Museum Freelance wraps up after six successful years

After six years, we have decided to bring Museum Freelance to a close.

Like for so many others, the pandemic and the last 18 months have affected us in many different ways and led us to a great deal of reflection. After much consideration, now is the right moment for us to step away to make more time for other personal and voluntary commitments and pursue new professional opportunities.

This has been a really difficult decision and one we haven’t taken lightly.

We have achieved more with Museum Freelance than we ever could have imagined, with a vibrant community of thousands of freelancers and freelance-curious people. We’ve delivered three conferences, run several training sessions for freelancers and organisations, provided an online blog and resource hub on our website, organised free socials and spoken at various sector events and conferences.

We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved in this time. In particular, helping to create and facilitate a community and connections between freelancers; raising awareness of the challenges that freelancers face; publishing the sector’s first in-depth study into freelancers (that was mentioned in the House of Lords!); and securing £29,000 of hardship and CPD funding to support freelancers in need during Covid-19.

Much of our work has been behind the scenes. We have proudly represented freelancers in UK-wide forums including DCMS round table panels and the UK Museums Workforce Groups on Covid Response and Diversity and Inclusion. We have also attended meetings with some of the major funding bodies on behalf of freelancers to encourage a commitment to treating freelancers fairly.

It’s been fulfilling, an honour and a joy. We have learnt so much, connected to so many wonderful people and had a lot of fun along the way. And we’ve both enjoyed working closely in partnership with each other, and leave with a deep friendship for life.

But it has also been relentless, exhausting and frustrating. We have given as much as we can but there’s a limit to what two freelance individuals can achieve – largely in a voluntary capacity – and the heavy weight we can be expected to carry.

Whilst we have made a lot of progress in many areas, there are still fundamental issues that persist in the sector, in particular around poor pay, procurement and contracts. As a result, freelancing continues to be out of reach as a financially viable and sustainable option for many, perpetuating a lack of diversity in the freelance workforce. The sector needs to step up as a collective to address the inequities and challenges that persist.

What happens next?

  • Our website and its resources will remain live until 31 March 2022 so please access and download any resources you need before then. Our key resources can still be accessed at the Fair Museum Jobs website.

  • We will change the name of the Museum Freelance LinkedIn group in December and are asking for 2/3 volunteers to come forward to become admins of this group in the hope that it can stay live as a place for freelancers to connect (please get in touch with by 6 December if you’re interested)

  • We will send our last e-newsletter in early December

  • Our Twitter account will remain live as a back catalogue, but will no longer be monitored or responded to from 15 December

  • Our Ko-Fi page for donations will remain open until 24 November.

Thank you

We want to thank everyone who has supported us, got involved, written blogs, attended our events, donated, lobbied with us and been a member of our panel. The thank you emails, DMs and support on Ko-Fi have been so gratefully received. A big shout-out also goes to Laura Crossley who was involved in Museum Freelance in its infancy.

And finally…

We hope that the legacy of Museum Freelance will be increased confidence and connections between freelancers, and that freelancers have more visibility and recognition within the sector. We’ve always believed in collaboration over competition, and we feel this is much more evident amongst the freelance community now than when we started. We’re also encouraged by the raised profile of freelancers in sector media which recognises their positive contribution to the sector, and exposes the challenges they face.

We’ve seen several organisations step up and take more responsibility, but as always, we call on sector support organisations, funders and commissioners to lead the way on:

  • valuing freelancers

  • fair pay for freelancers (including generating a greater understanding about what comprises a day rate)

  • providing affordable CPD opportunities for freelancers

  • following best practice procurement processes and establishing fair working relationships (please see resources we worked with South West Museum Development on).

The sector is forever changing and no one knows what the future will look like. However, whatever shape the sector takes, freelancers will continue to be a fundamental part of it. They should be valued and supported.

Marge Ainsley and Christina Lister, 17 November 2021

Marge Ainsley