A Day in the Life of a Freelance Arts Administrator

Ever wanted to know what it takes to be happy in your job? Perhaps you’re thinking of making a career change, or you’ve just left education and need some inspiration? Today I’m starting a new series of posts.

 I asked a few people to share a day in their life – from what their jobs entail to what they eat for breakfast – and over the next few weeks you will read about a variety of careers and the people behind them who are lucky to love what they do.

#1 – A day in the life of a…

Job Title:  Freelance Arts Administrator

Name: Hannah Ross

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I currently help to run the Love Music Community Choir (www.choir.lovemusic.org.uk) , which is the largest community choir in the UK, as well as helping on other projects Love Music are running, and I am helping with the administration for this year’s launch party for a classical music festival as well as processing new Friends/Patrons subscriptions.

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I wake up… depends on the day. If I am going out and about to events/meetings, I’ll have an alarm set, ideally not earlier than 6.45am. If I’m working from home I generally let myself wake up when my body thinks it’s time to wake up, with a back up alarm set for 9. I’m not a great morning person! Also I live with 3 other girls and we only have 1 bathroom, so the ones going out to start work at a set time get shower priority!

What I wear… at home – whatever is comfy. Dealing with audience members or public I try to be smart but colourful. If I’m going to be on stage (stage moves, page turning, etc) I will generally wear all black. When I get to work… whenever I get out of bed!

An average morning at work consists of… dealing with emails, dealing with any mail that comes in. Beyond that it depends on what project I’m working on – if it’s the morning after choir rehearsal I will spend time uploading recordings from our rehearsals so that choir members can practice between sessions, or send an update email to them all with any news they may have missed at rehearsal. Sometimes I prefer to start the day with something fairly mindless like typing up the attendance register for the rehearsal.

What I eat for lunch… I am a big fan of scrambled eggs on a bagel or toast!

An average afternoon at work consists of… Again it depends on what I’m working on. I might write up timings for the choir recordings, or email/phone people about helping with concert promotion. I will go to the bank if I have cheques to pay in, and do my own shopping if needs be. I quite often work in the evenings too so sometimes I end up spreading my work day across 12 or 14 hours rather than 8!

When I leave work… it’s bedtime! Or if I feel I’ve been a bit anti-social in the flat, I might decide only to work till 5pm and spend the evening with my flatmates.

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The people I work with… are the bees knees! I have been lucky to work with lots of great people over the years but I am so happy to work with Love Music. Stephen, the Artistic Director, has some kind of magic about him – whatever group of people he is working with, he always manages to create a sense of fun, a feeling of being safe to express yourself within the group, and at the same time a culture of working hard. In our choir we have people who have never sung before, people who can’t read music, people who are going through very difficult times in their lives, and yet our performances are powerful and not at all too shabby! Ruth, the Manager/Producer, is an organisational genius and amazing at figuring out procedures to allow us to work more efficiently, which is no mean feat when you’re dealing with 330 current members and a big waiting list, as well as having lots of other projects at different stages of planning. She’s also amazingly patient!

How I got into the career I am in now… I guess I’ve always been involved with administration as my parents ran an agricultural show and there was a huge amount of paperwork to deal with, which I helped out with – I knew my way around spreadsheets and databases much better than your average 12 year old! Then I went off to uni to study music, and half way through I got repetitive strain injury in both wrists and had to stop playing piano for about 6 months. In that time, I started to help out at lunchtime concerts in the department, and someone suggested I go and volunteer at Cheltenham Music Festival (which is how I met Kate!). After 3 summers there, I knew working behind the scenes in arts admin was what I wanted to do. I had also volunteered at a youth orchestras festival which Ruth was running, and we kept in touch, which is how I come to be working with her on all my current projects. She has been so supportive in helping me find work and giving me chances to learn new things.

The best part of my job is… lots of things! I love the moment when a concert gets underway with everyone in the right place and a big audience loving the music. I love it when choir members tell us how much being in the choir means to them and lets us know that it’s built their confidence/stamina/social network. Any moment where someone has had their day brightened by taking part in a musical activity is a highlight for me.

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Where I would like to be in 3 years time… Right here! Well, maybe with a little bit more certainty – projects can come and go so it would be good to have a little bit more long term security. But we have some bigger projects in mind that will keep me busy if we can get funding, and I hope that I might get the chance to work on smaller projects with some other organisations too – variety is good!

My advice to being happy in your career is… remember life is short. I guess I am not in the best position to be giving out advice, being quite new at this freelance game – it might not work out for me in 6 months, who knows! But I gave up a permanent, reasonably well-paid, secure job in an arts outreach charity who do great work. After 3.5 years it just was not the role for me and I knew my skills and energy could be put to better use. And I don’t regret it at all – I have so much enthusiasm and energy now even though I’m working harder and longer than before, I am excited about work again. Sometimes what appears amazing on paper is just not the right thing for you and so long as you have a small amount of savings and some ideas, if you need to take a leap, take a leap! And don’t be afraid to say no to an offer if you know it’s not the right thing for you. I had the chance of covering a manager role a few years ago but I knew I wasn’t ready and not in a good way – I was not excited at the chance to tackle the challenge, I dreaded the idea. Maybe it was foolish to turn down the opportunity – if I was offered it now, with a few more years admin experience under my belt, I would grab it – but I don’t regret that either!

 A big thank you to Hannah for this fantastic interview! 

I hope you found this as interesting as I have, please leave any feedback in the comments 🙂

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