Awards: Yay or Nay.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to an excellent question from website lead generation consultant Tom Garfield.

He says:

“Are awards worth it?

Do you get business from them? Is it worth the effort of entering? Do clients care about them? Should we be applying for as many as we can?! It seems like winning awards is a good idea, but I just don’t know what to think.”


• • • • •

AXA Business Insurance Logo

This episode is supported by AXA Business Insurance.

At AXA Business Insurance, we know that running any small business is hard work; but making your freelance business a success while looking after the kids can be a real challenge. That’s why it’s AXA’s mission to make your business insurance easy through tailorable cover to suit your freelance business and a 24-hour legal and tax helpline for when you need a tricky question answered.

And while we’re making insurance easier, you can focus on what matters — making your business a success for your family.

Work hard, insure easy.

Visit AXA’s Business Guardian Angel for more business help and support.

AXA Insurance UK Plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:05:01] – Steve
OK, this time the question comes from Tom Garfield.

Tom says:

“Are awards worth it? Do you get business from them? Is it worth the effort of entering? Do clients care about them? Should we be applying for as many as we can? It seems like winning awards is a good idea, but I just don’t know what to think”.

Full disclosure: once a month, Frankie and I kind of do a live version of the podcast live on video in the Doing It For The Kids community and the community can respond live. The question-er is live on the call as well. It’s fun.

[00:05:37] – Frankie
It is good fun!

[00:05:38] – Steve
And Tom asked this question on that.

[00:05:41] – Frankie
Yeah, we have talked about this already in the community. But it’s such a good question, we agreed that it would be relevant to lots of people listening.

[00:05:49] – Steve
I am a fan of entering awards, and one of the reasons isn’t even about winning them. There’s something about applying — whatever it is — you’re going to have to present your application, the reason, justify why you deserve to win. And just going through that process, just hitting pause on your business for a moment and stopping and reflecting and then writing it down, I think that’s a real confidence boost.

[00:06:16] – Frankie

[00:06:16] – Steve
You don’t even have to make the final. Just going through that process yourself is a good one.

[00:06:23] – Frankie
So we’ve won two British Podcast Awards. Both times I remember us both going, “Fucking hell, look at what we did!” It’s a really good opportunity when you put those applications together to reflect on what you’ve done, like, not just the work, but what it meant to you, what you put into that work, what you sacrificed to make that work.

It feels amazing to just reflect, because we so rarely do that, do we? When do we ever sit down and go, “Oh, that’s really cool work”? I mean, some people do, but most of us are, like, just getting through the days.

[00:06:58] – Steve
There’s the credibility. People want to work with winners, don’t they? You go into a shop, you see a bottle of wine, it’s got a sticker on it saying it’s won an award — you’re more likely to pick up that bottle of wine. I can’t tell you how many films I’ve watched just because they were on the Oscar shortlist.

[00:07:15] – Frankie

Weird noises downstairs…

[00:07:20] – Frankie
But yes, if it’s from a legit, industry recognised awards, of course it gives you credibility. And you’re right, it’s a really good point about people like… working with successful people. Like, success breeds success, right?

Yeah. If you’ve been recognised by your industry as making good work, then more people are going to want to make good work with you, and a higher quality of clients potentially are going to want to make good work with you.

[00:07:45] – Frankie
*Banging noises* What the hell is going on? Can you hear that? I think he’s putting some pictures on the wall downstairs, but it’s like, right under my desk. He bought home a load of stuff from his dad’s house, so he’s putting up pictures of, like, him when he was four and stuff like that which is kind of sweet, but also not right now??

[00:08:07] – Frankie
Yes, I think it does give you credibility. I think it does ultimately encourage clients to maybe choose you over somebody else, choose your bottle of wine over another one that hasn’t got a sticker on it. Fine. But I don’t necessarily think that winning an award equals more work or better work, or more opportunities to just appear.

[00:08:28] – Frankie
I don’t know, just like, based on conversations I’ve had with people after we won our awards, where people are like, “You’ve made it! People must just be throwing sponsorship at you” blah, blah, blah. “All these opportunities must be opening up”. And I’m like, “No, I’ve still got to work for those opportunities. Those opportunities aren’t just appearing in my inbox”. You’ve still got to, like, make shit happen for yourself.

But winning an award gives you the confidence to make those opportunities for yourself, if you see what I mean. You’re equipped to go out and be like, “Yes, I want that gig! I want to approach that sponsor! I want to do that project with that client!” in a way that you just wouldn’t necessarily feel able to do that if you haven’t… I’ve really not articulated this well…

It might give you the confidence to even knock on the door in the first place is what I’m saying.

[00:09:18] – Steve
It gives you the confidence, but it also gives you a reason because when you get in touch with them, you’re like, “Hey, blah, blah, blah, I’ve got this award”.

