Catching up with Lauren Razavi, IPSE’s 2016 Aspire Award Winner

IPSE's Tristan Grove speaks to 2016 Aspire Freelancer of the Year, Lauren Razavi

Firstly, can you just tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

I'm currently managing director of Flibl, a communications consultancy and learning provider based in Norwich. Before that, my business partner Jesse and I were travelling the world as digital nomads and working freelance in journalism and content strategy. When we decided to stop travelling for a while, we returned to our hometown of Norwich and set up a consultancy to shake up the local business scene and make opportunities for ambitious young people.  

After just 12 months, we have an in-house team of ten and we work regularly with freelance content producers – from writers to podcasters – from all over the world. And we're still only 25 and 29 years old ourselves! 

So, why did you first decide to go freelance?

I fell into freelancing completely by accident actually – and just found I loved it! I wanted to try my hand at freelance journalism while I was still at university, and by the time I finished my undergraduate degree, I’d built a reputation and contacts that meant I could use my freelance work to fund a full-time MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Over the next few years, freelancing allowed me to travel the world as a writer and learn a huge amount along the way.

Why did you decide to enter the National Freelancer of the Year Awards last year?

A self-employed friend mentioned IPSE and the annual Freelancer Awards to me a week before the application deadline, and I almost didn't submit because of the short turnaround! Ultimately though, I thought that applying would be a good opportunity to reflect on my personal goals and the work I'd done so far. So that Sunday night, I poured a glass of wine and started drafting…

How has winning the award helped your career?

Winning the award was incredibly gratifying at a moment when I wasn't sure where my career would go next. I was able to make business connections that I never would have made otherwise, and the whole experience built my confidence enormously. I don't think I would have had the confidence to pursue Flibl and make such rapid progress if I hadn't won the Aspire Award.

What have you been doing since winning the Aspire Freelancer of the Year Award?

I've been keeping very busy! I launched Flibl within a month of winning the award, and since then we've developed from a modest start-up in a cupboard-sized office to a diversified company with a team of ten in-house staff and a curated network of more than 2,000 freelancers worldwide.

What have been your greatest achievements over the last year?

I'm incredibly proud to have just launched a programme of Flibl Masterclasses in the East of England. The workshops focus on topics such as journalism, travel writing, brand storytelling and the future of work, and they're essentially a means of encouraging others to take the leap and pursue their dreams.

What I find most exciting is being able to make an inspirational impact in the part of the country I grew up in, where it can too easily feel like the only option for ambitious young people is to move to London.

What are your plans for the future?

My team and I are about to launch a non-profit campaign to position Norwich as the UK's first "sharing city" by 2020. So we're working with key stakeholders such as the local council, universities and colleges, businesses of all sizes and global urbanism experts to make sure our city embraces the collaborative economy and digital platforms. Our aim is to put Norwich on the map globally, improve vital things like social cohesion, the economy and sustainability, and inspire citizens to be an active part of their city's future.

Finally, what advice do you have for people thinking of going freelance?

Freelancing is the future of work, and early adopters will have more knowledge, more opportunities and more potential to innovate. So what are you waiting for?!

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