Our top tips for freelancers.

There are a number of people who have seen the pandemic as a blessing in disguise; the perfect opportunity to take the leap of faith into freelance work; the chance to be their own boss, call the shots and pursue work they’re truly passionate about.

A large part of our community is made up of wide ranging freelancers. Going self employed is a dream for many and we’re glad to welcome such a diverse group of people and skills in The Northern Affinity. With this in mind, we thought who better to ask for tips for those going freelance, than those who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. 

Find a strong support network. 

This is something that came up time and time again. Anyone going from a bustling company to go it on their own can miss the hustle and bustle and support of their colleagues. 

It’s a lonely place so make sure you have a good support group around you’

Brenda Etchells

It makes the world of difference knowing you have a diverse and supportive network of like minded individuals you can lean on for advice. You’ll also increase your likelihood of collaborations and also, you’ll just learn an awful lot about other industries outside your own. What’s not to love? 

‘The freelance network is amazing – I feel like I have finally found a place I belong after years of feeling like an outsider. So much camaraderie, support, help, cheerleading and virtual brews (and biscuits). Prepare to be asked what your favourite biscuit is – it is a hot topic in the freelancing world.’

Helen Hill

Money matters. 

Us Brits aren’t always that transparent about talking money. But how do we know if we’re getting it right if we can’t discuss these things? First time freelancers have a habit of under selling themselves. Know your worth and don’t be embarrassed about charging what you’re worth. 

There’s lots of useful guidance out there about calculating your rates. You might find an hourly rate isn’t actually suitable for you. Take a look at this handy article from the Freelancers Union

Be open to trying new things. 

Like with anything new, it can take a little while to find your flow. It might take some trial and error before you land on exactly what your offering is. You might even find that your freelance career takes you in a different direction entirely! 

‘Try to avoid the temptation to just keep your head down, get your work done and get money in . Keep exploring opportunities to connect with others both within and outside of your industry, be open to reading and learning generally about business and marketing (not just your industry).’

Kate Stansfield

The NA - Kate Stansfield

In the first instance, you’ll need to be your whole business; the marketer, the accountant, anything! So it’s good to keep an open mind. Read as much as you can. Ask trusted colleagues and friends for advice. Don’t be afraid of exploring outsourcing opportunities. We can’t all be the bees knees at everything. 

‘Be open to trying new things – it can bring a wealth of new opportunities you didn’t expect! For example, I have worked in industries and areas that I hadn’t before, written for an industry journal, do live interviews and broadcasts, and developed new services.’

Helen Hill

Business communities and networking groups are ideal for budding freelancers. You never know who’s around the corner that could help you learn, grow your business or that you could work with in the future. 

At The Northern Affinity, collaboration is at our core. We’re here to help you make those connections so you can do what you love to do. After all, love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life, right? 

For more information on becoming part of The Northern Affinity, please contact us today.

Top tips if you’re new to networking

Walking into a room full of strangers can be an intimidating prospect, no matter how confident you are. Networking is a brilliant tool to get to know other like minded people and businesses in your local area, but it can be challenging. At The Northern Affinity, we’re all about helping you to build your very own business community. We wanted to bring you a few easy tips and tricks to make your networking experience a fun and productive experience. 

“Turn up, listen up and follow up!”

‘It’s important to remember not to be afraid to show up and participate in an event. Focus and listen, ask questions about the other person rather than talking about yourself and then make sure you follow up with the people you have spoken to.’

Ian and Tracey Earl – In Business

Walk in with a plan.

When you’re walking into a networking event, there’s nothing worse than feeling aimless. It might be your first time, it might be your first time at a different group. Whether you’re on meeting number 1 or meeting 100, it’s always a good idea to go in there with a plan of action

Everyone’s version of success is different. It’s important that you set out some clear objectives so you can measure your success. You might want to walk out of there with three new contacts, you might want 15. You might want to organise a workshop or presentation, you might want to arrange a coffee with a new contact. When you set yourself achievable goals, you’re much more likely to want to continue to go to the meetings and push yourself out of your comfort zone in future. 

