Weekend Reading: Freedom and Freelancing

Today I’ve been attending (remotely) an Institute of Classical Studies workshop on post-PhD freelancing, with people working in museums, heritage, journalism, education policy, independent research and other areas. It’s been a very interesting afternoon.

I admit, I tend to raise an eyebrow at the term ‘freelancing’. As far as I can tell, this really just means ‘working outside a contract’, which is what I’ve been doing, on and off, for most of my life. It’s only in the last year that my Open University teaching work has paid enough for me to be able to turn down other work; summers in particular have always been a nightmare of trying to find additional paying work to fill the three-month gap from one academic year to the next. And, rather ironically now that I finally have a stable contract, next academic year I’ll have to cut down again on my OU work, for family reasons, and jump back into the casual work market.

So maybe I’ll have a name this time: I’ll be a Classics Freelancer. I’m not sure if I like it though. I’d be happier being a Rogue Classicist, if that name hadn’t already been taken. I’ve seen others use ‘Scholar of Fortune’, which has a nice ring to it. I’ve also heard the term ‘portfolio career’, which fits quite literally because I do carry a portfolio from time to time – but my working-class brain shudders at the thought of repackaging ‘odd jobs’ as a ‘career’.

Freelancing would be more appealing if it came with an actual lance.

Whatever I call it, one thing it has given me over the last 20 years is a lot of experience in all kinds of weird areas. I’ve taught in every situation I could think of, from primary schools to community centres, and worked with all sorts of people, including murderers (don’t ask!). I’ve taken on copy-editing, tutoring and web design; I’ve worked on projects across many disciplines, authored reports and run focus groups. I’ve painted walls, taught Fine Art, designed bookplates and created logos. I’ve been employed as a ‘consultant’ on more occasions than I like to remember, and I’ve marked, moderated, monitored and invigilated my way across the North East. And over many years I’ve built up confidence, like Mr Micawber, that ‘something will turn up’.

None of it has ever paid me much money – but the goal was always survival rather than riches!

More importantly, I enjoy the variety and freedom. Unlike some of the speakers at today’s workshop, my ultimate goal was never an academic job in a university – I always knew that I would find that kind of stability uncomfortably restrictive. I’m far too much of an intellectual magpie to settle, and job adverts that ask for a ‘team player’ make my hair stand on end.

Interestingly, all of the speakers today stressed the need to network: to make contacts, to invite people for a coffee, to build communities of trust. A decade ago, that would have been unimaginable for me. I’m not very good at interacting with people directly; when put in a room full of people I’m more likely to end up networking with the plastic plant in the corner. But the internet makes a huge difference to socialising-averse autistic people like me. Networking today doesn’t have to mean chat – for which I’m tremendously grateful!

It does generally mean a website, though, as all of the speakers today stressed. I do have this website – but even I have to admit that this chaotic repository of random thoughts and daft jokes isn’t the best advert for my work, much though I love it! So a while ago I set up a personal website, here: https://corabethfraser.wordpress.com/. It’s not fancy and I don’t remember to update it very often – but do take a look, and let me know what you think!

I’m nervous about giving up stable, paying work in the autumn: it’s a big step back into precarity, and as a single parent I don’t have much of a safety net. But I’m excited too. I have no doubt that something will turn up – and there’s every chance that it will be something fun!

This week from around the classical internet


Possibly oldest mummy in Egypt found – The Guardian

Return of looted artefacts – Smithsonian Magazine

Roman city in Luxor – ARTnews

Comment and opinion

The history of CSMFHT – Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens

The first mile of the Appian Way – The New York Times

Percy Jackson’s Ares teasers – ScreenRant

Ancient art in a global context – Pasts Imperfect

On writing a book efficiently – A Don’s Life

Review: The Shadow of Perseus – Classical Studies Support

Thanks to Steve’s mum for spotting this one!

Podcasts, video and other media

Greek Myth Comix interview – Moan Inc

Ancient Music performance and reception – Bettina Joy de Guzman

The Persian Thermopylae – The Ancients

British School at Rome Summer Placements – The Roman Society

Nominate a Classics teacher! – The Classical Association

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