Digital Trends For Freelancers

digital trends

Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes is hard enough. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50 independent consultants is harder. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50, slightly soggy from the London rain, eager to get back to networking, independent consultants was the fine audience I spoke to tonight.

I was invited by the PRCA Independent Consultants Group to speak on 10 digital trends in 10 minutes, so here I am replicating that talk in digital form, which should take you – hopefully less soggy, less eager to get back to networking – digital person about 10 minutes to read / consume.

Here are my slides and notes. Enjoy.

10 Digital Trends in 10 Minutes for Independent Consultants

To get thing started, here is the Slideshare of my slides from the digital trends talk. Pretty to look at and will give you the gist of the talk, but you’ll probably need to read on to get the full impact of my talk.

And for those of you who want the short version, here’s a GIF made using the simply brilliant, that has made my 10 minute long talk into a 3 second, 10 image gif.

10 digital trends in 10 minutes

For those of you with the thirst for the full digital trend experience, here’s my rundown of the 10 digital trends I picked out and my notes from the talk. Keep scrolling to the end for questions – and answers – from the question and answer part of the talk.

1. Your network is still key, but is increasingly dispersed
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Slack has been a runaway success since opening for business just over a year ago: it now has 1.1 million daily active users, with 300,000 of them paying for premium tiers of the service bringing in annual recurring revenue of $25 million.

We’re working with a client whose team is based in London, New York, Geneva and Copenhagen. Slack holds that team together.

Airbnb is a website for people to rent out their homes. It has over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Airbnb offers more rooms than many of the largest hotel groups in the world–Hilton, InterContinental and Marriott—which each maintain just under 700,000 rooms.

Next week, I’m going on a working holiday to Turkey, using Airbnb. Good wifi, cheap flights and my clients don’t care where I work as long as the work gets done.

2. You’ll face increased competition, but have more opportunities.

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Freelancers are already changing the face of the economy.

Here are a few stats to let you know about the competition.

There are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors, a growth of 14% in the past decade.

The flexibility offered by Britain’s freelancers is worth £21 billion to the UK economy in added value.

The number of businesses hiring freelancers online increased 46%.

Payments to freelancers increased 37% year on year.

The average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7%.

There’s more competition for freelancers, but that also creates more opportunities as clients come to recognise the value that freelancers bring to their businesses.

3. Trust is vital. Earn it, then keep it.

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To compete, independent consultants need to be trust.

From the Guardian in a recent article on how their journalists establish trust;

“Trust in the authenticity and reliability of our sources is essential. Digital communications and a fast-moving news environment present special challenges for verification, and scepticism should therefore be the starting point”

More experienced consultants should already have this trust and know how to keep it

The Edelman Trust Barometer states that “Trust is built through specific attributes, which can be organised into five performance clusters”



products and services



These attributes apply to brands, but in the digital age they apply to consultants as well – especially as reputation can be more easily share online

4. Digital by design, not digital by default.

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Digital is growing, but is not always the right answer.

Offline interaction still works wonders for the right campaigns.

Take a look at the number of events, photocalls and conferences that happen.

If traditional means of getting a client’s message out is the right one, then have confidence in that.

But if digital is the right medium to get the message out, then make sure that your campaigns have the right assets for digital – video, photos, text content.

5. Content is still king. Distribution is queen.

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Content marketing is the creation and sharing of digital content, such as articles and videos, that informs, educates, or entertains you.

Content marketing allows brands to attract customers through articles and videos.

Instead of interrupting your online browsing with an ad, content marketing gives you valuable information through articles and videos that you choose to view.

While digital advertising focuses on promoting a brand, content marketing focuses on giving you helpful information that you want to see online.

6. Think mobile first, then work back from there.

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Including the way you work, the content you create and how people consume it.

Ensure that your content is optimised for smartphones.

Ensure all media materials are succinct and engaging.

Use images and video to maximise campaign reach.

7. Paid social is becoming the norm. Understand its value.

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Understand its value, even if you don’t use it yourself.

Run a few Facebook ads. See what works. Begin to learn what can work for your clients.

8. Video is on the rise (again). Facebook is challenging YouTube.

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Fuelled by Facebook, vloggers and fast mobile data.

Zoella: 25 years old, born in 1990, has 8.5 million subscribers.

