A freelance career in the creative arts
A freelance career in the creative arts

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1 What are the creative arts?

Before you start the course, spend a few minutes thinking how you would define the creative arts.

Activity 1 Defining the creative arts

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

How would you define the term ‘creative arts’?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


The creative arts can be defined in many ways. The UK government’s Creative Industries Council defines the sector as comprising ‘Those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’ (DCMS, 2001).

The Creative Industries Federation (2017) breaks the industry down into 12 subsectors:

  • Advertising and marketing
  • Architecture
  • Crafts
  • Design (product, graphic, fashion)
  • Film, tv, video, radio and photography
  • Creative ‘tech’ (IT, software and computer services)
  • Publishing
  • Museums, galleries and libraries
  • Music, performing and visual arts
  • Animation and visual effects
  • Video games, and
  • Heritage.

This is a very broad definition of the creative arts covering several areas that you might not immediately think of as ‘arts’. In order to simplify the perspective, this course is designed to be most relevant to those working in the following areas:

  • Visual arts: e.g. art, film, photography, crafts, design etc.
  • Performing arts: e.g. music, dance, theatre etc., and
  • Written arts: e.g. poetry, literature, non-fiction writing etc.

Activity 2 Categories within the creative arts sector

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Spend a few minutes thinking about the subsectors listed by the Creative Industries Federation. Can you identify which subsector (or maybe there’s more than one) your work fits into?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


If you’re unsure whether your ideas fit with the categories this course intends to focus on, have a quick look ahead through the course content. While you might not come across a case study that matches your own area of interest, you should feel reassured that the course will cover many of the factors you need to consider when working as a freelancer, as well offering tips for navigating the creative sector.

In the next section, you’ll focus on the wider context of freelancing within the creative arts sector.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371