My Flex Life: Ben Akers

March 11, 2024
4 min read

Ben Akers is a creative, writer, filmmaker, creative director, problem solver, and the CEO of a charity he didn’t mean to start.

In this instalment of our Flex Life series, we speak to him about how he got to where he is today, what motivates him, and the work he loves.

When did you start freelancing for sustainability?

In all honesty? I wanted to do something that wasn’t mental health related. I’m the co-CEO of a charity that I didn't mean to start, and I could work 7 days a week for that if I wanted to. But I need to do something creative away from that for my own sanity. I’ve worked for over a decade in sustainability and ideas for good, so it’s lovely to do just ideas again without all the other pressures. 

Where do you work right now?

Talk Club - a male mental fitness charity, based in Bristol. Founded in 2019 (and gaining charity status in 2021), I started it after the suicide of my childhood best friend. I made a documentary called “Steve”, and then we’ve grown it from one talking group in the back of a pub, to over 80 groups around the globe. We have created a non-alcoholic beer (called Clearhead) and a coffee, and we boast Liam Gallagher and Tyson Fury, among others, as patrons. 

What issues are you most fired up about tackling?

I love solving problems - big, small, complicated. Creativity can be the answer. In my career I’ve worked on most things in purpose driven and sustainability.

From looking at big things like the environment to social injustice, to what I do now, stopping men killing themselves.

So, when it comes to what do I want to tackle? All of it. If we can change behaviour, educate, and make the planet a better place to live on, I’m in. 

How are you using your strengths and skills to change the world?

I’m 48 and I know nothing. I’m also 48 with 27 years of experience working across multiple continents and mediums. I’ve been recognised by my peers, winning over 70 national and international awards and having over 100,000 people watch my TED Talk. I’ve had prime ministers talk about my work, I’ve had 6-year-olds talk about my work. 

But I see my strength and skill is that I have a relentless enthusiasm to learn and solve the problem. Be it with film, or writing on a leaf.

What brings you the most joy when it comes to having a flexible career?

I left the full-time comms world, because I simply wanted to walk my daughter to school. 

My dad never got to walk me to school. My colleagues in my early career in ‘big advertising’ never walked their kids to school. I vowed to be different. It can be an all-consuming career. It can make demands of you that are unsustainable. I think the balance is getting better, but you have to take control. You have to work with people who have the same understanding as you. I now have 3 kids. I walk all of them to school (and pick them up a lot). It’s only half an hour in my day - but it’s far bigger than that. These are moments that many fathers miss. So, balance is what I enjoy the most from having a flexible career.

What's the biggest challenge when it comes to freelancing in sustainability?

Big question. Finding the right projects. Finding the right terms. I work fast and I enjoy solving problems. That’s actually why I love The Now Work team. I get contacted a lot independently about “my availability.” The truth is I’m always busy. I fill my time. But I’m also really available. And The Now Work comes to me with all the admin work done and I can just get on with the stuff I like or am good at - the ideas.

Is there a project that you’re most proud of?

I’ll be honest, there are loads. The Hot Potato for ASRC - taking on the asylum seekers debate in Australia. Clearhead for Talk Club. Talk Club itself. My documentaries, “Steve”, “OurKidsOurLives”, “Slowing Down Fast Fashion”. Taking on Coca Cola for Greenpeace. Maybe you can visit my website and let me know what you think I should be proud of?

What’s your advice to someone who’s thinking of taking the plunge into freelance or freelancers just starting out?

What makes you happy? Freelancing can get you there. It can be unpredictable. It can be inconsistent. However, as more and more companies are looking for different voices, you can be that voice. Play to your strengths. Work out what you enjoy doing - what makes you happy - and then concentrate on that. I know what I’m good at. But I’m also really aware of things I’m less good at. And if I know someone who can do it better than me, I pass and give their details instead, as I know that honesty (and generosity) will come back around someday.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news, views and perspectives on sustainability and the future of work