It opens that door, but you have to knock on the door.

[00:09:28] – Frankie
I just wouldn’t want anybody to feel… If they went through all the process of applying, paying to be in it, pay to play, going through the process, maybe they are nominated, having to present something or do an interview and then going to the awards thing and then winning it.

I wouldn’t want them to then feel disappointed when suddenly there’s this massive anticlimax where shit’s not suddenly showing up for them that they were expecting to show up. Because, yes, that might happen because somebody sees that you’ve won it and therefore approaches you. But in my experience, you still have to put in the work.

But it’s an excuse to knock on some doors, and it gives you the confidence to knock on some doors, and it also gives you the confidence to have conversations to nail the job, get that client because you’re like, “Hey, I’m awardwinning now. Come on!”

[00:10:16] – Steve
She did jazz hands at that time.

[00:10:18.101] – Frankie
I did.

[00:10:18] – Steve
Make sure you do jazz hands.

[00:10:21] – Steve
People who run awards are after good PR from it as well. So often if you’re part of awards, there will be some sort of PR that comes off the back of it. As in, they send it to the press and the media. Also, you should then be on their radar so that they might recommend you to the media.

[00:10:42] – Steve
I’m thinking here of the Association for the Independent Professional Self Employed (IPSE), right? They run awards every single year, but they get approached by the media all the time. “Do you know anybody who would be a good story for this sort of thing?” and who do they think of? They think of the people whose stories they have read and evaluated or have won awards.

So the organisation might create PR, but you can also create your own PR. And don’t forget local. So actually, one bit of really good press that you and I did get was in my local paper and in my local Chamber of Commerce magazine because I approached both of them.

[00:11:18] – Frankie
I went to Leeds University and they have a well-read magazine, alumni magazine — we got into that.

[00:11:23] – Steve
So, yes, put it on your website. Yes, put it in your email signature. But you do need to be more proactive about it as well.

[00:11:31] – Steve
We’re always, all of us, creating content, content, content. (See, Frankie’s amazing Reel on Instagram about that if you haven’t). But being nominated for an award, like, knowing that you’ve made the final, for example, that is something that you can shout about on social media and tell everybody and everybody gets really excited for you.

And it also makes people sit up and go, “Oh, who’s this person who does this and this?” And then if obviously you go to the final and then you win, that’s another opportunity to share pictures of you at the awards and so on and so forth.

[00:12:01] – Frankie
Yes, definitely milk the entire process. Even if you never press submit, even just by being on LinkedIn or whatever, going “Hi, I’m just putting together this application, it’s 2:00am, I’m really behind”… You know, even that builds interest and gets people excited about what you’re doing, even if you never even submit the thing. Like people are interested in seeing behind the curtain. Take people on the journey.

[00:12:29] – Steve
We all know that businesses thrive on connections and people. Yes, entering awards is another chance for you to get known by people. Like the people who are judging it, the people who are organising it, but the people who you will meet at the awards ceremony if you end up going to one.

People I have ended up working with, they are people I met at the very first IPSE awards that I went to in 2016.

[00:12:49] – Frankie
That’s cool.

[00:12:50] – Steve
People are key to businesses. And here’s another chance to go meet some more people.

[00:12:56] – Frankie
Content, content, content… Do you know hard it is to say ‘content content content’?

[00:13:03] – Steve
There’s some people who get wary about awards and like paying to enter them and stuff. First up, I think some kind of fee is justifiable because actually just imagine how much work goes into it. But it is worth knowing if your gut says, “Hmm, £200 to enter a competition and they asked me to enter it?”

[00:13:22] – Frankie
Right, right.

[00:13:24] – Steve
Like ask other freelancers about it. “Does this sound a bit fishy, this awards scheme?” Because there are dodgy awards out there. If it doesn’t feel right, just don’t enter it. Don’t waste your time. But the fact is there are excellent awards out there as well.

And every Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business and IPSE, they all have their own awards. And then there’s industry specific ones. So there’s plenty of awards out there. So if you get approached by a company and it feels dodge… I mean, we’ve been approached by some!

[00:13:52] – Frankie
I got one last week. €450 to enter!

Yes, there are lots of dodgy awards. That is a fact. If you are a newbie freelancer, if you haven’t been doing this that long — I’m looking at you because I’ve been you and I’ve had unsolicited emails from “awards” telling me that I’ve been nominated for something — and I just feel for my newbie freelancers because you can be quite vulnerable in those situations.

It’s very flattering to get an email like that and your ego is going, “OMG yes, take my money! I might win this thing”. But just be wary. Yeah. Talk to people, talk to your peers, talk to people in your industry, do your research and find out whether or not that particular awards is legit. It may be. But, like, just don’t let your ego get you into a situation where essentially, you know, they’re just making money off you for thinking you’ve won some respectable thing, when actually it’s all a bit a sham.

