As part of our ongoing 'Freelancer Spotlight' series we talk to Matt Dowling, the Founder of Freelancer Club - a community platform for creative freelancers.

Matt Dowling

Q1: Can you tell us a bit about you and your background?

Sure. I moved to the UK over 22 years ago from Ireland, via a year in Italy, having been offered a place at university in London.

When I left uni, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to focus on and ended up falling into freelancing when a friend asked me to take photos at an event. I didn’t have much business know-how at the time so I made it up as I went along.

Q2: What is Freelancer Club?

Freelancer Club is a professional portfolio network for the creative sector. We are a ‘Community Platform’ that promotes, supports and educates creative freelancers.

Freelancer Club is a place for freelancers to share their work, refine their craft and get hired as well as a platform for companies (mainly startups) to connect with freelance talent. We’re a professional networking platform for the next generation.

Q3: Why did you set up Freelancer Club?

Having experienced the extreme highs and lows of freelancing over the course of a decade, it was evident that there was a lack of support for the freelance community that I felt I could provide.

Creative freelancers are often unvalued in business. In the past, we were labelled as hobbyists, slackers or lazy. In fact, when I went freelance over 20 years ago, it was deemed to be something you did if you couldn’t get a ‘real’ job.

Today, freelancing is a legitimate career choice. Many companies are looking to the freelance model to grow their business or reshape their company structure. The pandemic has expedited the inevitable shift from an industrial era model to a fluid, agile way of working.

The Freelancer Club was set up to support this community. We give incredibly talented individuals a voice as well as a support structure to help them develop their business, make industry contacts and land paid jobs.

Q4: Why should freelancers join Freelancer Club?

We pride ourselves on being inclusive. Whether you’re just starting out or 20 years in the game, all are welcome to join our community.

Our members benefit from paid work, resources, events, discounts, legal templates, news, and access to a community of like-minded individuals.

You might be a photographer building your portfolio or an experienced UI Designer looking for high-value jobs. Wherever you are on your journey, Freelancer Club can provide value.

Last year, we helped facilitate over 200,000 connections between our members and companies.

Q5: What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far with Freelancer Club?

There have been many notable moments. The day we launched and watched the first member sign up on the site was special. When we hit 40,000 members felt good too. However, the achievements that stay with you are the ones that change people’s lives.

We launched a campaign called #NoFreeWork, fighting against the exploitation of unpaid work, that started as a hashtag on Twitter and ended up in the Houses of Parliament.

We were also one of the leading voices lobbying the Government to provide financial support for the self-employed. This later became known as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

These successes are due to my incredible team who believe in our mission and continue to inspire me on a daily basis.

Q6: What has been your biggest challenge?

Scaling is always challenging when you’re a bootstrap. We’ve had to be patient and take small steps forward when we wanted to run.

However, this has proven to be one of our strengths as a lot of competitors have fallen by the wayside, we’re still going strong.

When the pandemic hit, we reached out to our members to offer advice or just a person to talk to. Hearing their stories was heartbreaking and put things into perspective. They are the heartbeat of the Freelancer Club and we feel it personally when they’re going through difficult times.

Q7: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing freelancers right now?

The influx of new freelance talent entering the sector due to COVID has created a more competitive marketplace. This will shake things up a bit. As we come out of lockdown, a lot of freelance work is still taking place online and those who have adapted over the past few months will thrive, those who have not will struggle.

In saying that, we’ve seen a spike in companies contacting us to help them source freelance talent as they require specialists to fill skill gaps. These are encouraging signs and we suspect this trend to continue for a while.

A new way of working is upon us and freelancers are going to play a huge part in its formation.

Q8: Would you say now is a good time to become a freelancer?

It’s an exciting time to join the freelance revolution, that’s for sure. Freelancing is hard graft, for sure, but the rewards are incredible and the freedom it provides is unparalleled if you’re willing to put in the time.  

Q9. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new freelancer?

Know who you are and understand your audience before you start.

Too many freelancers jump straight in without a plan – that’s what I did many years ago – and it can take years to undo.

Have a clear picture of your brand, your services and yourself. Most important, value what you do and say NO to unpaid work!

For more information about Freelancer Club, visit: https://freelancerclub.net/

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