When we say a plan, there’s nothing wrong with planning out a few open questions if you’re feeling nervous. Having a few transferable questions in your arsenal can really help ease some of those first time nerves and will get the conversation flowing. 

Be clear on your offering. 

It’s often referred to as the ‘elevator pitch’, but whatever you call it, it’s imperative you know what it is you offer. Not only that but you ideally need to be able to explain it super concisely within a few short sentences. We talked more about clarifying your mission, vision and values in a previous blog. Knowing all of these will give you a great introduction to your business. You’ll have no worries about mincing your words! 

Don’t spread yourself too thin. 

When you start networking, it’s easy to feel like you want to join every possible group in your area. But don’t feel committed to staying with everyone if they don’t suit you and aren’t helping you achieve your goals for networking. After all, becoming a regular at a few events is hugely beneficial. Once people start to get to know you, they can start recommending you to others they meet. Third party recommendations always go down very well. Don’t downplay yourself by burning the candle at both ends. 

The Northern Affinity is a vehicle to introduce passionate, friendly businesses to each other. We’re proud to have created a brilliant community who support one another and add tremendous value to each business. Our partners not only benefit from our meetings but can also join our partners, In Business for their weekly sessions around the area. Our peer group coaching sessions are also an excellent alternative if you’re wanting to discuss your challenges in more detail.

Returning to work: managing employee mental health.

It’s safe to say that the last few months haven’t exactly gone to plan for most of us. Sadly, the pandemic out the brakes on a lot of great projects and at its worst, put jobs have sadly been lost. With an ever expanding conversation around mental health, how do we manage our wellbeing as we navigate through this next stage of either returning to work or going about applying for new positions? 

Communicate with your staff/employer.

Everyone’s personal circumstances are different. It’s therefore nearly impossible to expect everyone to have the same reaction to returning to work. While some will be excited and ready, other employees may be vulnerable, or living with someone considered vulnerable or at risk. They therefore may have a lot more reservations, particularly if they’re public facing or returning to a crowded office. 

It’s critical to have an open dialogue and find the best possible solution that will benefit both your business and your employees, not sacrificing one for the other. Are there some simple adaptations that can be made to accommodate those feeling confident? 

None of us have ever had to find our way through a situation like this before and it’s only by working together that we can move forward with everyone feeling safe, confident and listened to. 

Lean on your network. 

In The Northern Affinity, we’re so proud to have brought together such a community of partners. Throughout the entire lockdown period, communication has been strong and there has been a real sense of support and purpose. 

If you are feeling apprehensive or want to talk through some concerns, lean on your network. The chances are you’ll find a number of people with the same thoughts and also people who can offer advice or solutions to the challenges you face. Fundamentally, it’s about remembering to talk to others about what you’re going through. As business owners, we face so many challenges and responsibilities and it’s important to share and learn from others; it’s how we grow and evolve. 

Remember to take a break. 

Finally, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re all bound to hit a bump in the road and other obstacles but it’s important to take things day by day. If lockdown taught us all anything, it’s to remember to take a step back and to not sweat the small stuff quite as much. 

Hopefully, we all found the thing that brings us some calm in the weeks at home (even between juggling work and childcare in many cases). Now, with the country reopening it’s doors and encouraging us to go out and enjoy it, we can now start doing the things we enjoy again away from work. If you’ve been finding it hard to switch off, try to find the thing that makes it easier to shut the laptop at the end of the day. Without breaks, we can’t hope to give our all to our beloved businesses so finding that balance is crucial

None of us can know what’s to come in the next six months. All we can do is continue to follow the government guidelines to the best of our ability, support our peers and our local businesses. Communication will continue to be a key player. If you’d like to find out more about becoming a partner of The Northern Affinity, we’d love to hear from you. Join a group of like minded business owners as we all find our way towards a new and better normal.