[00:15:00] – Steve
Which, by the way, is why I started the Non Employee of the Week awards!

[00:15:03] – Frankie

[00:15:04] – Steve
Over in the Being Freelance community.

[00:15:07] – Frankie
It’s just like… I think even established freelancers, all we ever want is that validation. Somebody to say we’re doing a good job. So when you get that email going, like, “Somebody thinks you’re doing a great job!” It feels amazing. They know it preys on that.

[00:15:21] – Steve
Plus, of course, there might be some decent prizes in them. Right, so you might get prizes. So that’s an obvious one. But also, I think, you know how we talked about reflecting on your business? That can help you sort of look at what your goals are? Like, for a start, you might have to literally write down what your goals are, but like, defining, “Am I happy with where I’m going? do I want to do more of this thing?”

Yes. That moment of reflection isn’t just about looking back on what you have done, but maybe thinking about what you want to be doing more of.

[00:15:54] – Frankie
Yeah. If there’s prize money, often they’ll ask you what you do with it and that by default, makes you think about the future. And what if you were given a bunch of money? How would that change things? What could you achieve? What kind of world domination would be at your feet?

[00:16:08] – Steve
I mean, £5000 worth of those oil drums of Twiglets.

[00:16:12] – Frankie

[00:16:13] – Frankie
Yeah. I don’t think you can underestimate the power of feeling validated by somebody who isn’t your partner, or your mum, or your kids. That’s powerful stuff. It can be a catalyst for positive change. But then I suppose if you don’t win it, I guess that can be a catalyst for “I’m shit. I’m shit”. I’m sure. I mean… some people take not winning awards badly, don’t they?

[00:16:37] – Steve
I’ve entered lots of awards and never won.

[00:16:41] – Frankie
Yeah, but you’re quite a happy go lucky sort of person. I imagine some people take that quite badly, don’t they?

[00:16:47] – Steve
Actually, you’re right, they probably do. But you gotta buy a ticket to stand a chance of winning. But also, come on! You’re a freelancer, you pitch for work and you don’t win all of it.

[00:16:58] – Frankie

[00:16:59] – Steve
Like we have to deal with rejection and just because you don’t make the final this time doesn’t mean that it was a waste of time doing it. And if you don’t get anywhere the first time, just try again.

[00:17:09] – Frankie
You might win the second time, third time, sixth time.

[00:17:12] – Steve
You can turn the fact that you didn’t win into a cracking LinkedIn post.

[00:17:16] – Frankie

And then who’s the real winner?

[00:17:19.310] – Frankie
One thing I said to Tom in the live version when we talked about this, is like, you know — careers are long, because he’s only been running his business for two years.

I mean, he’s been doing what he’s doing for a long time, he’s only run his business for two years and he’s got a really small kid. And I was saying your career is long. While getting an award early on in the life of your business would be amazing. The really established awards aren’t going anywhere and you can apply for those awards next year when your kid’s a bit bigger. When you’ve got more time, more energy, more money. You don’t have to do it now.

With social media and whatnot, it can feel like everybody in your industry is going for these awards all the time and you get that real FOMO or whatever about it. It can eat away at you and then you, I don’t know… I feel like it’s better to keep doing amazing work, give it another year and then put the energy into that application when you have it, rather than scrape something together the night before and then maybe not get it and feel crap about it. It would be better to apply at the right time, maybe when you’re sleeping more than five hours a night.

[00:18:23] – Steve
And just remember, awards is one part of the jigsaw. It’s a cherry on top.

[00:18:29] – Frankie
There are many other ways you can feel validated — you can get testimonials from your clients, do good work, make your clients more successful, get amazing feedback, get more work.

[00:18:43] – Steve

“The Circle of Feedback”.

[00:18:44] – Frankie
Yes, awards are only one part of the picture and your business is amazing and doing amazing work whether or not some judging panel have decided that you are. I just know certain personality types really want to get that shiny sticker on their wine bottle and I understand why that is.

But a) it doesn’t have to be this year and b) even if you don’t get it, as long as you’re happy with the work you’re doing and your clients are happy with the work you’re doing and you’re making some money…

[00:19:12] – Steve
…that is success in itself.

[00:19:14] – Frankie
It’s like the episode we did about hustling or whatever. It’s like, you know, everyone’s version of success is different, blah blah blah. And yes, that may be important to you, but again, is that important to your business or is that important to your ego? What’s it about?

[00:19:31] – Steve
And on that philosophical bombshell…

[00:19:34] – Frankie
But it’s true! But I don’t want to deny you that. Obviously if you want to do that, it’s great.

You’re great anyway is my point. Believe.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation over in the DIFTK Community.