Crafting careers: From freelance to artful copywriting at the Met Store

Our Creative and Cultural Careers blog series continues with a fantastic contribution from University of Edinburgh alumna, Rachel Gould, who graduated with an MA of Arts in 2014. Rachel is a copywriter at The Met Store (The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s retail space), and her career journey is an excellent example of how your career can be variable and flexible. Read on to get inspired!  

My role as a copywriter at The Met Store 

As the copywriter at The Met Store, I spend my days exploring The Met’s digital archives, collecting art historical stories and fun facts to share with the public by way of contemporary designs. From jewellery to scarves and home décor, most of the items we sell at The Met Store reference artworks in the Museum’s holdings. My job is to help market them to the masses with insightful tales of the treasures that inspired their purchase—be it on packaging, in catalogs, on the website, and through blog posts.  

My career journey from freelance writing to The Met 

I’ve been at The Met for about two and a half years now, and while many of my inspirational colleagues celebrate their 20- and even 30-year work anniversaries, it’s rare that I stay at a post for 20 or 30 months. Within a period of just a few years after graduating from the University of Edinburgh, I was the art editor at a start-up, a freelance writer, the assistant to an art advisor, the editor for a luxury lifestyle blog, and the copywriter at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Sounds flighty, I know, but I had reasons for manoeuvring the way I did.  

The start-up stood in my way whenever I had an opportunity to acquire a new by-line (a must for any new writer to build their portfolio), so when I felt I had maxed out my potential with the company, I took an uncharacteristic leap of faith and quit to become a freelancer.  

As an independent writer, I had the freedom to collect by-lines at a variety of art publications, including Architectural Digest, Artsy, Artnet News, and Canvas Magazine. But freelancing was a brutal hustle and I depleted my savings to make rent every month. I added a supplemental gig assisting a contemporary art advisor, but it still wasn’t enough to live on.  

Eventually, I had to prioritise my finances, so I took a better-paying but unfulfilling job editing lifestyle content. When the pandemic reached New York, I was promptly laid off, which was traumatising but also kind of a relief. After a year spent reeling from the excruciating uncertainty of unemployment, I was hired to be the Whitney Museum’s copywriter. I almost didn’t bother to apply—never in a million years did I think I’d even be considered for such a coveted position—but one Hail Mary later and I was back in the game. Not for long, though, because it was only a temporary role.  

And those were the jobs I managed to secure. Along the way, I was rejected from positions I didn’t even remember applying to—if I was graced with a rejection at all. But my nonlinear trajectory motivated me to work harder, think smarter, and take risks. 

The most rewarding risk was the decision to start a YouTube channel with my husband. The Art Tourist, as we would call it, tells the extraordinary stories of our favourite artists in an effort to share the profound benefits of connecting with art. Bringing it to life required a small investment in a camera, and a monumental investment in time, patience, and learning how to fake confidence as the host (still very much a work in progress). 

We founded The Art Tourist because we wanted to nurture a creative project together, but also to push back against the external barriers to my professional progress: mass layoffs at legacy publications indicated that the media industry was faltering. Museums and galleries hire writers and editors, but in New York City, it’s incredibly difficult to breach the art world without the right connections (in one job interview, a gallerist asked me what my parents do). Having graduated with my degree in social anthropology, I thought I’d stand out in the sea of art history graduates, but even the creative sector can be surprisingly unimaginative. After all, social anthropology is the study of people, and people make art. Where’s the disconnect? 

My academic background made me an exceptionally empathetic storyteller, which manifests in my writing on paper and on screen. I lead with my professional portfolio to demonstrate the breadth and depth of my work experience, but when I shared The Art Tourist with the hiring manager at The Met Store, it was proof positive that I’m genuinely passionate about art. Against the odds, I won the job of my dreams on merit (with a little help from Lady Luck). 

My advice and how to forge your unique path in the art world 

So, some parting advice informed by my personal experiences:  

Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. They won’t always yield favourable results, but when something inevitably gives, your success will be infinitely more meaningful.  

For most of us, rejection is part of the process. Sure, you’ll always hear about the lucky few who swanned into the “perfect” job without skipping a beat, but that’s not the norm. There’s no such thing as the perfect job, anyway. 

Be practical when you’re applying for jobs, but leave yourself room for a pleasant surprise. Even if you don’t appear to meet every requirement, you lose nothing by throwing your hat in the ring—you truly never know. High hopes and low expectations, as they say. 

The art world is an ecosystem, and there are so many rewarding niches beyond “gallery assistant” and “curator.” If you’re good with your hands, consider art handling (like my husband!). You’ll be among the privileged few who get to touch the art. If you’re good with people, the art PR industry offers lots of opportunities to build your network and plan events. From what I’ve observed, it’s especially friendly to recent graduates. If you excelled in chemistry, look into art conservation. You’ll play an imperative role in preserving the lives of paintings, textiles, and precious decorative objects. If you’re a storyteller, keep an eye out for roles in education and publications departments. Many museums and galleries publish their own books and catalogues, and hire videographers and photographers to produce thoughtful content. 

Finally, if it doesn’t exist yet, create it! Even five years ago, art video content was largely unblazed territory, and it’s remarkable to see the way museums, galleries, scholars, and influencers utilise it now. I like to think we’ve contributed to what it’s become. 

Thank you, Rachel. 

So, there you have it. If you have any questions, Rachel can be contacted on Instagram or her channel on YouTube. 

Rachel highlighted the importance of making connections. Did you know that Platform One, the University’s online community, is a great way to get in touch with alumni? You can find friendly people there whose stories can inspire you – and they are happy to support you! 

Rachel also talked about the importance of being proactive. Visit our Create your own opportunity webpage to find out more.  


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