Through the ‘Love to be Free’ project, UNIZO informs, connects and represents the growing group of freelancers in Flanders and Brussels. This specific approach is now recognized at a European level, because last night (November 29) UNIZO received a European Business Promotion Award (EEPA Award) and the Grand Jury Prize. Out of more than 200 projects submitted from no less than 26 countries, an international jury selected the UNIZO project ‘Love to be Free’ as the winner in the ‘Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills’ category. The Grand Jury Prize is added as the winner over all categories.
These awards are an initiative of the European Commission and are also supported by the Belgian FPS Economy. Since 2005, these awards have awarded outstanding initiatives that promote entrepreneurship. The award ceremony took place at the annual European SME Summit in Prague, organized by the European Commission, where the European umbrella organization SMEUnited is also an important partner. Geert Eggermont and Marijn Ghys from UNIZO received the awards on site. In addition to ‘Love to be Free’, projects from Italy and Cyprus also made it to the shortlist.
“This recognition is gratifying and congratulations to the entire team,” says UNIZO CEO Danny Van Assche. “Since 2015, we have been committed to supporting freelancers with the ‘Love to be Free’ project. We offer them a very wide range of tailor-made services and we defend the interests of this growing group of businessmen”.
Freelance work is on the rise more than ever. The number of freelancers in Flanders and Brussels continues to rise, last year there was an increase of almost 7 percent, according to the latest Freelancer Focus Report from UNIZO and GraydonCreditsafe.
Danny Van Assche : “Freelancers are thoroughbred freelancers who like to work autonomously and flexibly. We find them in all branches of the economy. They can be active as a consultant, graphic designer, translator, editor, photographer, computer scientist, health coach, etc. They want, above all, to be free. Independence is the common thread that unites all the self-employed, regardless of the sector or activity. They are totally autonomous. This is also evident when we gauge their biggest concerns: social status, delinquency and finding good jobs.”
The ‘Amar ser Libre’ project, which has the support of VLAIO, includes various actions of advice, support and guidance for Freelance entrepreneurs. UNIZO wants to know your concerns and inspire and unite you. “With our operation we offer the self-employed the framework they are looking for. We support them in finding assignments, together with partners we educate them on how to present themselves to the market as an attractive and professional party. We also help them determine their market value and price,” says Danny Van Assche.
The annual Freelance Focus report forms the basis of the Love to be Free operation. UNIZO has been hosting Freelance Friday, a recurring online event for freelancers, for several years. Since then, the concept has evolved into a flashy one-hour lunch break live studio show, where a specific theme is central each time. In addition, there is an annual Freelancer Day conference where UNIZO brings freelancers together to inform them and enable them to network. Since 2021 there is also the hourly rate calculator that helps freelancers to calculate the correct hourly rate for their services. Finally, FreeBiz is a 7-session learning network where freelance entrepreneurs find a sounding board and are guided by the best trainers.
Danny Van Assche: With the ‘Love to be Free’ project, we have managed to develop a comprehensive operation whereby we support the diverse group of self-employed workers and further hone their entrepreneurial skills. This European recognition – we received two awards – motivates us to continue expanding our services. Next year we will launch the new version of the hourly rate calculator and further strengthen our Love to be Free community both online and offline. We are launching a new concept with “Coworking Days”, and we are expanding our online network through LinkedIn”.