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.

How to stay motivated during business challenges.

Any business has its challenges, there’s no doubt about it. Many of our partners in The Northern Affinity are self employed or part of an SME. These often pose their own unique ups and downs. How do we stay motivated when we hit the inevitable bumps in the road? We thought we’d compile a few tips and tricks to keep you going when the going gets tough. 

Set short term goals.

We all have big goals for our businesses, there’s no doubt about it. Ambition is imperative to driving a successful business forward. However, sometimes in challenging times, those goals and aspirations can feel a million miles away. Setting a list of short term goals will help to plan out your days and, more importantly, give you a sense of achievement at the end of them! 

If you know you want to double your annual turnover in 5 years, break that down into smaller manageable chunks. This way, you can devise a realistic and achievable action plan and get your mojo back. Whether it’s a bad day or a bad week, reaching those mini victories is a fantastic way of keeping your business moving forward. 

Remember to take care of yourself.

70 million work days are lost every year because of mental health related issues. Pretty alarming, right? 

When we start out in business, we often forget about looking after number one. Understandably, we put our hearts and souls into making ourselves and our companies a success but this means we sometimes forget to put the same effort in to ourselves and our own wellbeing. 

If you’re finding yourself becoming unmotivated or disillusioned, maybe it’s time to evaluate whether you’re doing right by yourself. After all, a car can’t run when it’s all out of fuel. The ‘SHED Method’ is a practical way of checking in with yourself to find out whether you’re performing at your best. Put some time back into you so you can maximise the time you put into your business. 

Relight your fire. 

This may be the simplest of advice but often the hardest to heed. It’s really hard to stay motivated during challenging times if you lose sight of the reason you started. Motivation without underlying desire will only get you so far. 

At times like these, it’s useful to have nailed down your business mission, vision and values. Being able to refer back to these will be useful during difficult periods. You will remember why you started. 

Despite living in a world where we now expect instantaneous results, business is not an easy route. There will always be challenges whether you’re a multi million pound cooperation or just starting out with your first business. Results take time and effort and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. In The Northern Affinity, we hope we provide a support network to our partners; a soundboard for new ideas and a shoulder to lean on during the tough times. You can read more about finding your business tribe in our previous blog.

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. 

Finding your business tribe – the benefits of networking.

Maybe we’re biased, but we think networking groups are a pretty good idea. Whether you’re a regular at your group’s weekly meeting or part of a social media message, there’s a community out there for everyone. There’s many benefits to joining a group; we think we can sum them up to three main wins. 


Whenever starting a new business, it’s important to be visible. A community can help get your business on the map and get your name out to a whole range of new clients. Some argue that visibility is as equally important as ability. Never underestimate the power of a word of mouth referral! 

There are many opportunities for business collaboration when you join a networking group. Your product or service might be the missing ingredient for someone else’s growth. Utilise your new connections to get a fresh perspective on business challenges and get lots of fresh ideas on how to move forward.


Once we get older, we forget that we have a lot to learn. There are many opportunities to share knowledge when part of a network. Often groups will have guest speakers specialising in their particular field. You might even realise that that speaker is the key player in helping you implement your latest idea. 

Take advantage of the variety of different businesses you meet. You might meet the person who can help you elevate your business to the next level over a cup of tea! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Chances are, you will be able to get an answer to every question from your new connections. 


Working from home or on your own, whether you’re self employed or not, can be lonely. One of the most obvious benefits to finding your business community is the social life that comes with it. 

Business can be a tough game. It’s important to know you have others around that understand your challenges and can offer support when times get tough! Networks will often hold events for their partners. You can catch up with your connections and hear from many inspiring people in other fields. The Northern Affinity’s next partner event will be held on Friday 28th February and is open to non-partners so if you’re looking to find your business tribe, please book a place today. 

Finding your community in business boasts many different benefits. Whether you’re aiming to make new connections, learn something new or just looking to make some new friends, there’s something for everyone. If you’d like some more information about The Northern Affinity and how we can connect your business to other like minded professionals, please get in touch and arrange a meeting today.