Facebook and Twitter both have native video players where video content is hosted and viewed natively within Facebook and Twitter.

Before this move, users who wanted to watch videos were sent off to YouTube, Vimeo or wherever the video was hosted. Now users can just watch the video natively where they are.

The end result? Twitter users stay within Twitter longer and use Twitter more.

Jason Calacanis:

“Within 18 months of releasing their YouTube competitor, Twitter will at least double their monthly users, double their time per user, and triple their revenue.”

Some more social video stats:

Facebook video views every 24 hours: 4 billion

Video uploaded to YouTube every minute: 300 hours

Facebook unique video viewers: 85.59 million

YouTube unique video viewers: 162.14 million

Facebook counts a view as: 3 seconds

YouTube counts a view as: 30 seconds

9. Plenty of new digital tools. Use them wisely.

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Go take a look at PR Stack.

PR Stack is a crowd-sourced catalog of 250+ public relations tools, many of them free, all of them useful.

The tools are there, use them wisely.

10. Remember why you are a freelancer. You are ahead of the game. In terms of financials, flexibility and freedom.

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Every year, thousands of people have the confidence to start their freelance career. You can do it too.

You can have the flexibility and freedom that comes from running your own freelance business – and enjoy it.

You can make a decent income from your freelance business – often much more than your previous job.

Anyone that is already freelancing or operating as an independent consultant is already ahead of the game, whatever digital trends come next.

The final slide had my contact details, so here they are again.

You can tweet me at @benrmatthews.

Or better yet, email me at

Let me know how these digital trends are affecting you and your business, or what you see are the next digital trends that I’ve missed and we should be aware of.

Questions About Digital Trends

These are the questions I remember getting asked at the end of my presentation.

Answers to follow soon, but I did answer them well on the night (I promise):

  • How does social reach affect the KPIs of a client’s business?
  • How will the Facebook dislike button affect businesses on Facebook?
  • Our business has a target audience of people aged 55+. How can we use social media to reach them?
  • I read that Google now ranks long form content higher than other less wordy content. How can PR consultants address this?
  • I run a small business on a small budget. What social media tools and channels should I be concentrating on?
  • How have politicians reacted to changes in social media and how do they relate to social media now?

I remember the questions about digital trends. Now if only I could remember the answers…

Freelance Inspiration (#Infographic)

Inspiring Quotes from Leading Freelancers

Calin from Freelance Business Guide invited me to contribute to his Freelance Inspiration Infographic and I was more than happy to help inspire other freelancers on their journey.

Being called a “leading freelancer” was a great compliment, given the other names appearing alongside me on the infographic.

The likes of Sara Horowitz, Justin Jackson and Paul Jarvis are freelancers that I’ve been following, learning from and getting inspired by ever since I can remember being a freelancer.

It’s also great to discover new inspiring freelancers to check out, such as Julie Elster, Kai Davis and Brent Galloway.

The quotes themselves are copied underneath the infographic and it’s worth checking out Freelance Business Guide for even more inspiration.

What quotes give you the most inspiration as a freelancer? Let me know in the comments below!

The Freelance Inspiration Infographic

Freelance Inspiration Infographic

11 Inspirational Freelance Quotes

“The biggest challenge I overcame while growing my consulting business wasn’t convincing my clients to pay me more money or chasing after invoices. Rather, the biggest challenge was internal — convincing myself that I was worth the rate I wanted to charge and raising my rates from $25/hour to $100/hour, $1,000/day, and $5,000+/week. And you know what? As I’ve increased my prices, the clients I’ve worked with have turned out to be better, more receptive to my advice, and see us as partners instead of viewing me as a laborer on their project.

So, dear consultant, know this: the easiest way to get paid more is to raise your rates. And the only person in the world who can stop you? That’s you.”

Kai Davis

“Don’t ever be afraid to pick up your phone. Seven figure business owners don’t survive unless they pick up the phone and make that real connection to their clients. Email can be a crutch in client communication. If you need something, call.”

Julie Elster

“To truly excel in a consulting career, you need to sell your brain. Your strategy, knowledge, and advice will always be more valuable than your hands. Help your clients reduce risk, and build value, not just complete tasks. Don’t sell your time, sell clients a better version of their life.”

Kurt Elster

“In order to shape the industry for the better, you have to create high standards and stick to them no matter what.

