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!

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. 

End of project reflection

I recently completed a project working with the Science Museum Group to facilitate and capture staff feedback and reflections on their group-wide learning projects. This fed into a best practice guide and toolkit for the Group’s four museums to use in the future.

It was a fascinating project, and fantastic to see time being set aside for reflection and staff contributions being sought, valued and used.

It got me thinking about my own reflection and project evaluation when client projects come to an end. Whilst I always look back on them and think about them, this has never been a formalised or written-down process.

So I decided to create a simple reflection sheet that I now use at the end of each project, which:

  1. enables me to reflect in a more structured, constructive and consistent way;
  2. identifies lessons for future work to help me improve what I do, how I work, and mitigate similar future issues;
  3. ultimately feeds into business planning work, continually helping me to identify my strengths and preferences in terms of types of work and how I work.

If anyone is interested in having a look or using the sheet, you are welcome to download it as a Word or PDF document and I’d be really interested to hear what methods other freelancers and consultants use.

Train the Trainer: Train the Freelancer

I’ve recently returned from a two-day Train the Trainer course in London with the College of Public Speaking. Whilst I do a fair amount of learning from my office (reading, online network discussions, the odd webinar and online course), it reminded me how valuable it is to get out of the office, really dedicate time and focus on training and learn in a practical way with other participants.

The course:

  • provided plenty of strategies, models and ideas I can implement and use in my training;
  • forced me to step out of my comfort zone as we had to practise presenting in front of the group, watch the film back and be critiqued;
  • gave me the opportunity to take time away from the office to think and reflect.

As a bonus it also provided two professional trainer certifications (with The Institute of Leadership & Management and NCFE).

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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

5 things I’ve learnt about freelancing in my first 5 years as a freelancer

I’ve recently spent some time reflecting back on my first five years of freelancing. It’s been quite a ride and I’ve learnt A LOT. About business. About the cultural sector. About myself.

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learnt and tips I would give to newbie freelancers:

  1. Be assertive and proactive

Don’t spend hours desperately scrolling on social media hoping that opportunities will come to you. Hunt down tenders and briefs out there, make speculative approaches, get out and about, get involved in online and ‘real’ communities (e.g. #museumfreelance and #museumhour on Twitter), comment and have opinions, write a blog.

Make sure people know who you are, what you can do and how you can help them. Don’t be afraid to hustle and don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials and shout about your achievements – if you don’t, no one will and people aren’t mindreaders!

Learn how to say ‘no’, question things that don’t sound right or you think could be improved and don’t take rejection too personally. These are still a work in progress for me but I’ve found they get easier over time with experience. Learning to say ‘no’ was a theme from one of our 2017 Museum Freelance event speakers, business coach Anna Lundberg, and she has a guide on this that is worth checking out.

  1. Plan, evaluate and reflect

Treat your business as a client or project like any other. Schedule some time to look at your finances, do some marketing, identify your training needs, review how things are going and so on.

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