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 31st January 2020

We enjoyed a fantastic partner event on Friday. It was a great opportunity to connect and share valuable knowledge. We will be hosting these events on the last Friday of every month at the Northern HQ

Business and Brand Strategy

Distinguishing a clear business and brand strategy can be confusing. However, we were lucky enough to hear from Brenda Etchells (Carduus Ltd) and Fliss Lee (Honest Folk) about combining the two to find the ‘sweet spot’ where your business values meet your customers values to create one cohesive strategy.

We have all experienced a business who don’t seem to practise what they preach when it comes to company values. We discussed at length the importance of defining your values; not just by using positive buzz words you think your customer wants to hear, but by delving in to what really matters to your customers and ingraining these in the way you run your business. 

Using some interesting examples, we learnt more about what makes up branding (it’s more than just a logo!) and how making some simple changes can strengthen your brand and help towards achieving your business goals.


Sales Mentality

In the afternoon, we welcomed Pete Evans (Ventas Sales) who took us through the sales process, with a difference. Identifying your sales mindset and knowing where your weaknesses are will ultimately improve your performance. Even simple things like putting your phone away before a pitch can make all the difference to your mindset when entering the room. 

One thing we often forget with sales is the importance of practising the process. Grab a friend or your business partner and go through your pitch so you’re confident before stepping into the room with the big players! There were lots of useful things to take away and I think we will all be spicing up our sales process and improving our mindsets to make sure we achieve our goals in sales.

The Northern Affinity News

Yorkshire Meetups

We are very grateful that many of you travel from far and wide to come and connect which is why we’re looking into arranging some future sessions in both Huddersfield and Harrogate to expand our community at The Northern Affinity. 

Dates for your diary: 

Our second round of peer group taster sessions will be running on Wednesday 26th February.
There will be a free open-day for hot deskers on Wednesday 27th February. Please share this with your connections who may be interested in trying out the co-working environment.
Sarah Bradley will be running a HR clinic on Wednesday 27th February for anyone wishing to discuss their HR strategy.
The next peer group coaching session for The Northern Affinity partners will be taking place on the morning of Friday 28th February before the next partner meeting. This meeting will be open for non-members to attend so please invite your connections along. Please contact Michael to reserve a space. 

For further details on The Northern Affinity and any upcoming events, please contact Michael.

Think about how you have helped people and not just hitting targets!

For those that know me, know that my background is business development and sales. I also worked predominately in the banking sector and did so around the time of the financial crisis. 

When you work in sales, and in the banking sector, there is a culture of target setting and many workers are set targets depending on the amount of sales they make, or the amount of business they bring in. With these targets come rewards. 

There is no doubt about it; target setting in sales works! I have never met a sales person that has ever achieved great things without some form of targets being set and rewards being granted. 

My main issue however with these points is that as soon as you start bragging about these points, you can start to alienate your customer – and it does not set the right image whatsoever. 

You see, we should all be in business to help one another. Sure, there are monetary rewards and profits to be made – but all of us work as we have a solution to a problem that someone else needs. We just make a profit on that solution. That is business theory brought down to a very basic level. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with making profit. However, the appearance of bragging about making big commissions and ‘smashing your targets’ can really portray the wrong image to your customers old, current, and future. 

Your customers will turn to you to solve a problem that they have in that current time. That should ideally be your main priority as a sales person or business man. If your sole focus is on making commission, making money, or hitting targets is your heart in the right place? Is this how you want your next customers to feel when they walk through your door; just a commission hit, or the next target?

Now, I am not against offering targets or financial rewards where they are justified. These things can work wonders to increase business and to boost profits. They also make a great impact on staff morale and can, if done right, create a great culture to work in. But for your PR and your marketing image these should really remain in house.

Your marketing image and PR view should always be that of helping customers solve the problems they have, to develop long-term relationships with your customers and to offer solutions for your customer needs. 

Hitting targets and earning high amounts of commission should be kept under-wraps and in-house – these elements of success should be hidden from any form of marketing strategy whether planned or unplanned. 

If anything were to go wrong, just like they did during the banking crisis, you only leave yourself open to criticism which will only incur lasting damage upon your brand and marketing message which will be very hard to repair. 

So next time you feel the need to boast about your latest achievements, just think to yourself: “Is this the right message I want to be putting across to my customers?”

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