This is the next edition of freelance careers, a series of Forbes articles focusing on the interesting careers constructed by innovative individual freelancers. The goal of the series: offering examples of how creative freelancers have established a strong and successful brand. In general, success is defined as two outcomes: excellent business performance and a high level of personal freelancer satisfaction and commitment.
In this particular case a third element is included: contribution to the success of freelancers and their clients. Over time, and as freelancing has grown, there is a growing need for education on both sides of the freelancing relationship. As freelancing becomes more normalized as a regular part of a corporate or public sector workforce, the speed and quality of the transformation depends a good deal on greater skills and better educational for both freelancers and their clients:
- For individual freelancers, what educational assistance do new and experienced independent professionals need to build, maintain, and expand their area of expertise, and remain fully up to date?
- And on the organization side, whether corporate or public sector, its increasingly important to learn from cases that, like UST’s, conveys best practice in how to work well and cost efficiently with freelancers, whether locally or globally.
These are such important areas of effort. According to MBOPartners and Emergent Research, there was a 60% increase in freelancers in the US over the past two years. And the transition is not often easy, particularly in an uncertain economic environment. The Global Survey on Freelancing shows that first year freelancers – both full-time and moonlighters – typically find the transition difficult and frustrating.
Access to high quality education helps. Most organizations understand that open talent – fractional or contingent expertise that supplements full-time employees – is an essential element of the present as well as future workforce. But, transitions are not always orderly. While more than 90% of enterprises plan to increase their reliance on freelancers to close talent gaps, fewer the 50% of freelancers say client project manager are skilled in working with freelancers. Education is crucial in helping leaders understand how to build and manage a flexible, blended, workforce, and helping individual freelancers thrive as solopreneurs.
When freelance education comes up, two voices are frequently mentioned. For individual freelancer education its Elina Jutelyte, a Belgian solopreneur who produces a full month of educational programming called Freelance Business Month each October. On the organizational side, its Eleanor Matthews, a co-founder of Open-Assembly who has been teaching executives to work effectively with open talent for more than two decades.
Talking with Jutelyte recently, she said that it was never her plan to grow the largest and longest global freelance educational conference of the year. Freelance Business runs free quality events for freelancers and works with freelance business partners to support the activities. Freelance Business month organizes and produces over 200 peer-led workshops and training sessions covering a wide range of freelancing topics. Jutelyte has built a community of over 8,000 engaged and active colleagues.
Jutelyte was originally trained as an events specialist. That background has been exceptionally helpful in describing her vision of Freelance Business, a simple and elegant mission: “We want to give you every opportunity to learn how to run an independent business.”
And Jutelyte has delivered on that promise, gaining a reputation for Freelance Business as “the” place for freelance influencers and educators to share their secrets. In support, Freelance Business has organized a team of part-time independent experts who support Jutelyte vision of equipping freelancers with the tools of success, and provide support in areas like marketing, communication, and speaker coaching. Jutelyte is actively seeking revenue growth through sponsorships and sees an ambassador program, masterclass offerings, and educational events as part of their future in finding more ways to deliver the vision. For example, she is working closely with colleagues at Indielist in Ireland to build a series of programs like “Boost Your Close Rate by 500%”.
Teaching leaders to create more flexible workforces
Although initially trained as a software developer, Eleanor Matthews has been committed for many years to teaching leaders and their organizations how to work effectively with freelancers, and how to plan, organize, manage and support a more flexible, blended, and digitally enabled workforce. She has been a kind of Johnny Appleseed of the freelance revolution.
As she put it, “As a young professional, after pivoting from a career in programming, I joined a consultancy that was focused on helping companies work with outsourcing. I loved it and found my people.” From there it was a short hop to building her own independent business.
Matthews, like Jutelyte, finds it both necessary and helpful to deliver education through a number of different channels. For example, she leads in-person executive training for groups of senior leaders that, as she puts it, “Offers a half-day deep dive into the potential of open talent as a strategic workforce tool.”
Open-Assembly, where Matthews is a co-founding partner, has afforded her a good-sized canvas for impact. The company partners globally with high quality freelance marketplaces like FlexC to provide curated talent to enterprise organizations like UST and Accenture. It also assists companies to utilize freelancers and helps them implement open talent initiatives, as well as advise government sponsored programs in Saudi Arabia and Kerala Province, India.
Beyond Open-Assembly, Matthews is a whirlwind of initiative in the transformation space, leading a number of new organizations and networks. One example among many is her formation of the “League of Extraordinary Women”, an informal group of UK women leaders who learn from one another and share insights and experiences about career and leadership.
For both Jutelyte and Matthews, the focus on education has provided a range of products and services that should be of interest to other freelancers in the field of education. Their individual work portfolios at any given time might include:
- Delivering a training experience to clients
- Providing guidance as a consultant or advisor for organizations and marketplaces considering change or investment in their educational strategy
- Developing a training experience for clients to be delivered by others and offering training to the client’s team of educators
- Providing best practice contributions on a paid or pro bono basis to articles and newsletters
- Offering expert guidance to investors interested in the education space
Like the professionals profiled in earlier editions of freelance careers, Jutelyte and Matthews some of what’s possible as an educational solopreneur. The contributions they are individually making to individuals and companies is significant. And business is booming. Over the past decade, freelancing has grown to a multi-trillion dollar global economic engine, offering opportunity – often delivered in part or whole remotely – to over 100 million professionals in the UK and Eurozone alone.
Experts like Jutelyte and Matthews are able to find immense satisfaction in their work, and in the career path they chose. As Jutelyte put it recently:
“I was raised to be a contributor. It was important to my family, and to my Mother who was an important woman in her field, that I be useful to society. Starting Freelance Business was my unique way of fulfilling my family’s expectations. It probably was a crazy idea when we started, there was nothing like it, but the positive reactions of freelancers around the world to Freelance Business Month makes me feel I’m on the right track.”
Viva la revolution!