The Northern Affinity Open Partners Meeting – Friday 29th May 2020

Our May meeting was one of the biggest turn outs we’ve had since the start of The Northern Affinity. It was brilliant to see faces old and new, ready to connect, share and learn. 

We began with the usual updates from Michael. We’re pleased to say our website has now been updated with a full list of our available services; you can view them here. Secondly, The Northern HQ has (as of yesterday) reopened its doors and we’re welcoming a reduced number of users back safely and comfortably. Following the news of slightly larger groups being able to meet, we’re going to look into putting together a series of local, outdoor events so we can still connect whilst maintaining social distancing measures. 

La Vue Photographique

Our first guest speaker was Angela Higham from La Vue Photographique. Angela walked us through the benefits of using commercial photography in business. First things first, you never get a second chance at a first impression. The average time it takes to form a first impression is roughly 0.05 seconds so you want to know you’ve got it right. Put your best foot forward with professional photography to give your customers a real sense of you and what you’re about. 

Your professional photographs will help you tell your brand story across your platforms; your website, social media and in any PR pieces. It’s a cost effective solution knowing you can re-purpose your images in a number of locations. An added benefit is that these images will help your web developer optimise the images for your website, rather than the hassle of resizing stock images. 


Socialsendr is an app designed to help those who are short of time to keep their social media profiles standing out. We were treated to a live demonstration from Michelle; showing us how we can all get started and get the most out Socialsendr.

The app is suitable for all desktops so you don’t need to worry about Apple vs. Windows. Users can personalise their experience to suit the needs of their business. You might want to add your own unique hashtags and URLs to fall in line with your wider branding. 

With LinkedIn content on the horizon in addition to Twitter and Facebook, the future is certainly an exciting time for Socialsendr. 

HR Dept, Leeds

Finally, Sarah Bradley took a break from talk of Furlough to deliver an interactive introduction to DISC profiling. DISC profiling is a technique commonly used in HR. A method of matching people and figuring out their preferable working styles, DISC profiling can help build team dynamics, increase self awareness, understand our working motivators and also develop a platform to reduce frustrations in the workplace. 

Having identified our own profiles, we had the opportunity to discuss how we might support people different from ourselves. There were many eye opening conversations and we all definitely took something away from it; how we can modify our behaviour when with people that fall into different categories and possibly why we react to certain things at work we maybe hadn’t realised before!

Thank you to everyone who joined us this month with particular thanks to Angela, Michelle and Sarah for sharing your expertise with us. Our next meeting will be taking place on Friday 26th June 2020. If you’d like any details from this meeting; information about desks at The Northern HQ, details of any of the guest speakers or about the next meeting, please get in touch with Michael. Let’s see how different things are by the end of June!

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 24th April 2020

Last Friday, we hosted our second virtual partners meeting. It was brilliant to see so many familiar faces and catch up. We’re all getting smoother with running the old Zoom meetings now! We were pleased to welcome several new partners to The Northern Affinity at this month’s meeting. Thanks for joining us and it’s fantastic to have you on board! Particularly during the current climate, it’s more important than ever to lean on one another for valuable knowledge, support and a listening ear. 

Latest news from The Northern Affinity.

Firstly, Mike kindly updated us on the many ways to get involved with The Northern Affinity. This includes making the most out of the platforms available. We want to be our partner’s cheerleaders and we’re always keen to get your news out there. That’s why we’re introducing guest blogging slots, podcasts, live video collaborations as well as updating our current directory with your latest services. 

We’ve also been working hard to improve the ways our partners can communicate internally; introducing Workplace, a number of collaboration sessions as well as our local events in Harrogate and Huddersfield (obviously on hold for now!) For those wanting support and advice, our peer group and accountability groups are running regularly and have received fantastic feedback. 

Caroline Joynson from Cheerleader PR.

Speaking of cheerleaders, we were lucky to be joined by Caroline Joynson of Cheerleader PR. Caroline walked us through the fundamentals of PR and the steps we can take to becoming our own biggest cheerleader in business. We learnt about the differences between PR and advertising; in other words, earned media vs. paid media. Gather as much social proof as possible as that third party endorsement will help your reputation going forward. Put yourself forward for podcasts, YouTube videos and blogs – anything you can do to make sure you’re sharing your brand with the world.

