New to freelance? So am I!

5 minute read

Hello

I’m Kate, and blogging, like being freelance, is completely new to me. I don’t know why I haven’t done it before. It’s probably a combination of not feeling like I had anything to say, and general lack of time. So what’s changed? Well, now, I have oodles of time. I used to work a busy four-day week, often working into the evenings trying to cram everything in. Then in March, like for countless others, that disappeared overnight when I was furloughed due to COVID-19.  I also feel like I now have something to say. I’ve been freelance since mid-October and it has been a steep learning curve. I’ve learned so much stuff in the past eight weeks and people have been so helpful that I really want to share what I’ve learned in case it helps any other new freelancers out there.

But before I do that, I want to tell you a little bit more about me and my background. I’m 39. I’ve been married to the good husband for nearly 10 years but we’ve been together for over 20. I have two pre-school kids running around at home, and until very recently, I was Head of Visitor Insights at The Lowry in Salford Quays.

Now here’s the bit I always feel funny saying out loud… I worked at the SAME organisation for over 18 years. I realise that’s unusual and that most people my age will have had many roles in various companies – it’s literally a question I dread in interviews – but I joined The Lowry in Salford Quays straight out of university in 2002 and until now, leaving hadn’t ever really been on my agenda because they always supported me and developed me further.

Sure, I looked around from time to time but I loved it there. It’s a great organisation full of the most wonderful, creative and friendly people – I’ve made some of my closest friends working there. It really was my dream place to work.

I started out in their Learning & Engagement Team as their Administrator, moved into their Ticketing Team working in Group Sales, and then in 2005 landed where I actually wanted to be, in Marketing. To get there, I basically offered my services for free and worked on marketing projects in my spare time until they gave me a job as Marketing Assistant. Once there, I worked my way up to Marketing Executive running marketing campaigns then became Print & Publications Manager, responsible for all Lowry-produced print and the supporting analysis. This is when I fell in love with data.

Data is the beating heart of any organisation; and when it is robust, understood and interpreted properly, it can bring powerful insights that can be used to inform strategy. I find data utterly fascinating. I can’t get enough of it and that’s why I then used my time in work to become its advocate. And not just in work, in the sector – I became much more active, getting involved in sector-wide projects and sitting on an insights panel that met quarterly with Arts Council England. Eventually along with some colleagues, I co-founded a new professional network, Culture Insights Professionals (CIP) – aimed at those working in data and insights roles in the arts, cultural and heritage sector. But that’s another blog post.

Back at The Lowry, my role developed alongside the ever increasing demand for data and evidence based insights. The first to include a focus on data was Audience Intelligence and Brand Manager. In this role, I was responsible for much more data analysis and insights, and led the CRM strategy. But I was still producing print and it took up a lot of my time and there was so much more data to explore. Within a couple of years, the need for data had grown again and my role changed to Visitor Insights Manager, with a sole focus on data, research and insights. Then with the glorious arrival of GDPR, and I say that completely without sarcasm, who knew I’d love GDPR almost as much as I love data? I became Head of Visitor Insights responsible for everything that came before but with some bigger projects and the added responsibility for over-seeing the implementation, delivery and on-going compliance of GDPR on top. And I did that until COVID-19. Bloody COVID-19.

The arts and cultural sector, as I’m sure many of you know, was absolutely devastated by lockdown. Organisations across the country shut their doors with no idea of when they’d next be able to open, let alone welcome visitors and audiences again and under what conditions that would be. They lost their income overnight, staff were furloughed or put on skeleton staff, countless casual workers and freelance staff lost their future income and in some cases their jobs, volunteers lost their shifts, visiting companies, artists and producers lost their events and tours, and the Government were silent – it was awful. By the time the Government bailout was announced, it was too late for some; countless people had already lost their jobs, skills and knowledge were being lost from the sector, and many organisations had entered into consultation, The Lowry included. The Lowry really tried to do the best by their staff and offered their own job retention scheme but after two lots of maternity leave in the last few years, my family and I couldn’t make it work so I opted for voluntary redundancy. And that is the story of how I ended up here, someone new to the world of freelance, providing data services, research support and insights to arts, cultural and heritage organisations and those working in the sector.

As I say, I’ve learned a lot over the last few weeks and I want to share it with you in case even a tiny bit of it helps. So over the next few posts, which I’m aiming to post fortnightly, you can expect to see:

  • Top 5 Things to Do First (when setting up as a freelancer)
  • LinkedIn… who knew there was an etiquette? Not me!
  • What I’ve been up to work-wise

I’d love to hear from some of you. Are any of you new to freelance? If so, please introduce yourself in the comments section and tell me a little bit about you. How are you finding it?

Are freelance hints and tips, ups and downs the sort of thing you’d find helpful? Please comment below so I know I’m not talking into the ether. And if any of you have any tips and tricks you’d like to share, I’m sure myself and others would appreciate them.

And if you’d like to connect on LinkedIn, you can find me here

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