Family Audiences – making a difference. Blog: Clair Donnelly


Clair Donnelly takes us through top resources that make a difference when working with families 

As we move further into the New Year, many of us will be planning ahead to decipher how we can become even more inclusive, engaging and welcoming to our audiences. For many organisations, families will be at the heart of that work; they are the audiences of the future as well as the audiences of now, however, they are the audience whose planning needs and access to prior information is greatest. With multiple varying factors to consider, the family audience can often be the most difficult audience to please but arguably the most rewarding when we get it right.

Families are not just good for our audience development goals; they’re good for business and can contribute to our organisation financially. But if families are going to part with their hard-earned cash, how can we ensure value for all family members? It’s a key theme at this year’s Family Arts Conference, which will explore the value of arts, culture and creativity for families.

Our conference will consider what value means in today’s family arts sector in terms of the benefits engagement with arts and culture can bring and how we can communicate and capitalise on that value through our evaluation, fundraising, income generation or data gathering.

A not to be missed session with Baker Richards consultancy service will talk us through how to create commercial value in your family offer, and lead on from their excellent existing resource on Pricing your Family Events.

And what about older family members? Research has shown that older adults are more likely to be visiting as part of a larger family group than they are to attend alone.  We also know that older generations may be more likely to experience barriers to engagement than younger family members. The Age-Friendly Standards provide specific guidance on welcoming older audiences and can help your organisation become more inclusive for older generations who may have access or additional needs.

At this year’s conference, we’ll explore the value of intergenerational experiences that bring older and younger audiences together with a key note presentation from Dr. Zoe Wyrko, the brains behind the channel 4 documentary Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds.

Once you have your family offer in place, how can you ensure that you’re doing the very best you can do for your family audience? Evaluation, however small-scale, can provide you with insights about the effectiveness of your activities and help you to plan events in the future. The Family Arts Evaluation and Audience Research Toolkit built by evaluators Catherine Rose’s Office, has been designed to support evaluation of your family events. At next month’s Conference, the Big Lottery Fund will run a workshop on the implications of carrying out evaluation in the context of family audiences, along with recent examples and online tools to aid your evaluation processes.

If it’s data you’re after, there are lots of tools that can help you drill down into the dos and don’ts of family audiences. All arts and cultural organisers are entitled to use the free Audience Finder survey tool, which can help you collect data on your family audiences. Once complete, you can profile your audiences using Audience Spectrum to show you which types of families are attending your events. You can then compare this with data for your region to find out who your potential new audiences could be. Make sure you select ‘families’ when requesting your survey, so that it can be personalised to include a range of specially selected Family Participation questions.

So what’s next for the future of family arts? Digital engagement is of course on the rise, but so is outdoor art and culture, which is valued for its interaction with diverse community groups. Last year’s Outdoor Arts Audience Report found that outdoor cultural events tend to be representative of the demographic in their area. They can be a great way to have fun as a family and are successfully attracting similar proportions of first-time and repeat visitors. It’s a topic we’ll be exploring further at the Conference, joined by Outdoor Arts UK and other experts in the field.


The Family Arts Conference takes place 12thFebruary at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.Tickets are available for £175+VAT. The full programme and booking can be found here.


AMA conference 2018 © Brian Roberts Images

MY FREELANCE JOURNEY is a new bi-monthly blog series where we follow Arts Marketing and Fundraising consultant Beckie Smith on her journey into life as a freelancer    


BLOG 8: New Year, New You 

Before we look at what the New Year holds, lets reflect on the first six months of my leap into freelance life. 

Fortunately, I had heaps of beginner’s luck and contracts came my way quite easily. Life was good for three months – I had the happy (yet chaotic) balance of a family life, and a work life with clients, and my invoices were being paid.  

Unfortunately, I fell into the trap of forgetting to market myself during times of ‘feast’ and when my contracts came to a natural end; I plunged into a period of ‘famine’ that I really struggled with. Thankfully, I was never between clients completely, but it is safe to say that I have lived both feast and famine already.  

I realised that I needed to make a change. I trawled the jobs sites and applied for every contract going (some of which – dare I admit it – were employed jobs. Even the strongest of us lose our nerve in the middle of a dry spell).  ArtsJobs, Twitter, Arts Professional are great stating points for this, but I really turned things around by making an effort to get myself to every meet up, networking event, and social that I possibly could, and made appointments to follow up conversations afterwards.  

The week before Christmas, I had the best news. I won two contracts, one of which runs January till March and the other runs from March until the end of the year. I landed an entire year’s work, and found out about each contract within 24 hours of each other. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic – and the news completely changed my Christmas!  


What does the New Year look like then?  


Well, these two contracts have given me a real spine of stability. Each contract is approximately 2 days per week, and ideally, I would like to work 3.5. This means that I still have capacity to apply for additional, smaller or shorter-term contracts to top me up. If they come to fruition (and one of the did this morning – YAY) then great, I’ll be in real ‘feast’ mode, and if they don’t, I won’t need to worry too much. 