The shape of PR has changed since the rise of social media. Businesses now have the opportunity to showcase their own expertise through the use of different content marketing. PR and content marketing are a match made in heaven. This is why it’s important to focus your mind on your target audience. You want to make sure the right people are seeing your content. The final message we took away from Caroline was that PR is about getting ‘the right information to the right person at the right time.’ A big thank you to Caroline for sharing with us! If you’d like to present at a future meeting, please get in touch with Michael to arrange a date. 

Thank you to all our partners for another very positive and insightful meeting. It’s always good to see one another and catch up. Our next meeting will be taking place on Friday 29th May (on Zoom unless we hear anything different). To find out more details about the guest blogging, podcast and collaboration opportunities as well as the accountability and peer groups, please get in touch with Michael who can give you all the information you need.

Will networking go digital?

We’re all navigating our new normal for the time being; taking a step back from our usual day to day business processes and entering a new realm that’s entirely digital. Many of us have taken part in digitised versions of our usual meetings and networking groups over the last few weeks. Some are thriving with this new format, others are missing the old days. This poses the question – will networking groups eventually go permanently digital? 

Is classic face to face communication the way to go?
There are certainly many arguments in favour of face to face meetings. From both a business and scientific standpoint, we can all gain a lot from meeting our new prospects or colleagues for a traditional cup of coffee.

Body language makes up an enormous amount of what we say (without saying anything at all!) Through the digital sphere, our body language can get lost in translation. It can be difficult to fully read someone’s body language from the small box view on screen, not to mention see whether they’re distracted by their phone or an email just out of shot. 

When focusing on the words coming out of mouths, face to face communications can feel a lot less laboured. Conversation naturally ebbs and flows. This all goes towards helping build that rapport with the other person and hopefully establishing a deeper relationship that will be lucrative for both parties. 

Possibly the most obvious advantage of face to face networking is not having to worry about potential technical hiccups. No patchy connection breaking up your pitch or losing track because of the poor audio; in person, you can be solely focused on the task at hand without worry about disruption.

Digital all the way?
For some, this increase in digital networking and business transactions is much more convenient and stress free; particularly those used to working from home more regularly. Could it be that once things go back to normal, we see an increase in the number of businesses reducing the amount of travel by employees in favour of more digital processes? 

In our busy society today, it’s not always possible to find time to arrange a coffee or a meeting after meeting at a networking event. What could be a 30 minute Zoom call might turn into an entire afternoon’s chatting. For those wanting to maximise their time and cut out the travelling, digital might be the answer. In the same vein, results can often be faster when both parties are their desks, laptops at the ready. This cuts out the wait time between meeting someone and waiting for them to fulfil the actions from the meeting at a later date. 

One thing to be said for digital is accessibility. Webinars, online courses and meetings can be accessed by people anywhere, any time. Businesses can significantly increase their reach and ultimately widen their pool of prospects. 

There will surely always be a divide over best practice when it comes to this argument. No matter where you stand, there are many advantages to connecting with others. Everyone’s circumstances are different and it’s impossible to enforce a one size fits all approach. In the future, we may well see more of an amalgamation of the two platforms now we have all seen what’s possible when we embrace the digital sphere. 

At The Northern Affinity, we are still running webinars and industry collaborations on top of our monthly partner meetings. If you’d like any further information on this, please check the Eventbrite page or contact Michael for more details.

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 28th February 2020

Last Friday, The Northern Affinity welcomed some new faces for the first time in an open partner meeting. Thank you to everyone who came along. It was great to meet new faces and catch up with old ones. The theme of the day was protecting and growing your business. We were lucky to hear from several of our partners who delivered insightful and interesting presentations. 

Most of us get into business because we want to turn our passion into a reality. But that doesn’t always mean we’re the experts on everything to do with business. Luckily, we have partners who are on hand to help.

