Work - by saying: “Even 20 years ago, a room packed with freelancers was unimaginable. Being a freelancer was only possible within a few industries and a few professions. But now, we find ourselves in this fascinating shift where more and more people are becoming freelancers in lots of different fields of work. Freelancing can no longer be seen as a hobby rather than a profession.”
She highlighted that, in the last three years, there has been a 20% increase in the amount of people working as freelancers in Belgium, and in the EU, four out of ten people work in non-standard contracts (with a 9 to 5 full-time contract seen as traditional employment), or are self-employed. In reference to this, she emphasised that from all four main trends she is noticing as a result of this shift, total management should become the HR policy for 2020, to include the 20-40% of people working as freelancers or who are self-employed in HR management and to equally protect their rights, especially in the war on talent.
However, this increase in freelancers also results in a rise in competition, or a war on getting gigs. Marleen said: “As an individual, it is nice to be part of a trend, but it also results in growing competition, which means that, more and more, you need to focus on your core competences. Most importantly, you need to learn to collaborate.” This is exactly what a conference like this is good for.
For freelancers, this is also one of the biggest benefits of joining the Workero community. Our CEO, Dirk Paelinck, was the second speaker of the day, and further built on the concept of the shift in the way we work and also discussed the shift in working spaces. Firstly, he drew attention to one of the most important benefits for freelancers in our network: it supports the facilities to connect them with other freelancers and companies.
Based on the algorithms in our search engine, the platform tailors an ecosystem tailored to the information you insert, through AI and data matching, which can save freelancers time. Freelancers can then connect with other relevant Heroes (Workero users) and build meaningful and productive relationships with them.
Secondly, by working in the spaces offered within the Workero network, especially when working at our flexible workspaces within other companies, freelancers are able to connect with larger companies within their fields of expertise, and collaborate or innovate with them. As a solution for the ‘war on getting gigs’, it can also help freelancers target clients and discover companies in search for the services they can offer. One freelancer, Adrien Willems, rightly pointed out that meeting potential clients face-to-face is much more productive, and what better place to do this than in their own office?
Another aspect of being a freelancer which was largely discussed throughout the conference was the financial side of things, especially during the interactive session with a panel of experienced freelancers, including Strategic Marketer Anthony Stabourlos, Freelance journalist Linda A. Thompson, Humanist photographer Ralitza Soultanova and Freelance ICT strategy consultant, Adrien Willems. They focused on whether you should share your pricing with other freelancers to compare and the importance of not undervaluing yourself. As Anthony said: “The problem of undervaluing yourself at the start is that if you start low you'll stay low for a longer time, and it will be harder to increase your prices. If they recognise your talent, they have to pay for it.”
Another topic discussed widely during the conference was financing being a freelancer. Journalist Linda A. Thompson mentioned it is a good idea to secure a side-hustle to try and have some kind of regularity in your income. Further controlling your funding is where Workero comes in. The network can not only help freelancers boost their businesses by connecting them with other freelancers and larger companies, but the platform itself can also help them sustain their business by offering cheaper workspaces (starting from €2.50 a desk!), which results in a better and more efficient controlling of costs. Rather than paying a month’s rent for an office you only use at certain times, you can book spaces when you actually need them, a flexible option which, especially for beginning freelancers, can save them a lot of money.
To discover more about how joining Workero can help freelancers to boost and sustain their business, join our community.