Self-employed learning professional

Andy Whincup

Andy Whincup

Andy runs Past Participants where he creates learning experiences for schools, museums and cultural institutions.

What are your main work activities?

Learning design and delivery. I deliver learning days for schools and workshops for schools in museums. I also create new learning resources for schools and museums.

Tell us about your typical working day.

There’s no such thing as a typical day. As a consultant/freelancer, the lack of routine is a fact of life and a challenge. An office day will involve following up immediate contacts and enquiries, alongside working on long-term projects. A delivery day usually involves packing equipment for travel to the site in order to deliver sessions, returning home and repacking everything before making sure nothing urgent has happened. Planning and organisation are key to making sure things are done on time.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love learning. I love helping other people learn. I love working with objects from the past and using them to tell stories. Seeing people’s faces light up makes my day.

What are the challenges?

Making enough money to pay the bills reliably. Forward planning. Working alone means I have no support. The organisation required to carry out all aspects of the business and ensure everything gets done is a perpetual challenge.

Briefly describe your career leading up to today. For example did you do a course in this area? Did you switch career?

I have no formal training in museums, I trained as an archaeologist and geologist. I started through volunteering, then casual delivery work before getting my first full-time post. I headed up a small department for ten years. I now work for myself using the skills I have learned to help schools and museums.

What key skills do you need to do your job?

Adaptability: a willingness to try new things. Resilience: you will always be under-resourced. Strong social skills: both for people you are delivering to and those you are working with. Calmness in the face of chaos and crisis.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to work in this area?

Don’t. More seriously, make sure you love it. It is very demanding and unlikely to make you rich, so make sure that loving the work is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Be willing to try your hand at anything, even if you have no formal training in it. Volunteer: both in the sense of volunteer work and volunteering to do things. Be willing to move: there aren’t many jobs around so you need to be willing to move to where they are. Learn all the time: knowledge is your stock-in-trade so keep acquiring it. Work on your craft: it’s what differentiates the excellent from the good. Watch others and learn from them, even if it’s how not to do things.

Read more about Andy’s work on his Past Participant’s website.

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