We recently caught up with last year’s INSPIRE winner, freelancer illustrator Emmeline Pidgen, to hear about her experience of the IPSE-QA Awards, and how it has helped her business since.

Could you tell us about your experience participating in the IPSE-QA Awards?

"Taking part in the awards was an incredible experience –the effect that it had on my confidence, as well as the sense of acceptance from the freelance community, has been so meaningful for me. One of my favourite things about the awards were the hugely diverse and friendly bunch of finalists; it was so brilliant to get out there and make those connections with fellow freelancers!"

Why did you decide to apply to the IPSE-QA Awards?

"Back in 2014 I was a finalist in the 15 for 15 awards, which later developed into the IPSE-QA awards. I had such an amazing time as a 15 for 15 finalist, I thought that, a few years down the line, it would be worth the shot at applying for the new awards, at least as a challenge to myself."

How did you find the judging process?

"The early round of judges presentations for the finalists came at a time when I had been dealing with a lot of anxiety, so standing up there and presenting my business to a panel was one huge, nerve-wracking step for me! To hear at the awards that after my presentation the judges had unanimously said “she’s the one!” gave me so much more faith in my own abilities, and allowed me to second-guess myself when negative thoughts pop up.

"That experience is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career to date; I honestly thought I’d fluffed the presentation (after a few technical problems and a waver of my voice), but to know that I had done well when I thought I hadn’t just goes to show how different our internal perspectives can be to those around us – a thought that can apply to so many areas in life!"

In what way has winning the award helped your business?

"The past year has been full of so much more creativity without any worry of seeking out commissions to pay the bills – I’ve delved straight into working on some projects I feel really excited about! I’ve also had the chance to nurture some of the friendships and connections I made at the awards, with collaborations and commission referrals with a lot of the other finalists from this year and last year!

"Aside from those more tangible successes, the confidence and reassurance that comes with the title Freelancer of The Year has been incredible, it’s allowed me to become more secure in striving for fair commission practices, and rights for freelancers in general."

What advice would you give to those thinking about applying?

"If you have a passion for what you do, and you are as excited by freelancing as I am, there is really no reason not to enter! It’s been such a great experience for me, and I can’t wait to meet the finalists from this year’s awards."