Adrian Ashton

A quote from Adrian's story "I got a room-full of policy makers and academic researchers to slap each other in the face." Making a difference

Adrian Ashton

I originally started in business for myself after being ‘shafted’ by one of the UK’s then leading social enterprises 20 years ago, who’d approached me with a dream career offer – I’d relocated my young family (just had our first child who was only a few months old at that point) to the other end of the country to start this new life, only to be told by them that there was no job after all…


20 years long and counting

Rather than start this new chapter with blood on the carpet by taking them to tribunal, I applied for any and all jobs I could find to support my family (in an age before LinkedIn, dropbox, and smartphones). The first offer was on contract terms, and I’ve been jumping ever since…trying to say “yes” more than “no” when people ask me to get involved in things to help find the next paying job.

In developing specialisms and focuses in response to what people have asked of me, I’ve co-produced my offers as a freelancer with my clients and the wider marketplaces I trade in (that’s the professional way of saying, I never knew what I really wanted to do, so went along with what the universe suggested…)


Punching above my weight

Adrian holding a 'your on mute sign'I recognise the political freedom I have by not being bound by the same ‘duty of care’ my salaried counterparts are (they’re not allowed to speak out in any way on anything that may be seen as a cause of embarrassment to their employer, and can be fired/sued if they do).

I’ve been able to change local planning laws, company legislation, and influence national policy, because I’ve been able to ‘speak out’ in my own name on issues I see, but which no-one else seems to be able to act on (as evidenced by people ‘quietly thanking me’ after I’ve done so). But this has also led to my being blacklisted by some organisations for ‘showing them up’…


Accidentally self-publishing a global best-selling book about imposter syndrome

Adrian standing on a chair while giving a presentationI was inspired by a keynote speaker at a conference who said all freelancers’ lives are blighted by imposter syndrome, and until they get rid of it, they’ll always be ‘(d)ucked up’ by it. I didn’t agree, and the speaker wouldn’t engage with me to help me understand why. I therefore started to research the subject for myself, and everyone I shared my findings with as part of sense-checking them, encouraged me to publish them as a book, which people tell me has helped them to not quit their job, be able to charge more for their work, and start to deliver projects that they never thought they could.

But I hope the story in it involving my mankini doesn’t leave people with nightmares…


A global leader in reporting social impact

Adrian Ashton with a global sustainable goals banner wrapped around him

As a small business, I can focus on creating impact through the types of work I do for clients (the majority of work I do is with social economy organisations, learning institutions, etc) OR I can focus on impact through how I’ve designed my business models (which means I’m more likely to consistently create impact over time).

I share these practices, and the ways in which they create impact for different communities, groups, and sectors through an annual impact report which has set world records, and recognised as a leading model of best practice by standards setting bodies.

It combines numbers and stories, puts them in the context of the UN’s Sustainable Global Development Goals, and also includes Lego…


Adapting as an unpaid carer (and other plot twists)

In recent years I’ve become an unpaid carer for two of my children, and despite there being about 500,000 of us in a similar circumstance, there’s no recognition in policy or business support offers we can access, leading to a loss to the wider economy of roughly at least £5bn each year!

I’ve also gone through a divorce which saw me lose my house and personal savings; my family has been made homeless by flooding twice; my father who lives at the other end of the country has suffered life-threatening illnesses; and HMRC have opened multiple investigations into my tax returns (against which, I’ve come out ‘clean’ every time).

I try to adapt and build resilience by trying to keep as open a mind as possible (although not so open that everything in it falls out…): actively working across multiple sectors and with different types of clients on a variety of projects (not all of which I’m allowed to publicly talk about!); and being part of different freelancer communities to help me ‘sanity check’ myself through reflecting on experiences with my peers (which also sometimes involves formal CPD – Convivial Procrastinated Drinking, in a pub).

I also regularly ask clients and collaborators how they really see me and my work through a creative adapted 360 degree feedback activity, and have ‘tweaked’ my delivery, approaches, and personal branding in light of what these reveal.


Memorable moments

I’ve been named as one of Being Freelance’s “Non-Employees of the Week” (and received the coveted ceremonial mug to prove it).

I got a room-full of policy makers and academic researchers to slap each other in the face, as part of a keynote address I was asked to give at a national conference.

And I’ve tap-danced across the House of Lords (to the confusion of the armed police on duty…) after being invited to receive an award there.



Adrian Ashton in period dressTo learn more about Adrian and follow his story connect with him on LinkedIn, read his blog and check out his website.



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