Officrèche Blog

Brighton is the best city to freelance in the UK

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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 best city uk freelancing

Quality of life is great in Brighton, but what makes it a great city for freelancing and small business?

Why Brighton is the perfect freelancers city

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.

Brighton has the highest ratio of freelancers and business owners to population 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…

Brighton’s progressive businesses

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.

You’ll be surrounded by fellow small businesses

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.

Brighton’s packed with freelance meetups

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 residents support small business

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 small businesses

Brighton is a hub for small business, and a perfect place to launch your freelance career

Transport links to London

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 has an incredible support network for freelancers

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.

Conferences and events

Brighton is a hotspot for conference organisers who want something a little fresher and more fun than the London atmosphere. Here are a few:

Meaning Conference

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.

BrightonSEO

BrightonSEO is the world’s leading conference for all things SEO and digital marketing. It now sells out faster than Glastonbury too… No, really.

Develop Conference

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

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.

Brighton Digital Festival

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

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.

Brighton’s startup incubators

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.

Brighton has pubs and cafés galore

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.

brighton pub freelancing

The Black Lion pub has been around since the 1500s, and has a long and colourful history. It’s also a wifi hotspot…

Access to talent

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.

Hiring staff in the future from universities

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.

Our guides to freelancing in Brighton

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…

  • Brighton accountants – the best accountants in Brighton who work with freelancers, self-employed, and small businesses.
  • Wifi cafes in Brighton – where to find the speediest wifi, trendiest spots, and tastiest coffee in town.
  • Brighton coworking spaces – ready to make the leap into a coworking space? Here are our favourite Brighton-based coworking spots.

Begin your freelance career in Brighton

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?

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  • Steve Twyley

    Love being a freelancer in Brighton, I agree that it’s people’s attitudes that make the biggest difference. I also recommend meetup.com to find likeminded groups

    Reply

  • Simon

    Hi, I’m a bona fide music and sports journo from Manchester, looking to relocate south. Would love to try freelance but worried the market may already be flooded in the above specialities in the Brighton area. Any ideas? Regards

    Reply

    • Rob Post author

      Hey Simon, great to hear from you! Here are a few thoughts:

      1) If you haven’t already got a site of your own, get one! Publish a portfolio on their of your pieces, maybe get some testimonials from publications you’ve written for, and continue to provide fresh and insightful content through it too.

      2) Start networking immediately. Yup, even before you leave Manchester, you can start networking with others in the digital space. I’d recommend Twitter – it’s heaving with journalists, and building a contact base before you get down here means you can hit the ground running to a degree, and learn of the best events in sports/music journalism locally, meetup groups, and further build your network through friends of friends.

      3) For sports: Get together a list of every publication working locally (covering local teams) and nationally. I’m not a big football guy, but you’ve got the benefit of B&H Albion being very newsworthy due to their consistently strong performance in their league, so a journalist on the ground in Brighton is an asset to national publications too. Reach out to them all in whatever way possible.

      4) For music: get involved with promoters and musicians – both are keen to promote their events, and it might mean some mutual backscratching at first. Interviewing bands, for example, for your own site, who’ll then share the content with their 5000 Facebook followers, which then gets you spotted by other artists, publications, etc. Brighton is filled with musicians and there are multiple gigs every night – try contacting magazines like Brighton Source or XYZ Magazine – someone somewhere will want you to cover something if you keep asking enough!

      5) You don’t need to go all-in on freelance initially. Treat it as a longer term goal – it will take time before it becomes a stable income. However, that doesn’t mean balance it with part-time work in an unrelated field. Source some local companies that can offer something relevant to your experience or your connections, and aim for part-time work with them. Obviously this is easier said than done, but it’s a healthy way to both provide an income AND continue launching your freelance career.

      Truly, Brighton’s a great city, you’ll have a great time here. Good luck and I hope this helps!

      Reply

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