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Greater Manchester’s thriving freelancer scene recognised with hat-trick of national award nominations

City in running to win best Co-Working space, Best Freelancer Ambassador and Best Young Freelancer at annual IPSE awards in London (with some help from the Hub)

Manchester has been shortlisted in three categories for the prestigious national IPSE awards which will be held in Kings Cross in London on Thursday 8 June. The IPSE Freelancer awards were set up to publicly recognise the achievements of the UK’s two million self-employed and freelance workers who contribute around £120m to the UK economy every year.

Innovative co-working space Ziferblat, which has branches in the Northern Quarter and MediaCityUK, is one of only three venues to be shortlisted in IPSE’s best national Co-Working space category.

Ziferblat works on a pay-as-you-go basis, charging customers 8p per minute to dwell in a relaxed and welcoming space while offering them a wide range of unlimited food and drink options for the duration of their stay. Ziferblat has also attracted the attention of corporate clients, including Google, Barclays, Manchester City FC, Santander and the BBC, who want to host meetings in a more informal environment.

Ben Davies from Ziferblat said: Having just opened our second Manchester branch at MediaCityUK, and with another Manchester venue on the cards, it’s already been an incredibly exciting year for us and I’m very proud of everything the Ziferblat team has achieved. We also pride ourselves on our inclusive culture and we invest all of our profits back into the business to further support and grow the community we have created.

“But to be nominated as one of the UK’s best co-working spaces by IPSE, and being one of only five shortlisted, is a massive achievement for us, especially as we operate a very different model to most other shared workspaces.”

Katy Carlisle, founder of Greater Manchester’s 1,000-strong ‘Freelance Folk’ networking group, is also nominated for an IPSE award - in the Ambassador of the Year category - alongside two other contenders. Katy, a web designer from Wythenshawe, set up the Freelance Folk community in Manchester two years ago after she realised the negative impact that isolation can have on people who don’t have peers or colleagues to interact with on a daily basis.

“It's since grown rapidly into a weekly freelancer meet-up every Friday afternoon where we encourage conversation and collaboration. It has successfully brought people together from all walks of life, who work in many varied sectors, but who also all share the same lack of a peer group to engage with and bounce ideas off. Another great thing about the venue is the fact corporate clients and freelancers find themselves in the same public sitting room space, and connections get made between individuals and groups which would otherwise not have happened.

“It’s great to have been shortlisted as Ambassador of the Year, but really it’s the freelancers in the network and the Ziferblat culture which make the whole thing work.”   

Finishing the hat-trick of IPSE nominations is Adam Smith, founder of video and photography business HSQ, who is one of just five under 23-year-olds shortlisted for the Aspire Young Freelancer Award.

Adam has a developed a business model based on an incredibly quick turnaround for film and photography projects which he has dubbed a ‘Done In A Day’ service, and has worked for a wide range of national charities and business-to-business clients.

Adam is also very active within the Manchester freelance community and, like Katy, has also made Ziferblat his unofficial ‘office’ where he can connect with other freelancers to share ideas and collaborate on projects.

He said: “When I first moved to Manchester two years ago from East Anglia I didn’t know anyone at all and was seriously considering going back due to a lack of contacts and my struggle to establish a peer-to-peer network. However, I stumbled over Katy’s Freelance Folk group which led me to discover Ziferblat. From then on I haven’t looked back, and have successfully won work from clients which has been directly generated from being active in the freelancer scene which both Ben and Katy have helped to nurture.

“To be nominated as Young Freelancer of the Year is fantastic, but I’m also very proud that all three of us have been shortlisted as it symbolises Manchester’s dynamic freelance culture.” 

In addition to Ziferblat being at the heart of all three IPSE nominations, another common factor is the role of the Business Growth Hub in their respective success. Part of the Manchester Growth Company, the Business Growth Hub has supported both Adam, Ben and the Ziferblat venue through a range of advice and mentoring programmes over the last two years. Furthermore, Katy herself is now a Hub mentor.

Janine Smith Head of Growth Services from Business Growth Hub said: “Manchester enjoying such national prominence within the freelance sector through these award nominations is both a reflection on the wealth of freelance talent we attract, and the fact there are many opportunities within our economy to support them.

“It’s also fantastic that all three shortlisted candidates have directly benefitted from the support of Business Growth Hub, and it demonstrates how we create a ripple-effect across Greater Manchester which drives growth and supports jobs.

“For example, we provided Ziferblat with advice and business mentoring at a time when their pay-as-you-go concept was untested, and from this they have pushed on and built a fantastic expanding business. In turn that business has gone on to enable Katy to create Freelance Folk, which subsequently gave Adam a platform which helped him to launch his own production company.

“Both Adam and Ben have also since benefitted individually from Business Growth Hub services, and Katy is now one of our mentors. This is the holistic, 360 degree business growth ecosystem we help to stimulate, and I’m delighted that IPSE has recognised their achievements through them being shortlisted for these prestigious national awards.”

The IPSE awards will be live streamed in Ziferblat Edge Street in Manchester on Thursday 8 June at 2:00-7:00pm. For more details of the streamed event, Ziferblat or Freelance Folk email

For more details of the IPSE awards visit

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