WorkLifeBlog

Over 4 million of us in Britain are now self-employed – more than ever before. Worklifeblog is about sharing tips and techniques to make self-employed working work better. From decision-making to resilience, time-management to forward planning, find ideas here to make your life as a freelancer a huge success on your own terms.

Survey results #5: what are the biggest challenges facing freelancers?

And so to the final aspect of my survey of freelancers in museums and heritage. Things might be going better than expected for many, as I remarked in this comment piece for Museums Journal. But freelancing is not an easy choice.

The respondents to the MA survey reported their biggest challenges thus:

So the biggest issue – perhaps because the survey was in preparation for a session at the Museums Association conference – was the expense of attending many museum meetings, when there is no institution to pay for fares, accommodation and wages while you’re away. This makes it harder to maintain contacts and build a network than for in-house colleagues.

There is also a sense from respondents that some colleagues feel freelancers and consultants overcharge – although in an exchange among heritage freelancers on Twitter, a vast range of daily rates was mentioned, from £250 to over £500. Twitter respondents wondered about a possible disparity between what male and female consultants feel they ‘can’ charge – so more research would clearly be valuable here.

In the survey comments, respondents said that some institutions don’t want to be seen to use consultants at the moment – again perhaps indicating that freelancers are not always valued as the vital, temporary resource they can be. And some organisations that do use freelancers seem to demand a lot of paperwork to bid for the smallest job, which can drain the resources of the keenest one-man-band.

Challenges are inevitable in any job worth doing, and the overall sense from the survey results was positive. Respondents came across as committed, enthusiastic and self-motivated, keen to offer skills and services on a flexible timescale, and often at short notice, to complement in-house roles.

So, freelancers of the heritage world, unite! Or at least, let’s speak to each other more. By sharing our experiences we can build a sense that our community is a crucial part of the workforce, adding resilience through our skills and flexibility.

Thanks enormously to everyone who made their voice heard through the survey, on Twitter, and at the Museums Association conference freelancing session.

Survey results #4: what are the highs and lows of freelancing?

Today in Guardian Cultural Professionals, curator and consultant Maria Blyzinsky gives her top five tips for freelancing in the museum and heritage sector including knowing your strengths, and nurturing your network.

She relishes the challenge of being freelance, and has weathered storms of recession, financial cuts and austerity. But as she freely admits, her nose ‘has been permanently strapped to the proverbial grindstone to make things happen’.

So, while freelancing in museums and heritage can be a fulfilling career choice, as my MA survey results have shown so far, it’s no easy option. What are freelancers’ experiences of aspects of self-employment like deadlines, motivation and workflow? The survey asked to rate them from low (find it tough) to high (love it).

The biggest negatives were saving for pensions, erratic workflow and chasing payments. One respondent said that 90% of clients were excellent but the 10% who didn’t pay on time (or at all) created a disproportionate amount of hassle.

On the positive side, people rated highly the freedom to work independently, take charge of their own career, and even network. Self-motivation and focusing on work were a problem for very few people (although we all have our mind-wandering moments).

So what are the biggest challenges we face? Tomorrow in a final post I’ll show these results, look at what advice there is to help us, and what may need to change in the sector to make sure freelancers get the recognition we deserve.