Kate Hempsall

Five years and counting

Five years ago I took my first tentative steps into the world of freelancing. Even as I did, I wasn’t sure what to expect and that was probably the right way to approach it, as I’ve rarely had two days the same. As I mark my fifth anniversary, though, it’s time for a few reflections.

The most important aspect of this stage of my career has been the people. It’s so often the case but when you’re working on your own, away from the comfort and security of a corporate environment, the contacts you do have are especially important. I’ve been really fortunate to count some absolute gems amongst my associates – everyone from clients, journalists, writers, suppliers, fellow comms professionals, and others who I’ve met on my travels. Developing lasting working relationships and friendships has been absolutely key to celebrating the good times and getting through a few rough times.

Hospitality is a sociable environment by its very nature and the pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a good circle of people around you. The absence of networking events and just catching up over a meal or a drink has been tough and reminds me how important interaction with others is. Mental note to self – put this right in the New Year.

I surprised myself at how confident I felt branching out on my own, despite feeling very exposed. But I quickly came to learn that the security I’d always relied on was probably the very thing that was holding back my confidence. Suddenly my voice was the only one to be heard and it offered wisdom, experience, creativity, and positivity.

An initial long-term contract helped get me set up and since then I haven’t looked back. I’ve worked with some incredible clients – the majority of whom have approached me following a personal recommendation – and love having the variety, flexibility, and stimulation that collaboration with different businesses brings. I have had to adopt different working models and practices to fit in with their needs but for each one, I focus on getting under the skin of their business to deliver excellent results. Whether it’s an ongoing relationship of more than three years (and still going strong) or a one-off project that lasts a couple of weeks I am confident of always adding value as well as learning from other people.

It may sound a cliché but if anyone asks if I’d ever change anything about going freelance, my answer really would be that I wish I’d done it sooner. Thanks to everyone who’s played a part in my independent career so far – hospitality is a great sector to be involved in and I’m raising a toast to the next five years.