Where do I go from here?  


At the moment, I’m doing really well as a Freelance Consultant, but how can I grow, develop and expand what I do? Am I Beckie, a working mum, who puts in the hours in order to pay for the kids shoes? Or am I Beckie, the owner of a Consultancy business who, currently only has one member of staff (myself) but would like that number to grow? I think the latter is more fitting to my personality.  

Although I am a sole trader, I tell myself that I am an employed director of a business, and it is my job to ensure that that business goes from strength to strength. This encourages me to think big; I want to lead the business to increased productivity, increased income, and increased recognition.  

To do this, I need a business plan. I need a vision for what I would like the business to look like in 1, 3, 5 and even 10 years time. I need targets, objectives, outcomes, and KPI’s to keep check of whether I’m growing and progressing. I need contingency plans which I can fall back on if things don’t go to plan.  

Ultimately, I’d like the business to be sizeable enough to employ staff, transforming my role to focus on winning clients and delivering the really big contracts. I’d have a team of experts in their field who help deliver work for other clients. 

Reminding myself that I work for a business also forces me to be strict with the finances. For example, following Christmas when everyone is a bit skint, it would be so easy to borrow a bit from the business account. But if an employee of a business would do that, they would lose their job immediately. Therefore, tempting as it may be, I mustn’t do it either.  

So there you have it. The blog for AMAculturehive comes to an end. There have been real ups and downs. Winning contracts makes you feel like you are standing on top of the world. Being between clients can make you feel so very alone and isolated, but if you keep plugging away at it, contracts will get bigger and stability will come.  

To end things with a bang, here’s a top 10 do’s and don’ts of things I’ve learned over the past six months:  


  1. ALWAYS save 1/3 of your income for the tax man 
  2. ALWAYS save a bit of money to compensate for quiet months 
  3. Meet people and network 
  4. Market yourself and apply for contracts even when you have work 
  5. Make decisions based on the business, not yourself 
  6. Always recommend other freelancers 
  7. Always celebrate with prosecco when you win a client 
  8. Create a ‘working agreement’ or ‘contract’ with every client 
  9. Create a financial forecast for yourself and your business and stick to it.  
  10. Write yourself a business plan.  



  1. NEVER forget to save 1/3 of your income for the tax man 
  2. Don’t convince yourself have messed up your whole career, just because you have a quiet month 
  3. Don’t convince yourself it has all gone wrong, just because you didn’t win a contract 
  4. Don’t give up – chat to people instead 
  5. Don’t have one phone. Have a work phone and a home phone 
  6. Don’t forget to enforce working hours and home hours   
  7. Don’t let your work emails come up on your home devices 
  8. Don’t feel the need to respond ‘immediately’ 
  9. Don’t work from home all of the time 
  10. Don’t forget to train and develop yourself 

Good luck! 


This is the final blog in the series. Click here for the full archive of MY FREELANCE JOURNEY. 


AMA conference 2018 © Brian Roberts Images

MY FREELANCE JOURNEY is a new bi-monthly blog series where we follow Arts Marketing and Fundraising consultant Beckie Smith on her journey into life as a freelancer    


Blog 7 - Day in the Life   

I’m a good five months in to being a Freelance Arts Marketing and Fundraising Consultant now. Is it what I thought it would be?  

Working for clients is exactly what I expected.  But the thing that has surprised me the most is the balance between the need to market yourself and doing the work. 

When I was employed the typical day began with me answering emails, sometimes (let’s be honest) batting them away with a short and sweet answer in the hope the work might be delegated elsewhere. Life as an employed arts marketer or fundraiser is frantic isn’t it? 

After emails, I might have had an internal meeting to attend, before nipping back to my desk, to get an hour’s work in, talking things through with the team or creating an emergency strategy for a show that, despite everything, just isn’t selling tickets.  

By lunchtime, (if there was a lunch time) I was often already behind schedule…. 

Post lunch the afternoon might begin with more email correspondence and more questions from the team and another meeting, this time perhaps an external one, where partnerships are made, new ideas are formed, and new projects mapped out. Hopefully I’d have a couple of uninterrupted hours of work at some point. 

As a freelancer, things are different.  

I start the day writing emails, offering to help, support and go above and beyond expectations at every opportunity, in the hope that more work may come my way. Thankfully this has worked out for me, so far. 

After emails, it is time to buckle down and deliver the work that I have been contracted to do. My client will know that today is a day that I am working for them, and I need to deliver. This is my client’s time, so it needs to remain uninterrupted.  

By lunchtime, I would hope to have a lot to show for my morning’s work. This feels good!  I check my emails in the hope that someone has got back to me. Sometimes they will have, sometimes not. Then it is time to buckle down again.  

