Tales of the unexpected

Tales of the unexpected

some reflections on my first year as a freelancer

It was on 3 February 2020 that I decided to go freelance. The approach of the anniversary stimulated some reflection on how things have gone.

As I started out I recognised the importance of feeling like I was ‘at work’ whilst I was at home – something we’ve all had to get used to this last twelve months. I resisted ‘duvet days’ and Netflix binges and sought to work in my newly fitted out home office 9am-5pm (see my new beginnings blog) revelling in the shorter working day than I had grown accustomed to working.

Plan A Networking / Plan B do something practical

With the business bank account, professional indemnity insurance, business cards and website all in-place, I started to look for suitable networking opportunities and signed up to attend the Museums and Heritage Show. Alas this, like so much more, was cancelled as the first lockdown was introduced. Knowing this was not the time to approach potential clients for business, I turned my attention to eBay and began to assemble a forensic workstation and write a practical series of blogs on the process and the costs. 

Unexpected highs: variety

The variety of work was a major appeal to a career in archives ever since my first experiences as a record assistant at Northamptonshire Record Office. This year I have been fortunate to secure commissions and work with a wide range clients including; reviewing the impact of the Archives Revealed programme, identifying collections of likely relevance based on its online catalogue entry and supporting organisation’s that have secured an Archives Revealed Scoping Grant.

I am currently helping a client select its first collections management system and collating collection level descriptions for an online portal. It has been so rewarding helping organisations take their first steps with digital preservation and surprising how sharing screens is able to break down the physical distance. 

An unexpected consequence of covid-19 has been the ability to attend a much wider range of events, now they moved online, than would have been practical or possible. Some align with current projects and work whilst others like the RLUK Digital Shift forums offer a chance to stop, listen and think differently.

Unexpected lows: thanks, but no thanks

With so much energy and focus on getting clients I hadn’t really thought much about the process. I enjoy the challenge of writing a proposal in response to an invitation to tender – understanding the client needs and how I fitted their requirements exactly. The proposal replaces the application form, the interview now transferred onto Zoom. 

For some reason, however, I hadn’t thought about the impact a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response would have on me. As I reflected after Alison Grade’s excellent ‘How to be a great freelancer’ masterclass the freelance mindset must be a strong one. After a year I am now less distracted by the unknown, and would see a gap between clients as an opportunity to tackle something on my do ‘someday’ list!

In early March 2020 I had attended the ARA Kickstart a successful freelance career in the archives and records sector event run by Marge Ainsley and Christina Lister from The Museum Freelance Network. Looking back at the list of actions I wrote after the event – I am pleased to say that I have started a personal pension, put some income aside for tax and have (occasionally) stepped outside of my comfort zone.

I really hope the next twelve months will be as equally interesting and rewarding…

[edits; links to The Museum Freelance Network removed following Marge and Christina’s decision to close the website in December 2021, some resources have been transferred to a LinkedIn group]

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