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

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3.1 The ability to diversify

Being a freelancer can be financially precarious without the support structures of an employing organisation – so you need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Case study 1 The ability to diversify

Stephen is a private peripatetic music teacher in the east of England. He teaches percussion in a range of schools, providing one-to-one tuition and various after-school music workshops. He used to be a session musician and has toured with a number of well-known bands.

Last year, a CT scan showed damaged vertebrae in his neck and a doctor warned of paralysis if he didn’t have an operation. As a freelancer, taking time out for the operation and several months of recuperation could have had a significant impact on his income. Fortunately, Stephen had taken out insurance to cover loss of earnings, but there was a negative impact on his profile across the city as he was replaced by another freelance teacher for tuition and workshops.

Stephen’s currently in recovery and building his reputation up to make himself more visible again. Word of mouth plays a significant role in his business model.

However, while he was laid up, he started to write his memoirs and subsequently signed a contract to provide regular blogs for a rock music website. These have been really successful and have brought him income while raising awareness of his brand in a different way.

Now complete Activity 3.

Activity 3 Case study take-aways

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What can you learn from Stephen’s experience of freelancing that might be relevant to your own situation? Make a note in the box below.

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You might have considered the following:

  • There can be a significant impact on your business if you only have one product or service and something happens to stop you providing it. However, there are often opportunities to diversify. Considering the other things you can do with your knowledge and experience can be a valuable tactic.
  • It is really important to consider how you would manage if your health stopped you from working for a significant period. Various insurances are worth investigating further, e.g. income protection insurance. You’ll look at insurance in more detail in Week 7.

Of course, a recent example of the unexpected that everyone has experienced is the global Covid-19 pandemic. This has had a significant impact on freelancers in the creative sector, with gigs, jobs and commissions being cancelled during lockdown. For many, contingency plans have been important, and those who have been able to diversify their creative offer, such as streaming their performances online or embracing social media as an alternative way to connect with their clients and customers, have often achieved more than those who were unable to adapt quickly. You’ll explore contingency planning in more detail in Week 8.

Another option for creative freelancers, and one that can mitigate against some of the risk, is to consider a portfolio career. You’ll learn more about that in the next section.

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