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!

MuseumNext takeaways

MuseumNext takeaways

I’ve been following along to #MuseumNext conferences on social media for a few years and they always have a great buzz around them. So when MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson created an early bird freelance offer to this year’s London conference, I (and many other freelancers) jumped at the chance to attend.

In fact, Jim called it an “invasion of freelancers” and we had about 40 freelancers at our Museum Freelance social meet-up on day 1 from across the UK, America, Iceland, Denmark, Spain, Holland, Turkey and more! Some left inspired to set up something similar to Museum Freelance on their patch. This is brilliant news, as a thriving supportive community is such a boost for freelancers.

Some of the crew at the Museum Freelance meet-up at Museum Next
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Reflections on Agents of Change – the Museum Freelance conference

A cancelled meeting means I’ve finally got the chance to finish my blog post on the third annual Museum Freelance conference held in Manchester in March. I organised it with Marge Ainsley as a conference dedicated to freelancers working with museums, heritage sites, libraries and archives.

My key takeaways were:

  • Be yourself and be authentic
  • It’s ok to make mistakes – learn from them
  • Question your purpose, what do you want to be, what do YOU want to do?
  • The importance of online networks – join them, get involved in them
  • Change can be positive
  • Being “unemployable” is great!
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Agents of Change: our third annual Museum Freelance conference

It’s just six weeks to go until the third annual conference organised by freelancers (Marge Ainsley and me), for freelancers.

Museum Freelance conference promotional image

New for this year is a Manchester location, and a series of fringe and social events wrapping around the conference day itself.

But the purpose of the event remains the same. Firstly it’s an opportunity for freelancers working in the cultural sector (and those thinking about it) to:

  • get together and get to know each other;
  • share stories, tips and issues with each other in a safe and friendly space;
  • learn from a range of interesting and inspiring speakers;
  • spend time out of the office reflecting on and developing their business at an affordable event.

And secondly there are broader benefits:

  • the event raises the profile of freelancers as a valuable and critical part of the workforce in the cultural sector;
  • the event develops the skills and confidence of freelancers and consultants, who can thereby contribute more effectively to the sector;
  • it’s an opportunity for the Museum Freelance team to better get to know our community and thereby cater more to their needs in the future.

Some of the feedback from last year’s event included:

“I thought this was the most useful conference I’ve ever attended. Everything was directly relevant to me, the speakers were inspirational and I got to meet great people. I look forward to coming again next year.”

“Brilliantly well organised. Great to meet new people. Valuable resource for the freelance community.”

“It was really enjoyable, and the delegates were really nice! It was lovely to feel part of a ‘team’!”

“Great to have a safe space to talk about issues that everyone understands without worrying what impression it gives to a potential client!”

50 freelancers have already booked on and we look forward to welcoming them and some more to the event in March. Hope to see you there? Book now to join us.

My takeaways from the SHARE Museums East conference

Last week I went to SHARE Museums East’s annual conference held at the stunning Firstsite gallery in Colchester, aimed at people working in and with museums in the East of England. The theme was ‘Embrace, Empower, Employ’.

I was there as a delegate and also as a representative of the Museum Freelance Network, presenting a break-out session on Working with Freelancers aimed at museums’ representatives and hosting a Museum Freelance stand with fellow consultant Claire Adler in the breaks. It’s great that SHARE recognises the importance of freelancers and consultants to our sector and provided a platform for us to develop relationships between the network and museums in the region.

As ever with cultural sector conferences, delegates’ and speakers’ passion, dedication and quest for learning and sharing really came across during the day.

Here are my four main takeaways from the day:

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Working with Freelancers – a guide for museums

On Monday 19 November I’m speaking at the SHARE Museums East annual conference about Working with Freelancers – how museums can find, choose and brief freelancers and consultants and thereby increase the diversity of ideas, experiences and approaches on projects. I’ll also explain common pricing structures and budgets, and share tips on how museums can work with freelancers to get the most out of the relationship.

The talk will draw on a guide I wrote for SHARE earlier this year, so I’m linking to it here for anyone who wants a more in-depth read. I’ll be updating it in 2019 so am interested to hear any comments or additional questions you’d like added in.

I’ll also be running a Museum Freelance Network Marketplace stand in the conference breaks with fellow consultant Claire Adler, hoping to chat to anyone who works with or is interested in working with freelancers, and freelancers or anyone who is interested in freelancing. 

“See research as the start of something”

Takeaways from the Museum Association’s MP seminar on Getting to Know You: Using Visitor Data Intelligently at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, 20 September 2017.

Yesterday I spoke at this one-day conference which aimed to explore the different ways data can be used, from diversifying audiences and supporting fundraising to planning exhibitions and events.

My  topic was ‘Demystifying non-user consultation’, talking about how museums can undertake their own research with people and organisations who aren’t currently engaging with them or their services. My aim was to share practical tips and methods that cost very little and could be carried out by museum staff or volunteers. You can find links to links that I referred to in my presentation here.

Here are a few takeaways from some of the other presentations of the day, linked to Twitter accounts: Continue reading

Museum Freelance event success

I originally wrote this blog post about the first Museum Freelance event day for the London Museums Group. To find out more about the event it’s worth checking out the Storify capturing the day’s tweets that Marge Ainsley kindly did, and also her insightful reflections on the day.

Fellow freelancer Laura Crossley and I founded the Museum Freelance Network following a #museumhour chat I guest-hosted in the summer of 2016 on freelancing. It seemed there was an interest and demand for some kind of platform for freelancers working in and with museums to come together, learn from each other, share ideas, jobs and issues.

We began with the @MuseumFreelance Twitter account, #museumfreelance discussion hours on Twitter, a LinkedIn group (now with 350 members) and an orange logo with a teapot!

Fast forward 18 months and I’ve just run our first event, with 52 freelancers and people thinking of freelancing attending. Entitled Proactive, Empowered and Confident Freelancing, it aimed to plug a gap in the market by providing high quality, relevant and good value training and time for reflection, organised by freelancers for freelancers and covering some of the main topics that regularly come up in our Twitter discussions.  Continue reading