My 2019

As my seventh year working for myself draws to a close, I’m reflecting on another year that’s whizzed past – January 2019 seems like a lifetime ago…

This year’s been another one of variety, with work for 15 clients:

  • I’ve undertaken marketing consultancy for organisations including Jane Austen’s House Museum, the Museum of Cambridge and the Norris Museum
  • I’ve delivered research and evaluation projects for clients such as the Museum of London, the Second Air Division Memorial Library and De Havilland Aircraft Museum
  • I’ve run training and facilitated workshops for organisations including Stratford Circus Arts Centre, China Exchange and SHARE Museums East.

It’s been a huge privilege to play a part in many interesting projects and work with so many passionate, knowledgeable and motivated clients.

As ever, it’s been also been great to work with other freelancers and consultants such as:

Ups and downs

I’ve really enjoyed doing more marketing, branding and vision work this year, from facilitating organisational brand and personality workshops and content marketing planning workshops; to running training sessions and developing an online training module for staff and volunteers; to full-blown marketing strategies.

Some standout high points have been a client’s lightbulb moment in a tone of voice workshop; a group of trustees being open to change and navigating difficult decisions; and feedback from other freelancers about the difference that the Museum Freelance Network is making to their work and well-being.

Some not-so-high points have been chasing late payments, disingenuous procurement processes, being on the receiving end of mansplaining and a fair few train delays.

Museum Freelance

Working with Marge Ainsley on developing the Museum Freelance Network, we took our third annual conference to Manchester, ran three sold-out training courses for people thinking about or starting out as freelancers and have grown the community to over 900 people.

The freelance communities are an endless source of inspiration, support and advice; aside from Museum Freelance there are some fab cross-sector ones including Being Freelance, Doing it for the Kids and Freelance Heroes – you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve also enjoyed speaking at events about freelancing, including the MuseumNext and Museums Association conferences, and as part of a panel for the Visitor Studies Group.

Balance

I’ve started taking emails and social media off my phone some weekends and holidays which has been long overdue and a revelation. I’m generally keeping up with my daily step count target and weekly runs, which I’ll need to up next year as I’ve signed up to my first half marathon, eek!

From January I’m joining a co-working space on an ad hoc basis at St George’s Works in Norwich. I’m looking forward to meeting others there and being back based in Norwich city centre.

I’m working on identifying the type of work I do that as Esme Ward said at our Museum Freelance conference “makes my heart beat faster”. And I’m working with career and life coach Simon Seligman, a valuable and challenging experience which is already having a transformative impact on my thinking and my work.

Next year

Thank you to all of my clients, suppliers, freelance colleagues and communities – wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

I’ll be downing tools and having a digital detox over the festive break, the easiest time to do it as everyone and everything goes quiet then as well. That way I can start the new year feeling recharged and raring to go. As ever I have ambitious plans for the coming year, but this year am framing it in terms of what is sustainable and feasible for that elusive work/life balance…

I’m excited for what 2020 will bring and am off to start making some more plans for it!

Evaluation project testimonial

I’m all about evaluation that makes a difference, that has an impact and people will act on, so I was delighted to receive this testimonial from Laura Turnage (Programme Manager, Secondary Schools) at the Museum of London who I delivered an evaluation project for:

“It was a delight working with Christina. She successfully navigated and evaluated a complicated schools project which included the participation and feedback from more than ten project partners. Importantly for us her tenacity in contacting the school made sure they responded and their feedback was included in the final report! Her facilitation of the partner reflection workshop was transformative. It continues to be spoken about for its effectiveness in identifying the sticking points within the project and creating collaborative solutions.”

I undertook the evaluation of a school study day which was a collaborative project run by members of the Culture Mile Learning partnership (including the Museum of London) over several years. The work included facilitating a staff reflection workshop, student and teacher evaluation forms and partner interviews.

I’ve written a blog on running internal reflection workshops, something that I love doing, especially when the results are deemed “transformative”!

Lessons on content marketing

Yesterday I read an interesting article on Medium about how a change in editorial strategy — from blogging to magazine-style storytelling — has enabled Wellcome Collection to reach and engage more people. The content sits under the heading of ‘Stories‘ on their website.

The piece was written by Jennifer Staves, digital content manager at Wellcome Collection, and I spotted it thanks to a share on Twitter by Tom Scott, head of digital there.

I mainly work with small and medium-sized cultural organisations, but even if organisations don’t have a team, expertise or budget that are comparable to Wellcome Collection, I think there are some key lessons in the article that are universal.

