This morning we’ve got another brand new interviewee joining the series – so welcome to Katherine Findlay from Katherine Findlay Interpretation! I met Katherine on a Facebook group I set up to talk about Icelandic sagas (as you do; follow the link if you’re interested!). She was talking about her job as a heritage interpreter there and I was fascinated – when I found out that she ran her own business doing it, I just had to invite her to take part in this series. Katherine’s only just set up as self-employed, so it’s early days, but it sounds like such an exciting area to be in, and I’m sure everyone’s going to enjoy learning a bit more about it … So, let’s meet Katherine …
Hello, Katherine! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
My business is called Katherine Findlay Interpretation, and I set it up earlier this year.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I work in heritage interpretation, which tends to be commissioned as part of a project. Only very large organisations have permanent members of staff working solely on interpretation. Moving from project to project means that the work is very varied – the last job I did was on a dinosaur exhibition, the one before that at a mining museum. I work on exhibitions, online resources, historic sites, trails – anywhere an organisation needs to speak to an audience. Working independently means that I am always getting into something new, which I find really exciting.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
I met two inspiring people in Snowdonia! Three years ago, I was working part time for an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team as a communications officer. Through my job, I went on a writing course run by Susan Cross and James Carter, two of the UK’s most prominent interpretation specialists. It introduced me to the world of heritage interpretation, which I had no idea was a profession. That week in Wales fired my imagination and gave me a new passion for telling stories that matter. Having rather drifted about from job to job in my twenties, I suddenly found something that I knew I wanted to do properly.
Had you run your own business before?
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I had to start by getting some expertise! I spent the next two years studying interpretation, representation and heritage as a postgraduate distance learner at the University of Leicester. I only graduated this year, so I am just beginning to get established as a professional. I still work part-time at the AONB and I am a single mum, so I have to fit my freelance work around my other commitments.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
Nothing – if anyone had told me how much hard work was involved in getting qualified I don’t think I would have started!
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
I haven’t been doing it for long enough to have gained that wisdom yet. I’m sure I’ll make lots of mistakes along the way and learn plenty of lessons.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
I don’t have any regrets so far.
What are you glad you did?
Even though it was sometimes a struggle, I’m glad that I went down the academic route and studied my subject thoroughly. You don’t have to be qualified to call yourself a heritage interpreter, but a solid grounding gives you invaluable confidence in your work.
What’s your top business tip?
I’m not nearly experienced enough to give any tips yet!
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
It’s gone really well so far, and I’ve had some very interesting work. My main constraint is that as the only breadwinner it would be very hard to take the step of giving up my regular job, so it’s not clear to me yet how the business will grow.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
I hope that I will continue to expand my portfolio and perhaps I will be in a position to think about working for myself full time.
Exciting stuff – I wonder what Katherine will get up to over the next year! I’m sure she’ll have plenty of hints and tips for us next time, and hopefully things will be a bit clearer about where the business is going. It took me a couple of years to venture from part-time to full-time self-employment, so it is something that takes time. I bet we’ve all learnt something about an interesting and different kind of job today, and I know we’ll all wish Katherine well in her new venture.
You can find Katherine Findlay Interpretation online at www.katherinefindlayinterpretation.co.uk.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.