The Stockport Creative Campus programme forms part of the broader Cultural Development Fund work going on in the borough. This is a wider double-ended strategy involving both capital development in Stockport town centre and a supporting revenue programme, aimed at creating a provision for digital arts and business development across the town.

The initiative involves MadLab’s Shift Click Campus Talent programme, Manchester Metropolitan University’s design factory and project X, FutureEverything’s digital placemaking programme and digital technology skills and training provider IN4 Group’s no-cost support programme for the borough’s entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Alana Borkwood, Senior Programmes Manager at IN4 Group, tells us more about the second cohort of their programme.

In today’s business landscape, the rise of freelance entrepreneurship has reshaped traditional notions of work, creating a tapestry of diverse ventures fuelled by digital innovation. From side hustles to full blown enterprises across a vast spectrum of sectors, freelancing knows fewer bounds than ever before. The digital era now offers the everyday person unprecedented opportunities to carve their own path to thrive in the digital economy.

At the heart of this transformation lies the gig economy where flexible work and short-term engagements are commonplace. Enabled by digital platforms and communication technologies, freelancers can seamlessly connect with clients worldwide: a pub in Stockport can go viral on TikTok for a cultural moment; an artist in Heaton Moor can garner a social media mass following for their nail art.

In the digital era, the creative industries have no hard limits when using digital platforms to tell a story about a service that is creative in and of itself. There are countless examples of freelance professionals leveraging digital platforms to showcase their talents and make the global feel local. From make-up artists to web designers and plumbers, creatives are harnessing the power of social media, online portfolios, and digital marketplaces to promote their work.

Despite the digitalisation of pathways into and through the gig economy, the foundational skill sets and principles essential for thriving within it have largely remained unchanged. Business literacy, entrepreneurial mindsets, self-branding, and marketing strategies all remain crucial. Ultimately, the cornerstone of effective business remains unwavering: delivering an exceptional product or service tailored to the needs of the target audience. No digital metrics – clicks, shares, or follows – can be substitute for this.

Stockport Creative Campus programme

Although freelancing is more accessible than ever before, offering flexibility and autonomy to those with talents to give beyond the remit of the 9 – 5, working solo can be a lonely endeavour in the world of enterprise. Without the daily camaraderie and collaboration of a more mainstream working life, working in isolation can lead to loneliness, disconnection and burnout.

Utilising the local community is key to alleviating these challenges and creating a sense of belonging for freelancers. Programmes like IN4 Group’s Stockport Creative Campus programme are designed to do just that. Funded by Arts Council England and UK Government, the programme is a place-based 8-week initiative designed to springboard the local creative digital freelance community into their next phase of growth and community.

Stockport Creative Campus is all about unleashing talent and helping freelancers and start-ups to thrive and grow in the town. This is a really exciting programme, to give entrepreneurs all the tools they need to scale up. But more than that it will build a business community, to provide support and show that you’re not alone.

Roxana Lawton

Director of Innovation Programmes, IN4 Group

The Stockport Creative Campus programme is fully-funded and takes a hybrid approach, combining a range of in-person and online networking, personalised 1-2-1 business mentoring and a series of masterclasses and interactive workshops.

Amongst the mentors is award-winning social enterprise consultant Adrian Ashton, who’s supported start-ups for almost 20 years across Greater Manchester.

I never had an opportunity like IN4s Stockport Creative Campus to get me off on the right foot quicker. I never had anyone to help me figure out what were some of the pitfalls, the things that I should have known about sooner. No one was there to kind of give me that guidance or insight in the way that we are able to offer now.

Adrian Ashton


 The Stockport Creative Campus programme will support 60 of Stockport’s digital creative freelancers in total.  Stacy Neil, a freelance events and lighting company who started out in Stockport, joined the programme in February 2024.

I run an events business and have been trading for 10 years. I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the content. There is also a mentorship programme, and this alone is priceless. My mentor is a real-life entrepreneur female boss. Her input and assessment of my business are something I’ve never had before, and it’s proving to be a real eye-opener for me.

The course itself has introduced me to lots of new people and opened up new ways to look at my business. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who’s running their own business even if you think you’ve got it nailed down… I’ve learnt so much and I’m really glad I took the leap.

Stacy Neil

Creative freelancer

The next cohort commences on 9th June 2024. Express your interest here: Stockport Creative Campus Programme | IN4 Group. Or you are welcome to get in touch with me directly.

IN4 Group is an award-winning technology group, driving prosperity for businesses and communities. We deliver a unique technology talent acquisition solution through our programmes and services all designed to provides educational enrichment to enable economic empowerment at a local level. With a history of delivering award-winning programmes like FreelanceHER100 to the North West, IN4 Group is an expert in delivering power programmes the connect communities.

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