As a business person, it’s your responsibility to know your core values and to pass them along to anyone that works with you. You might feel obligated to give in to a client’s request for the sake of landing the job or to get paid. You might fear that you have to do absolutely anything to stay ahead of your competition. But the secret is – you don’t have competition! As a freelancer, there will always be someone beneath you charging next to nothing for the same services you offer, but the clients that go to those people aren’t clients you should want to work with.”

Brent Galloway

“You can think of freelancing as volatile and risky, or as flexible and opportunity-rich.
Doesn’t having multiple sources of income and multiple moneymaking skills sound less risky than putting all your eggs in one employer’s basket?

Freelancing lets you shift gears when the world does.”

Sara Horowitz
Freelancers Union, Author of The Freelancer’s Bible

“Start with a tiny project and start now.

Making and selling things is quite hard. You can’t just show up and win; you need to ramp up slowly.”

Justin Jackson

“Position yourself as more of a consultant and less of a freelancer. Freelance work tends to be transactional, where you’re delivering directly on a service that a client had asked you to provide. The client asks you to complete a project, you deliver on that project. The difference with being a consultant is that you are looking to deliver value to a client. This approach can mean a large difference in the value a client sees in your work and the fee you get paid.”

Ben Matthews

“Most reasons to delay are invalid if you get right to the core: no time, no money, no audience. These are all future concerns, which make it hard to start anything. Worry about those things later or not at all. Make small decisions at first, and start moving in a direction that feels right.”

Paul Jarvis

“Remember, nobody is hiring you just because you can design, write, market or code… they’re hiring you because they have a business problem. Your service (in their mind and yours) provides the solution to that problem, so focus on that rather than skill-jargon, buzzwords and vague lists of qualifications.”

Liam Veitch

“As a freelancer your biggest advantage is that you only need a handful of clients to succeed. Most companies need to find thousands of customers. You only need to find one at a time.”

Robert Williams

“Don’t freelance to make a living – freelance to make a life. Money is important – but when you hit ruts, work 16 hour days and get that tough feedback, it’s going to be something else that motivates you. You need to remember why you started and keep it in focus.”

Joel Klettke

Where to find freelance clients

find freelance clients

Finding freelance clients is one of the big challenges in freelance life. You may think it’s tough at the beginning, but the ebb and flow of freelance work never stops and carries on right on through your more experienced years.

But any effort you put into finding and testing reliable places to find new freelance clients will make the job of finding more work that much easier. And if you put the effort in consistently and repeatedly, you’ll find that your efforts are rewarded exponentially.

Finding freelance clients will always be a necessity, but you can make it easier for yourself.

When Alexander Horoshkevich from got in touch to find out how I find freelance clients, I was pleased to answer his questions. Here’s a summary of our discussion.

1) Where do you find your clients? Freelance marketplaces (such as Upwork, Elance, etc.), or friends, or someone who has recommended you?
I always ask new client leads where they heard of us, which makes it much easier to track this. Looking back at the last few years, 90% of new clients are referrals from our existing network, 5% from old clients coming back to us, and 5% from enquiries through our agency website (mainly through the SEO and Content Marketing work we do).

2) With referrals, how you had got ones when you started? It’s hard to get quality referrals when you don’t have any clients.
When I started, I let people know that I was going freelance and was looking for work. Several friends and previous clients then recommended me for roles they were aware of.

One thing I did do when I first started freelancing was use my previous employer as one of my first clients. I hired myself back to them for 2-3 days a week, which helped make the transition to full time freelancer much easier!

3) Had you found any clients through your blog?
Yes, probably 10-15, but these are generally lower quality / smaller budget leads than through referrals or previous clients. I blog mainly to help other freelancers looking to establish their careers and become better freelances themselves.

4) What online resources related to freelance you read daily? What can you suggest?
I read the /r/freelance subreddit often, which has a lot of useful, real world problems and excellent advice for freelancers on a whole range of issues.

5) Is it possible to work in a daily office job as well as doing remote (freelance) work (for designers, marketers, and others)?
Yes, you can freelance on the side (known as “moonlighting”), but this can be stressful due to working for clients alongside a day job. It can be difficult to moonlight and remain productive at the same time!

