Friday, October 13, 2006

The perils of a freelance archaeologist

I never wanted to be freelance. It's not good for me personally, and it's not good for the brick and tile. Being outside archaeological organisations means that both you and, more crucially, your material can easily be ignored. This is a real problem if you do brick and tile, where there is barely 'a market.'

A circular argument is used: why get the material reported on thoroughly if not much can be got from it? But of course, the more intensively it is studied, the more it will yield tangible results. A no-brainer, one would think, but frequently, I have to point this out, or heavily imply it. Unfortunately, diplomacy is not my forte; I'm just interested in doing the brick and tile properly, not in networking and furthering my career per se. The results of intensive study won't be the same as its close, much-studied cousin, pottery, but more information will be found out about brick and tile, which was a major ceramic industry from the Roman period onward.

As a freelance, apart from having to find work, accommodate brick and tile in one's home, and do battle with the Inland Revenue when they can't believe how little one is earning, one of the major problems is fellow archaeologists. It is all to do with respect (or lack thereof), and also a careless attitude to those who have to live on a financial precipice. Recently I had to do battle with an archaeological organisation that did not want to pay me an average rate for doing a day's work. Actually, I'll be putting in perhaps around 1.5 days, but I thought I'd be generous and not charge the whole whack (silly me) All sorts of excuses were thrown my way - particularly along the lines of we wanted to use the funds for a more worthy cause. Frankly, they tried to make me feel guilty at charging this average rate for this work. I offered to stand down; it was the only thing I could do, as I was not going to take a lesser rate, knowing that the work entails much preparation as well as intensive execution. It went a little higher within the organisation and fortunately my rate was approved. But the whole episode has left a very bad taste (and just when I was starting to think it couldn't get any worse ...)

I presume I am being viewed as a gold digger, because I insisted on charging a very average rate. Hello!? Would I be in British archaeology if I was in it for the money? The idea's laughable. What I earn from archaeology doesn't really cover the costs of research, travel, associated expenses, etc, concerned purely to do with studying brick and tile. Trying to argue 'the more worthy' clause doesn't wash with me - as far as I'm concerned the continuing and evolving study of brick and tile is as worthy a cause as anything else in archaeology. Unfortunately some (most?) of my colleagues don't seem to agree with me.

1 comment:

Andrea Vipperman said...

Well what do they know, if that is your interest or passion I see no reason other then it doesn't pay much as you say, but if that is what you choose to do as a freelance archaeologist then I say more power to you and you are an encouraging example for the rest of us who may choose to follow an overlooked area of archaeology and as freelance work I find that inspiring.