Looking after yourself: reflecting on the Museum Freelance Conference

Written by Research & Evaluation Consultant, Adam Pearson

I was at the Museum Freelance Conference earlier in March. It was ace.

The theme for the day was ‘change’. There were some great speakers. Honest. Inspiring. In some cases, emotional.

I also had a slot. I probably over-delivered on honesty when I confessed to jet washing the drive instead of working. But it went ok.

The theme for the day might have been change, but what I’ve taken away from it is the importance of looking after yourself.

This cut across pretty much every talk and session. Every conversation.

I find it a big challenge as a freelancer. The conference has got me thinking about some things I hadn’t before.

Looking after your health and wellbeing

This can be hard when the work is piling up and you can’t quite tear yourself away from your desk. But with no sick pay, it’s vital to our businesses that we make time for our health.

You might already have this in hand, but I don’t.

I like to remind my wife that I never get ill, and to be fair I rarely do. But it’s bound to strike at some point so getting the flu jab is on my list for next winter.

My diet is pretty poor. Working from home, I should be making healthy lunches and snacks. Instead I usually turn to cheese on toast and an afternoon of crisps and biscuits, with a steady supply of coffee washing these down. I need to do something about it and plan to start by cutting down on the caffeine and getting to know the Freelancer’s Cookbook.

One thing I am good at is getting out for walks with the dogs every day. It’s great from a wellbeing point of view. Fresh air. A break from your desk. If you’re thinking about getting a canine companion, do it!

I like running but I’ve got out of the habit over the last few months. There’s always some client work or business admin that seems more important. I’m slowly getting back into it though and started a group on Strava for freelancers to share what we’re doing to keep fit.

If I don’t get back into the swing of running then my fall-back option is to join the gym. As a tight Lancastrian, by virtue of paying for something I’ll make sure I get value-for-money! If you’re a member of IPSE there are a range of offers on gym memberships. Finally, I’m going to book a bloody holiday! It’s not just about keeping fit, it’s about taking time off and resting too. If you’ve got any recommendations for UK dog-friendly holidays, let me know.

Looking after your family

I’ve overlooked this one up to now. It took a couple of moving stories at the conference to bring this home to me. What if something serious happens?

I’ll be honest, I’ve never had life insurance. I think it’s about time I do. In particular I’ll be paying attention to serious illness cover. Any specific life insurance recommendations for freelancers will be gladly received.

Aside from the insurance side of things, it was another reminder to really think about what we value in life. It’s just work, after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the work I do. But I love the people around me a hell of a lot more. Do I really need to take on that extra project if it means I can’t take time off? Does that side project really need to be done now or can it wait? These are the questions I’m asking myself.

Looking after your business

Aside from our health and families, it’s also massively important we’re looking after our businesses. If we don’t get that right, not only could it get messy but it’s going to impact on your life anyway.

I’ve started asking myself the ‘what if’ questions and whether I’m really protecting my business. What if I get a difficult client? Are my contracts and terms of service going to cover me? What if there’s an issue during a project? Do I have the right levels of insurance in place? I also want to look at the data security side of it too. I think I’ve got decent processes and controls in place, but cyber-crime is big and I’m not sure to what extent my insurance would cover that.

This is quite timely as my business insurance is up for renewal. If you’re about to look at your own insurance, I hear good things about Get Dinghy and With Jack.

I also find Dave’s Work Notes site a really useful reference point. He’s super hot on contracts and protecting your business. He’s also incredibly generous with his time on Twitter if you’re ever stuck. Well worth a follow.

Looking out for each other

All things considered, my biggest takeaway from the conference is the importance of looking out for each other.

As a freelancer, you’re not alone.

Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out. Speak to people. Join networks. Attend events and conferences. Value the connections you make. Be open to the advice and knowledge of others. Give back where you can.

We should cherish communities like Museum Freelance. The same goes for Freelance HeroesBeing Freelance and Doing It For The Kids (to name a few).

One speaker at the conference said she wished these networks were around when she started out. She’s right. We’re lucky to have them.

This blog was first published by Adam Pearson on his website, and is reproduced with kind permission here.