Alexander used my insights and a whole host of others in a post on called “15 Proven Ways To Find Freelance Marketing Jobs”. Here’s a quick run down of those 15 ways:

1. Freelance marketplaces
2. Craiglist
3. Aquent
4. Dice
5. FlexJobs
7. Offline networking
8. Partnerships
9. Freelancers Union
10. Angel List
11. LinkedIn
12. Reddit
13. Personal website
14. Work for free
15. Referrals

Alexander’s post goes into great detail for each of these places to find freelance work, so the post is definitely worth a read when you have a moment.

Personally, I’m a big fan of number 15, as you can tell by my answers to Alexander, but number 13 is also proving a success for me. People like Preston Lee agrees with me, as shown in his post “Stop trying to find new freelance clients”.

I haven’t tried any of the other methods, but it would be interesting to hear if you or other freelancers you know have found success in finding freelance clients using those methods and what your breakdown of where you find new freelance work looks like.

London Coworking Spaces

london coworking spaces

London coworking spaces are popping up everywhere, as shown by this map from

But the nature of coworking itself is changing, as shown by rising prices, the “niche-ing” of spaces, the increase in established companies opting for coworking spaces, and the bigger office retail companies opening up coworking spaces – either under a sub-brand or under their own name.

There’s even a membership card for coworking spaces that lets you work at any number of different coworking spaces.

Take this recent article from Forbes on the changing nature of coworking spaces:

“Coworking’s quick spike in popularity means a new coworking space will have less innovative impact than it might have 10 years ago. And it means coworking spaces have saturated the startup culture so completely that they’ve caught the attention of larger companies.”

This means that large coworking companies who operate spaces over several areas in London are starting to appear, such as We Work, who already have a large presence worldwide.

So when ‘A’ – a solo freelancer who’s just getting started – got in touch and asked for my advice for a suitable coworking space she could use, I thought how hard can it be to find an affordable coworking space in East London for a freelancer?

Here’s the original email from Anne-Marie:

“I’m in the process of becoming a consultant after ten years working client and agency side.

When I move into consulting, I’m hoping to work in the capital for one or two days a week. Here’s the thing. I don’t need office space. Just somewhere offering ‘pay as you go’ service with a desk, wi-fi and printing service.

However, I’m finding it difficult to source a hot desking / coworking / rentadesk space at reasonable rates in London. Prices are around £40+.

One can’t spend entire days in coffee houses! Can you recommend anything? Perhaps this is blog idea for other freelances and their experiences?”

Coworking spaces in London that are affordable for newly independent consultants. Easy, right?

Turns out, it’s actually pretty tough.

The first coworking space that sprang to mind was Google’s Campus London, which has a coworking space in the basement of its East London building, just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station.

Campus London is very busy as it is free and has very fast internet speeds, but it’s likely the most suitable for solo freelancers looking for a space to work.

Campus isn’t going to suit everyone, though. I once had a client meeting perched right on the edge of a sofa where everyone within 5 feet of us could overhear our relatively private conversation, all because there was literally nowhere else to sit. It was the client’s choice, not mine, but it didn’t set the most professional atmosphere for a meeting.

Other coworking spaces we looked into and how much they cost to rent a desk:

So is there a gap in the market for a coworking space that suits solo freelancers that only need a desk occasionally, rather than smaller outfits and startups? Somewhere that bridges the void between a coffee shop and permanently renting a desk?

This is especially the case as workers – not companies – are increasingly driving the demand for where and when they work:

“Workers are now demanding the technology necessary to do their jobs whilst its impact on office design is twofold. Organisations need to identify and integrate the technology that enables their workforce to preform to their full superhero potential. It has also meant that workers have become far more autonomous with technology allowing them to work when and wherever they want, be that at their desk, in a relaxed open space or in a coffee shop.”

I recently met with Phil Marshall, co-founder of Lara Work Room. We had a great chat about the life of a freelancer, how and where we both work best, and the future of  independent workers and coworking spaces in the UK.

Here’s what Phil had to say about coworking and the changing nature of the way we work:

“Many things have changed in the way we work in the last twenty years. If we are to get the best out of these changes, our approach to workplaces must change too. Work, for many people, is no longer a single place, it’s a fluid combination of short stay drop-in sessions in places like cafes, hotel lobbies and client offices.”

