It’s no secret – we love our hometown of Brighton for so many reasons. But Brighton also continually proves to be a fantastic city to start your freelance career.
The quality of life in Brighton second-to-none, with its bountiful variety of things to do. Sandwiched between the sea and the South Downs National Park, and recognised as the 4th happiest city in the UK, Brighton is a wonderful place to be. 9 out of 10 Brightonians are happy with where they live. But how about in terms of your career? If you’re looking to begin freelancing, then look no further.
Brighton’s awash with reasons for being a fantastic city for freelancing, but we’ve put together a few reasons that makes Brighton different to other cities in the UK.
Discounting London, which suffers from skewed figures due to it being an internationalisation target for many companies, Brighton boasts the highest number of businesses per head of population than any other city in the UK.
Brighton has one business for every 20 residents in the city. In 2014, Brighton saw 8,344 startups created in the city – that’s one startup for every 33 residents. Compared with heavyweights such as Birmingham and Manchester, Brighton demonstrates an extremely entrepreneurial population. By comparison, despite seeing 18,337 startups created in Birmingham, when population is accounted for this is one business for every 60 residents.
What this data shows is that Brighton is at the forefront of entrepreneurial activity. Sure, this doesn’t really explain why Brighton is so perfect for starting your freelance career, but rather that it’s commonplace here to do so. You won’t be alone when doing so. Perhaps it’s something in the coastal air. Or perhaps it’s…
From the unusual products that Brighton’s businesses bring to market (Vegetarian Shoes, anyone?) to the very culture and systems involved in the local businesses, Brighton’s always been a bit different. With businesses like Brandwatch and Nixon McInnes pioneering new styles of management and culture, it’s safe to say that business in Brighton is a little different.
This is reflected in employee working patterns. With more and more residents eschewing the regular 9-5 in favour of more flexible and modern working styles, there are few other cities in the UK that are so open to new ways of working. Businesses are thus more accustomed to working with freelancers.
Brighton’s business make-up is unusual. A tiny 0.5% of the local businesses are deemed ‘large employers’ (i.e. employing over 200 people). A whopping 86.4% are considered very small, employing between 1-10 people.
This culture of small business permeates through the city, and is cyclical in nature – the more small businesses there are, the more tempting it becomes to join the herd.
Specifically meetup.com meetups! Meetup.com, for those unaware, is a one-stop hub for gatherings from any niche, and there are plenty related to freelancing itself (such as the Brighton Home Workers group) or to your specific industry. Writers, developers, photographers, interior designers, dressmakers… there are groups for all of you. This is an excellent way to quickly get networked and share best practice, and learn from others how to score your first clients in Brighton.
There’s also plenty of meetups for everything else, from casual games of footie, to bushcraft, to yoga, to just grabbing a beer. You never know what connections you might make… and hey, it’s not all about work anyway!
Brighton consumers are unusually biased towards independents. We love our city being made up of small businesses. One only has to look at the recent furore around Burger King attempting to open a branch in the Laines (practically considered sacred by residents) to see this. It’s further evidenced by Goodmoney’s ‘Brighton Pound’ – money that can only be used within Brighton and with local and independent shops and services.
As a freelancer in Brighton, it’s not unusual to benefit from the sheer fact that you’re a local.
Brighton is just down the road from London. Very much the economic powerhouse of the UK, but at a mere 50 minutes away via train, it’s easy for freelancers to find London-based clients, training, and networks to tap into. Brighton offers freelancers all the benefits of London living, without the costs and claustrophobic living conditions.
Brighton offers fantastic support for business startups and freelancers. It includes broad networks such as the Brighton Chamber of Commerce, which boasts a training schedule that’s chock full of events throughout the year (including their annual ‘Ride the Wave’ initiative with free business workshops.
Other more specific networks exist. For example, Wired Sussex offers support, training, and a freelance jobs board to people working in the digital sector.
Oh, and there’s even a Brighton Business Curry Club… you’d be surprised how much fun networking over vindaloo can be.
And don’t worry… Officrèche is there for you parents too! We’ll look after your little ones whilst you crack on with work.
Brighton is a hotspot for conference organisers who want something a little fresher and more fun than the London atmosphere. Here are a few:
The Meaning Conference is an absolute must-try that’ll stay with you for months afterwards – focusing on how business can be a force for good in the world. If you’re not already inspired by the thought of a freelance career and running you’re own business, this will get you there.
Develop is Europe’s leading game development conference. For you bedroom coders looking to make the next Angry Birds, this is an absolute must.
dConstruct is a gathering of brilliant business minds and thinkers from the world of design. Given a broad topic (2015’s theme focused on Back to the Future) the speakers are free to run wild. Think of it as the design world’s answer to TED Talks.
Not a conference itself, but Brighton Digital Festival takes place every September. It’s made up of grassroots activities and events, including free training, conferences, startup workshops, and more quirky events. There’s even a few things for the children, such as Raspberry Pi sessions and coding for kids.
ffconf is for all the creative coders out there – this is a must-attend one-day conference on front-end development. Great for any freelance front-end devs out there, this conference is packed with talks and a few workshops to boot.
Leading on from the business support, Brighton is also packed with incubators and similar organisations. Field offers support to a cohort of seven startups at a time. The Happy Startup School has a range of workshops from e-courses to full retreats. The University of Sussex’s Innovation Centre provides a range of services that help businesses to go on to be successful.
This means that not only is there further support and networks available, but that there are plenty of startups finding their feet in Brighton who may need your services as a freelancer.
Yes, everyone loves a beer. But, as any freelancer knows, cafés and pubs will be your new meeting spaces, so it helps that Brighton has both quantity and quality. There are literally thousands, and very few are alike. There’s nothing quite like scoring a new contract with a client in Marwood café’s recreation of a 1980s boy’s bedroom.
It’s no surprise that, from much of what’s mentioned above, Brighton attracts fantastic talent. You’ll be surrounded by skilled people from many, many disciplines from whom you can learn. Again, networking is key here, but the benefits it offers means your freelance career will grow rapidly.
Brighton is a student town. Two huge universities means that students make up about 11% of Brighton’s population. How does this benefit your freelance career? Well, if you decide to take the big leap from freelance to small business, then look no further for new employees. Apprentices, interns, and students fresh out of uni looking for their first job can help you grow your business at a modest cost.
Sold on joining the ever-growing, ever-ambitious crowd of freelancers in Brighton? We’ve got you covered. We’re putting together guides of everything you need to know about getting started in this wonderful city. Here are some of the guides we’ve done thus far…
So, what do you say? Ready to take the leap? There’s no better place than Brighton to do so.
What’s your experience of freelancing in Brighton & Hove? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below and tell us about your business. Also, we’d love to know what would help you get started with your freelance career in Brighton – we’re putting together Brighton freelancing guides to support you. What guides would you like to see?