I’ve put together five transferable tips which I share when delivering training on content marketing and that the piece on Wellcome Collection highlights:

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What makes a good audience research brief?

This will be one of the questions discussed at an event organised by the Visitor Studies Group (VSG) later this month.

It’s aimed at both in-house staff and external freelancers and agencies and aims to help bridge the gap in understanding between what organisations want and need from research projects, and how independent researchers and evaluators understand organisations’ needs and respond to research briefs appropriately.

The event includes a panel discussion (which I’m a part of), followed by a practical workshop for all attendees and will cover:

  • Writing and responding to excellent research briefs – the need to be clear, concise and realistic
  • Appropriate costs for audience research – deciding budget and understanding day rates
  • Procurement process – scoring criteria, whether to interview and appointing
  • Stakeholder needs – commissioning research that meets the needs of both internal stakeholders and external stakeholders such as funders.

I’ll be there to talk both about my own experiences and reflections and also representing the wider Museum Freelance Network community which I co-run to ensure freelancers’ voices are heard in the debates. The event – Commissioning Audience Research – takes place on Wednesday 23 January 2019, 3-5.30pm at the Dana Research Centre and Library, Science Museum, 165 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, London, SW7 5HD. Tickets are free to VSG members, £30 non-members and £20 for non-member freelancers and students. Hope to see you there!

User and non-user consultation for The Second Air Division Memorial Library

I’m just starting to work on a really interesting project for The Second Air Division Memorial Library based in The Forum in Norwich.

The Memorial Library was set up to honour the nearly 7,000 young Americans in the Second Air Division who lost their lives during the Second World War in bombing campaigns against Nazi Germany from their Norfolk and Suffolk bases.

It is intended to be a living memorial, to not only be a tribute to those Americans who were killed, but also to act as an educational and friendship bridge between the UK and USA.

The project involves a programme of front-end user and non-user consultation to help the Second Air Division Memorial Trust to understand the Library’s current user profile, barriers to engagement from non-users and what both sets of people would like to see from a redeveloped Memorial Library.

Facilitation for Science Museum Group

I’m thrilled to have started on a new project for the Science Museum Group (the Science Museum, National Railway Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and the Science and Media Museum). The project aims to capture staff feedback on group-wide learning projects, and to create a best practice guide and toolkit for the museums to use in the future.

The work involves facilitating staff reflection workshops, combining with evaluation from the learning projects, developing the guides and presenting the findings to senior management.

 

GDPR and freelancers

On Wednesday I hosted a Twitter chat on the Museum Freelance account about the upcoming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation that comes into force on 25 May 2018 (search for #museumfreelance).

The legislation was “designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy” (www.eugdpr.org).

I’ve got to admit, it’s at times like these that I wish I was back in an organisation where someone else could take responsibility for trawling through the details, breaking it down into something meaningful and relevant for the organisation and where the workload for implementation was shared with colleagues. But I’m not, so I can’t – the buck stops with me! And really embracing it is the way forward – seeing it as an opportunity to tidy up, question what you are doing and why, and plan your approach going forward.

Many freelancers I’ve spoken to have been concerned, baffled or intimidated (or head-in-sanding) about the new legislation and its impact on how they run their business. And also it’s clear that the legislation is being interpreted in many different ways. So having been recommended a GDPR expert in the Facebook group GDPR – Shared Resources, I set up a Twitter chat to tackle questions specifically about GDPR and freelancers. A big thank you to Annabel Kaye, founder of Irenicon (a specialist HR and employment law consultancy) for joining us and answering our questions. Annabel has spent the last 18 months helping micropreneurs get ready for GDPR and runs a number of dedicated GDPR support groups you can join.

My main takeaways from the session were: Continue reading

Non-user consultation project

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the South East Museum Development Programme (SEMDP) to run a project about non-user consultation, involving:

  • Planning an affordable, realistic, and yet meaningful consultation process for four museums in Hampshire wishing to undertake consultation with non-users for the first time;
  • Coaching and training the museums’ teams during the delivery phase;
  • Producing a practical online guide on non-user consultation and case studies of the museums’ experiences;
  • Delivering a shared training session to showcase the project to a group of museum staff or volunteers from the area.

The projects included:

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Visitor survey links for Hampshire Military Museums Network event

Here’s a list of information resources to support a presentation I delivered to the Hampshire Military Museums Network at the National Museum of the Royal Navy on 9 November entitled ‘Making the most of visitor surveys’. Guidelines, tools, templates and examples to help you plan your visitor surveys:

For accreditation and funding body guidelines:

For audience research programmes:

 For tools

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