“We believe that, increasingly, people will choose to work independently and so, in the flexible (even unpredictable) flow of a working day, will have to secure their own work space, often at short notice and for a short stay. Lara Work Rooms will provide this, helping you stay focused and productive.”

So could Lara Work Room be the answer? Here’s their offering:

  • Lara Work Room is a pay-per-use co-working cafe.
  • Users will have a access to solo-work cubicles, group work benches and bookable private meeting rooms.
  • A cafe and events space will also be offered, along with printer-scanners, bike parking, lockers and super-fast, super-reliable wifi.
  • All spaces £6 per hour, opening late 2015

Sounds pretty good, but will people pay £6 an hour for a desk, even if they only use it for a few hours a day or even a few hours a week?

The answer might be found in this article on Medium on “Why do people pay for coworking spaces?” that Rebecca Collins, the community and marketing manager at Huckletree, flagged to me:

“In a competitive startup city like London no amount of free beer will make up for unreliable wifi, uncomfortable seats and high prices. Each coworking space has to focus on providing some basic services before being able to deliver the true value of coworking.”

If Huckletree, Lara Work Room or any of the other coworking spaces can meet these needs, then they’re sure to be one of the coworking spaces of the future.

Do you work in a London coworking space? Got a tip for the best coworking space in London? Have I missed any obvious London coworking spaces? Let me know in the comments!

How much experience do you need to go freelance?

how much experience do you need to go freelance

How much experience do you need to go freelance? And if you want more or feel like you need more, how do you get more experience as a freelancer?

When I first went freelance, I had 4 years experience of working in the industry. That might not seem a lot, but I felt that in order to learn more and progress quickly I had to go it alone. And in the 4 years since I have been freelancing, I feel like I’ve learned the equivalent of 8 years of being in an agency – at least.

That’s my experience, but it’s certainly not the same for others. When the same question came up in this Facebook group for people working in charity comms, there were loads of different examples and responses from people giving their own experience.

To start with, most people felt that you’d need several years of relevant experience while employed to make a go of it as a freelancer. The freelance marketplace getting increasingly competitive, as more people are choosing this way of working.

“I’ve been freelance since 2006 – I just do copywriting now but at the beginning I did web consultancy too. Before going freelance I had a year’s experience as a web editor at a health think tank, and three years’ at a PR/digital agency. So four years’ experience in all.” – Joanna Tidball

If your previous job had crossover with your freelance role, you can be more clever and show your previous work as demonstrating your expertise, which can make up for a lack of experience.

Another option is  some freelancing alongside your work and or go part time and do freelance work alongside this too. This is the approach I took when I left my full time job, reducing my days to 3 a week, then 2 a week as I gradually made the transition to freelancing and built up my freelance client base. This gives you a chance to build up your client base whilst keeping regular income.

Once you do go freelance, you will likely find that most of the time people will never ask you how long you’ve done something though they’ll ask you what you’ve done and who you’ve worked with. You could always do a bit of pro bono work to improve your portfolio if that’s lacking.

“The experience thing is overplayed – I’ve never been asked or asked a freelancer about how many years experience they had. I just want evidence of their skills, that is, a website or PDF with examples of work. I just need to know they can do the thing, no matter how long they’ve done the thing for.” – Matt Collins, Charity Chap

If you don’t have what you feel is enough experience to start freelancing, then you may be better off doing a freelance course to gain new skills – although gaining a recognised qualification will give you more clout, even if you do already have experience.

“I had quite a lot of marketing communications / copywriting experience when I went freelance but studied for a Diploma in Copywriting before and whilst setting up business, which was extremely helpful both in terms of giving me credibility and helping me develop my skills.” – Faye Stenson, Black & Write

As well as having good experience, you’ll ideally need good contacts / leads to help you get started. You need to be highly motivated to start getting the work in and know where to find it – something that is much easier if you’ve had experience of finding new clients in your full time job.

When you’re freelance you need a good network of people who know you and your work and could hire you. You also need to be prepared to put in time to develop your freelance network and marketing. Try going to as many events as you can to build up your links with others within the sectors you want to work in. This kind of ground work is essential.

So how much experience do you need to go freelance? 3-4 years of industry experience seems to be the minimum, but there are plenty of ways of getting more experience or demonstrating your expertise if you want to go freelance earlier than that.