Leapers purpose is to make the world a more sustainable and supportive place for independent workers and our mission is to support the mental health of the self-employed.
We have been operating for four years - in that time, we’ve supported over 75,000 people through our community, resources and work with those who want to be more freelance friendly.
In 2018-2019 our efforts were focused on building a community - a place where people can turn when they need someone to talk to, to ask anything, to create connections and feel more supported on their self-employed journey - we wanted to create a team for people without a team, and a place where those who were looking for support, resources and guides on taking care of their mental health whilst working for themselves, were able to find it.
In 2020-2021 our efforts focused on supporting the thousands of people who were dealing with the impact on COVID - huge disruption to their businesses, their ways of working, and the unquestionable impact on our mental health. The role of the community during this time has been critical to many of our members, we won an award for our work and recognition of our community has increased, as increased partners ask Leapers to support them and their communities, through talks, events and content.
Since the beginning, we’ve focused on three things:
Build active awareness of mental health in self-employment: for individuals this means encouraging more people to consider the role mental health plays in the sustainability of their business. for employers and industry, this means advocating for taking care of the total workforce, not just employees.
Encourage and enable working well: for individuals, this means providing prompts and ways of understanding your own mental health at work, and putting things in place to support and build more sustainable ways of working. for employers and industry, this means highlighting what behaviours positively support working well, and their benefits for both business and individuals.
Sharing the responsibility: we can’t afford to be everywhere, and we don’t want to add another to-do list item or website to visit for individuals, so we aim to get our content and resources in front of the people who need it most in the places they already are. For individuals, this means peer-support, helping others in your network, offering wisdom and advice to those who are earlier in their journey. For employers and industry, this means taking responsibility for awareness and enabling your people to work well, and not just signposting to Leapers, but actively engaging with your community to provide that support also.
In 2022, there will be little change to our goals - but with more focus and more impact.
We’re at a point where we have four years of insight, research, techniques, content and stories - we know what affects the mental health of the self-employed, both positively and negatively, there’s rarely something I see now which is new or a surprise.
Our aim now is to package those insights into more useful, more practical and more helpful tools and resources which can be better distributed to a wider audience, and have more impact for more people. This means working with employers and industry more, to get our content, collaboratively created content or good quality third-party content in front of more of the self-employed. This includes more structured resources for early stage freelancers, and emerging and established small business owners, and new ways of providing more proactive support.
Alongside this, we want to make those positive improvements more qualifiable - to demonstrate the positive emotional and commercial benefits of supporting the mental health of the self-employed, so that it becomes a cost to not support them working well. We want to surface the positive actions that are proven to be effective, so that others may borrow and implement changes too - for the benefit of everyone. This includes more work with businesses and platforms to support their communities, not just our own.
Finally, we want to make mental health for the self-employed truly be on the agenda by working with policy makers - so that support for mental health at work is an obligation and accessible for all workers, regardless of employment type. This includes making mental health at work more visible when registering self-employment, changing where mental health at work for non-employed workers is recognised and obliged in legislation, and addressing the impact of IR35 on supporting non-employed workers.
Underpinning all of this is our ability to continue - our project has never generated any meaningful revenues beyond the voluntary support of a handful of members who donate each month. For 2022, we want to start generating a more sustainable income - not from members, but from the organisations who want to support their communities, to cover my time, and to enable our work to be free for those who need it most.
All of this work would not be possible without the ongoing support of our community members - anyone who is active in our slack group, answering questions, checking in on others, or simply saying hello, you are the success of this project, and a huge thank you goes out to anyone who has taken the time to support a fellow freelancer in any way. Our community hosts also require a huge thanks, for investing their free time in helping me moderate and manage the group. Leapers truly is a community in every sense of the word.
Leapers has always been a passion project for me, something which I do alongside my other responsibilities - as a parent, as a self-employed professional. Ironically, the sense of responsibility I have for the project and the workload it creates often has a detrimental effect on my own mental health. In the past four years, I’ve struggled - really struggled - personally. Not solely because of Leapers, but it has certainly added to the pressure I have both put on myself and from the challenges the world and society face today.
Yet, I refuse to step away from the project - it is one of the few things in my life I have seen through beyond a few months of interest, and it is too important to neglect. I say this every year, I need to get better at asking for help and accepting help, especially with Leapers in mind, and I say this every year too: the best way anyone can help Leapers is to a) share the project with those who might need its support and b) encourage organisations to work with Leapers in a meaningful way - not just signposting to us, but investing in the project and investing in their own freelancers.
So if you believe in our mission and want to help....
If you’re an individual - share Leapers with your fellow freelancers, and be an active member supporting others.
If you’re an organisation - talk with us about how you want to invest in your freelancers, and how we can help you to do that in a meaningful way.
If you’re a policy maker - invite us to the conversation, and let’s make positive change sustainable and scalable.
Happy new year,
and work well.