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First-ever Freelance Business Day in Brussels
What a difference a survey makes. When Jenny Björklöf of Ghent decided to collaborate with two other people on organising a conference on starting your own business, they sent out a questionnaire across multiple social media networks.
The response was overwhelming – and unexpected. “They were not interested in learning how to become a freelancer,” says Björklöf (pictured), “they wanted to know how to become better.”
So the trio “threw our initial idea in the bin” and organised Freelance Business Day instead, focused on helping self-employed people to realise their goals. The event takes place on 14 April in Brussels and is entirely in English.
The programme is vast, with some 15 speakers taking freelancers through an array of topics, including how to stay motivated, getting grants and subsidies and making sure you’re properly insured.
The results of Björklöf’s survey showed that freelancers were most interested in drafting legal documents and digital marketing, so those topics are in there, too. And naturally, there will be time for networking.
“There is quite a lot of governmental support for businesses, but as a foreigner, it can be a bit of a jungle to get through it all,” says Björklöf, herself a native of Finland. “So we wanted to make it easier and have all of that information available during one long day. That’s why our programme is quite jam-packed.”
Björklöf has lived in Ghent for several years, arriving in 2009 to work for Volvo. But she spent one of the ensuring years in Ireland, when her cousin asked her to come over and help him start a business.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” she says, “and I thought that was a great opportunity to discover what it’s actually like to run a business,” she says.
“I found getting information kind of difficult, and I started looking around for networking events. But I couldn’t find any that really suited me. Finally I found Entrepreneurs Anonymous in Dublin, and I thought they had an interesting concept. They’d meet once a month, anyone interested in entrepreneurship was welcome, and they always had a successful entrepreneur as a speaker.”
The only trouble was, she was in Cork. She contacted the co-ordinator and asked him to come speak where she lived. “He said He couldn’t do that but that I should organise my own chapter.”
So she did. Ultimate, the cousin’s business – garden sheds – didn’t work out, but Björklöf found her calling as an event organiser. She returned to Ghent and began organising Entrepreneurs Anonymous there. “At first I thought that there were so many start-up networking events in Ghent, why would anyone come to this one? Then I realised: There was nothing in English.”
50th anniversary of freelance status
This was a few years ago, when the expat scene in Ghent “exploded,” she says. While Entrepreneurs Anonymous is still ongoing, Björklöf has also started her own business in event organising and marketing.
When her Entrepreneurs Anonymous co-manager told her about all the international freelancers in Brussels she knew of, the wheels started turning. In only a couple of months, they were able to find more than enough professional speakers and even some public funding – from the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed.
Unbeknownst to the organisers of Freelance Business Day, this year marks the 50th anniversary of self-employed as a protected employment status. The state has several campaigns related to the anniversary, so were keen to help with this event.
To Björklöf’s knowledge, this is the first time such an event has been held in English in Belgium. And the interest would suggest that it’s needed. “It’s been so easy to get people to collaborate on this. If it’s successful this year, we’ll do it every year.”
Places for Freelance Business Day are limited, so anyone interested is advised to register now
Photo: Jenny Björklöf will herself give a presentation during Freelance Business Day