Hi, What do you do?
A relatively simple question to answer if you’re a doctor or lawyer or accountant. You hear it all the time at social gatherings, and it’s a normal opener at conferences and networking events. But it’s really not so simple to answer for most freelancers and can feel even tougher for those of us who are consultants in the culture and heritage sector.
Of course, it’s not just a freelance issue, I often had a racking-my-brain-for-the-easiest-way-to-explain moment in my previous employee roles in museums. But ‘I work at the Science Museum / National Museum of Scotland’ was normally enough.
As a freelancer, my answer varies depending on the context. Of course, if I’m with similar people such as the Museum Freelance Network then I can get right to the jargon (“I’m in interpretation and exhibitions, I do HLF interpretation plans, exhibition development and project management”). That overlaps closely with the heritage world and also science centres, which then, in turn, overlap with the science engagement world. This year the Engage conference by NCCPE (spot the jargon terms there!) is local to me so I will be going along. The ‘museum-world’ answer won’t mean anything to fellow delegates, so for those two days, I will be ‘..a freelancer, specialising in exhibitions and working with museums. I also teach on the MSc at Edinburgh Uni‘.
This summer I decided to invest in a website upgrade, moving from a wordpress.org blog to a ‘real’ website designed and built by the wonderful Toma Pople at Meltoma Design. This meant confronting the ‘what do you do?’ question head-on.
My previous website was really a blog, with a couple of cover pages. It was a place for me to share ‘projects I have done’ as well as some thoughts and ramblings and it and worked as an in-depth CV or portfolio. It was perfectly sufficient for my first seven years of freelancing.
But this year, the time had come to present to the world ‘This is what I do’. Re-developing my website was an opportunity to reflect on what it is I have ended up doing over the last seven years. Some of my projects have been planned, many have been unplanned and opportunistic. They have depended not only on my own skills but on my clients’ needs and some degree of serendipity.
In around 2012, shortly after going freelance, I made the decision to trade as my own name and worked with designer Dermographix on my logo. In the absence of a descriptive business name, we decided to add a strapline to my logo. This identifies three areas of work: Exhibitions, Interpretation and Engagement Projects. Looking back over the past five years this does seem to reflect my main areas of work.
On my Services page, I have both expanded on those three headings and focussed them with qualifiers into three main areas of work:
I’ve also taken an opportunity to explain what I mean by these phrases and why I believe these three areas of work are so important. And I’ve given a little bit of information about my approach, beliefs and values.
The new website also has a portfolio page linked back to related blog posts, which is one of the best ways to get a sense of my work, and it has an ‘about me’ page to introduce myself. If you were previously a subscriber to my wordpress.org blog, you should have been sent a notification of this post automatically. If you no longer wish to receive updates just opt-out using the link. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so at https://www.ltclark.co.uk/blog/.
So, what DO I do?
I’m happy to say that after a lot of work on what it is that links all the projects I am drawn to and looking into feedback from clients, I can clearly say that what I do is:
I support organisations to develop creative and exciting interpretation, exhibitions and engagement projects for diverse audiences.