As much as I hope to remain focused on a single project, my clients don’t know my diary. Many freelancers feel the need to reply to emails immediately, to demonstrate excellent service, and sometimes, add in extra work there and then, because it has been asked of you. Suddenly, you find yourself flitting from one project to another, because your client’s timescales are changing. Now it’s my time to feel frantic. 

Mid-afternoon, as an employee I might decide to start another project, continue with the same one, or catch up with some admin. Now, as a freelancer, I’m either buckling down to work for clients or running to the school gates (after all, this is why some of us became freelance anyway). 

Towards the end of the day, employed me would start to finish up for the day. I’d get home in the evening and reclaim some personal time, knowing what didn’t get done today can probably get delegated tomorrow. 

The freelance me, shoves past my partner as they are coming in through the door, to attend a networking event (which are often held as the working day finishes under the premise of client work in the day, networking in the twilight).  

My freelance evenings are spent making up the hours needed for my clients (because there is no one to delegate to) and doing admin: work logs, budget keeping, invoices etc.  

Then there is a choice. Collapse on the sofa, or apply for tenders and market myself. As a freelancer I constantly need to plan for the time when my current contracts run out.  

Bedtime. During my years and an employee I would go to bed knowing I had worked a good solid day for their organisation. I might think about the holiday I know I have to wait 10 weeks for.  

Nowadays, I retire knowing I have worked a good solid day for my clients, and have put in the extra time needed to prepare for the future. Today was frantic. But never mind, I might get a surprise day or two off next week, or the week after, because after all…. no freelancer has work all the time, do they? 

Follow Beckie’s journey as she adapts to the challenges and opportunities of freelance life. In the next blog, Beckie reflects on what she has learned during her first six months running her own business. 



AMA conference 2018 © Brian Roberts Images

MY FREELANCE JOURNEY is a new bi-monthly blog series where we follow Arts Marketing and Fundraising consultant Beckie Smith on her journey into life as a freelancer    


Blog 6 - Networking and Training  

 Working from home is often one of the most life changing things for a freelancer, especially if you have never done it before. Like marmite, you either love it or hate it.  

In order to be at my most productive, I refuse to load the dishwasher or do the laundry as “I wouldn’t be doing that if I were in an office.” Keeping ‘work time‘ just for work is very important to me. 

Sometimes, it’s hard. For employed people, a “bad day in the office” results in a trip to the coffee machine, chats with colleagues, or visiting front of house as the curtain comes down so you can have a ‘pick me up chat’ with an audience member who tells you how much they love the show. But who do you turn to as a freelancer?  

Building myself a network of other freelancers that I can just call, email or have a virtual cup of coffee with over twitter has made all the difference to me.  


How can you build your own network? 


The best place to start is the AMA. If you’re not already a member, you should be. They have a special freelance member rate, which is actually very affordable. From there, you’ll be able to access the freelance directory, a great way of finding colleagues in the same position. Some will be more established, others less so, but every single one of them knows what it is like to be just where you are, and in my experience they are more than happy to receive an email from you introducing yourself. You never know what opportunities may come from the connections you make. 

There are also quarterly regional AMA member networking meetings – another great way to meet freelancers in your area. Why not make a date to meet colleagues for coffee or ask for a tour of their venue?  

Then there are other non-arts freelance circles you can join. Just google freelance networks in your area and you’ll uncover groups like Business  Over Breakfast and Women in Business Network. You can look through their members’ lists and find groups that feel the best fit. For me, it’s working mums. For others it may be recent graduates and start-ups, or people embarking on a career change. These groups are your salvation during those tricky moments; I’ve found them to be a great source of confidential advice. 

Social media is another great avenue – I use Careering Into Motherhood. All you need to do is post your “bad day experience”, or your “what shall I do about this?” question, and you will get a host of replies giving moral support, advice and sometimes helpful new connections.   

If working from home is a struggle, try working in your clients’ office instead if possible. It can be a great way to deepen your working relationships by absorbing what is happening elsewhere within the organisation. You’ll also be primed and ready to offer solutions that may lead to a new contract in the future. Being a freelancer doesn’t have to mean there aren’t ways to make your presence felt. 



It’s also really important to continuously develop your skills through training, professional development and self-improvement.  Gone are the days you could approach your boss and ask for a course to come out of the training budget – you are your boss!  

In Blog 2 in this series, I explain how I put a bit of money aside each month for training and business needs. If you do this, you will find that you can afford to update your skills after all. 

The AMA often offers freelance rates on their courses and sometimes there are bursaries that you can apply for to get an even better deal.  

Training and career development is so important on two levels. Firstly, the industry will move on without you if you don’t keep up – it really pays to be aware of the latest thinking in the sector.

And secondly, courses are a great way to meet and build relationships with others (freelance and salaried), learn the needs of organisations, understand where their resource gaps are, and hopefully get a few tips on how best to make your approach when you offer your services.  


Follow Beckie’s journey as she adapts to the challenges and opportunities of freelance life. Next time, Beckie considers the main differences between her daily life as a freelancer and her previous life as an employee. 

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