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.

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!

Resilient Freelancing – my second MF event

Following the success of the first ever Museum Freelance event back in March about Proactive, Empowered and Confident Freelancing, I’m really excited to be organising the follow-up. This time the theme is Resilient Freelancing – ‘resilient’ is a word banded about so frequently in the culture sector, but we wanted to explore what it means for a freelancer. What makes a freelancer resilient? What makes there business resilient?

In what promises to be an inspiring and thought-provoking session, speakers and the topics they will explore include:

  • Christopher Barnatt, Futurist, ExplainingTheFuture.comkey future challenges and opportunities that no museum freelancer will be able to ignore;
  • Mike Ellis, Director, Thirty 8the tools and techniques that are useful in helping freelancers to balance their working lives and ultimately find time to do things other than work;
  • Elizabeth Power, Head of Learning, London Transport Museum: a client’s point of view about what clients look for in freelancers;
  • Bridget McKenzie, Director, Flow Associateshow freelancers can be more effective in relating to others;
  • Ben Matthews, Director, Montfort: ideas and inspiration to break the cycle of trading time for services delivered, create regular recurring work, and increase your value to your clients.

Marge Ainsley will also facilitate a series of bitesize talks from freelancers as they share what tools, tips and lessons have made them resilient, and an optional social session at the end of the day.

Continue reading

“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