Firstly, we heard from Alex and Andy from ABL Business who gave us a practical guide to cash flow and why it’s important. Anita and Andrew (I Credit Management LTD) took us through how to keep your cash flowing to keep your business breathing. We then heard from Jeff Dunn of Spencer Hayes Group. His case study explored the importance of making sure you have the right commercial insurance. Finally, Gary Lumb (Yorkshire Rose Financial Planning) and Martin Hibbert (Alexander Calder) gave an insightful presentation on how you can protect you, your business and your future. Thank you to all of you for your time and expertise. 

Thank you to Aspire Igen who provided a fantastic buffet lunch for the event. Aspire Igen is a Yorkshire based social enterprise committed to helping change lives through access to education and work. You can find out more on their website.

The Northern Affinity News

We are planning to host a large number of future workshops, networking and training events at The Northern HQ and at least one other venue. These sessions will be £20 per person for two hours. Those interested in hosting a workshop should contact Michael for further details.

The Northern Affinity will also be expanding our services and switching up how we can help our partners going forward. More details of this will be unveiled at the April partners meeting.

Had a big breakthrough? Won a great new client? Please tell us! We want to hear all your good news. Please email Michael with any updates and we will help you share the news on social media.

The next meeting will be another open meeting on Friday 27th March 2020 at The Northern HQ

March Events and Workshops: 

Strategy – Business Plans and People Plans – Wednesday 4th March 2020

Introduction to The Northern Affinity – Thursday 5th March 2020

In Business – Marketing for busy small business owners – Thursday 12th March 2020

Declutter and Digitalise Your Workspace – Friday 13th March 2020

In Business – Networking – Tuesday 17th March 2020

Social Media Audit Masterclass – Friday 20th March 2020

Effective Leadership Skills – Wednesday 25th March 2020

Co-working open day – Thursday 26th March 2020

For further details on The Northern Affinity, becoming a partner or any upcoming events, please contact Michael.

Why we should support our local independents.

In The Northern Affinity, we love that we work with so many small businesses. It’s a great way of building community, developing leads and working collaboratively. However, it’s still challenging for independent businesses to make their initial mark. This week, we’re taking a look at why it’s so important to support local, independent businesses.

Keep your community varied.

Local businesses give the community flavour and personality. More people are making a point of seeking out unique, local gems rather than reverting to the ‘safe option’ chains. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, never underestimate the power of referrals

A community of varied businesses can even have a direct impact on tourism in the area. For example, places like Camden Market are full of independent businesses and drive thousands of tourists and consumers there every year. Their uniqueness and independence is something that is celebrated.

Does your town have a talking point? If you stumble across a local surprise, spread the word! Take your visiting friends to your favourite breakfast spot. Tell them about that amazing service you found. 

Meet the people behind the products. 

Consumers are making more of an effort to know exactly where their products and services come from. The advantage of purchasing independently is not only being able to get to know the story behind the product, but getting to know the people behind the business.  

Make the most of the personal touch. Your locals can tell you all about the area and refer you on to other independents and offer customer service that’s second to none. Even customer retention of 5% can drastically improve overall profit down the line

Support the local economy.

In its most basic form, when you shop local, you know your money has a better chance of staying in your community. Compared to buying from large chains, research showed that nearly double the amount of money from your purchase will be paid forward to the local economy, pretty good right? Not only this, you’re helping an entrepreneur get their foot in the door of business. 

Knowing what’s available in your area also means gaps in the market can easily be identified. Leave the way open for potential entrepreneurs to get up and running with just the service or product that you need. 

Statistically, there has been an increase of people wanting to make the most of their local independent businesses. From greengrocers and gardening services to secret brunch spots and mortgage advice, business communities grow and thrive with support from local people. If you’re starting out on your business journey, take a look at your local networking events. We looked at the importance of finding your business tribe in our previous blog. If you would like more information about The Northern Affinity and how we can support you, please feel free to get in touch today. 

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