It suddenly dawned on me yesterday that it has been one year since I began the journey of freelancing. What better time to reflect, especially as for the last three weeks I have been up to my eyes in a project that is taking up every minute of the day and I could do with a little respite…
The decision to go it alone wasn’t an easy one to take but it was that felt right. Sometimes that is what you have to trust. After 8 years in what was my dream job when I started, I handed in my notice, tied up loose ends and started off on my own journey. I’ve reconnected with lots of old colleagues, found new ones and had great support from everyone I’ve come across.There have been times of absolute joy over the last twelve months and lots of lessons learned in how to manage freelance life. Figuring out pricing for projects, negotiating day rates, catching up on admin and realising that you now have to buy your own stationary have been steady learning curves.
There has been so much happen this year including ArtUK projects, lecturing at UCL and CSM and advising on HLF digital projects across the country but here are some of the highlights:
Working with Berwick Church
You can read more about the HLF work I’ve done with Berwick Conservation Trust here but what a change from the asymmetrical haircuts, in-gallery catwalks and size of the V&A. Having the chance to be working in a local community with a small and passionate group of mostly volunteers and trustees was such a joy. Heading out into the South Downs to have a meeting in the vicar’s back garden as chickens ran around our feet made me feel very lucky. Through it I had the chance to meet lots of peers from Sussex cultural organisations and spend some quality time in an ancient church with the Bloomsbury Group’s murals. Changing scales from a national organisation to a local one really opened my eyes and it was so satisfying to be able to make an deep impact by embedding into their work. Plus – we got the HLF funding! Woohoo!
It’s always inspiring to meet peers working in the museum sector who are working in different contexts across Europe. There is such a strong network and sense of openly sharing practice that I come away with new approaches, contacts and experiences which go on to find their way into my own work. In May I went to Vilnius to contribute to a hackday which was developing digital interpretation for the then soon to be opened MO Museum ( whose site btw is a great example of a collections first approach) . The day was great, I started off with quick primer on audiences and the winners for the day created a chatbot for the gallery that I can’t wait to see in action. Then there was a September jaunt to Helsinki where I spoke at the Museum Day on digital engagement in the arts. Heard and met some incredible people share the really strong work across the Finnish museum sector. Also had a chance to visit Helsinki Design Museum where I reconnected with someone I’d shown around the V&A years back! Great galleries and interpretation there which embedded “design thinking” as a process for the collection to revolve around.
I was dying to get the chance to learn new skills and put myself outside of my comfort zone when I went freelance. The last 12 month crash course in web development has been incredible. I hadn’t had the chance to do much of it over the previous 9 years. Being in a large organisation means that there is any exceptionally skilled team of brilliant designers and developers in house who were building wonderfully thought out and considered online content and platforms. I was lucky to have the chance to be part of these projects and learn the process of conceptualising, project lifespans and technical aspects but I was aching to get more hands on with it all. A lot of web design had changed in that decade. I had seen responsive design become a primary concern and agile teams change the way we delivered websites. My CSS and HTML knowledge exploded by creating a few sites and then getting deeper into development with knowledge databases and custom applications through agency work I know know my way around PHP, a sprinkling of JS and more CSS frameworks than you can shake a stick at. Coffee intake has increased at least 50% and I now own a more robust clicky clacky keyboard find my way to StackOverflow and praise 4 year old posts that stop me from tearing my hair out. Check out some of the projects like this one, this and this!
Here’s to another year of adventures and huge thanks to all those who have given their time, advice and ears for the last twelve months.