As part of our new service, we aim to offer transcribed versions of our interviews; for those who don’t have time to listen to audio. A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of interviewing Debbie Ford about her project The Last Friday Club Chichester.
Jamie: Can you just tell me a little bit about how the ‘Last Friday Club’ started, and what the motivation is?
Debbie: I started the ‘Last Friday Club’, which is a networking group for freelancers, typically digital creatives, digital marketers and solo entrepreneurs, in May 2016; that was when we had our first meeting. I had just recently gone freelance contracting myself, and suddenly found that I really missed having a team around me. I spoke to my friend Emily Perry, who has an HR consultancy, and asked her about what she does to get leads, to network, what she recommended locally in Chichester and the various groups that were around. We felt that there was nothing really quite there for someone in my position, so we decided to setup our own networking group.
We looked at what models were already out there, and recognised that maybe having a subscription and a compulsory subscription, wasn’t actually very practical for some freelancers; particularly when you’re just getting started. We looked at venues and want to try and support independent businesses in Chichester. So we called in favours from a number of our connections around the city, and we use only independent venues including the likes of Hennings, Forum, Pallant Gallery; we don’t charge them anything at all. All that we ask is members or attendees buy a cup of tea, coffee or chip in for a pastry.
Jamie: So what are the benefits, how does it work?
Debbie: The way in which it works, is that we have an open Facebook page, a Twitter page and a closed members group. Once you’ve attended a meeting, then you get access to the closed members group. Not before, because that’s really where the value is; in terms of some expertise and information within the group. Here we are nearly 2 years in, which is incredible and surprising! We have over 100 people on our mailing list, and regularly have about 25 people attend. There are always new people, lots of returning people, some who manage to make it every month and some who haven’t made it in a long time.
Jamie: Would you say it was mainly digital media, or do you get other industries as well?
Debbie: There are a few. We do have a guy who does Laser tattoo removal. We also have a lady who is a curator of a small gallery in town. There is quite a variety of people, but given the modern world, there are a lot of people in the creative industries. Typical of the freelance industry, a lot of them will be digital marketing; that’s just the nature of the beast really.
Jamie: Yes. When someone goes to a meeting, what would they expect?
Debbie: We don’t do an elevator pitch, as we don’t want anyone to feel that they are put on the spot in any way. We appreciate that networking has some interesting reputations; some people feel very put on the spot and have to hard sell. We don’t go in for the hard sell at all, we opt more for collaboration. However when you’re coming along for the first time, we will encourage. We have a cup of coffee and a little chat as we’re getting started. Then we do a very brief discussion round the table. Typically, Emily and I will come up with a question. Examples include:
- What has been your greatest challenges
- What are you hoping for
- What are you doing less or more of.
- What are you looking for particularly?
We ask people to introduce themselves, as part of that conversation. There’s always time afterwards for people to have their one to one chats. We follow up with a reminder of the attendees by emails, so people can be reminded as to who was there and who wasn’t; incase they didn’t quite catch a name. No-one is expected to stand up for a couple of minutes and pitch themselves. That’s not what we’re about, we are much more of a collaborative, friendlier group.
Jamie: With this project, where do you want to go with it?
Debbie: In terms of the Last Friday Club, I’d like it to continue. I always refer to it as Last Friday Club Chichester because I definitely see it as a model that could work elsewhere. If there’s any other Debbie Fords or Emily Perrys out there who think it could work, have a chat with me! I’d love to see it work elsewhere.
For more information about the Last Friday Club, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LastFridayClubChi/