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

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4.1 The organic approach

The organic approach involves being open to trying different things and responding positively to any opportunities that arise. You can use that flexibility and openness to build an extensive network over time. Read the following case study in which an arts graduate explains how their freelance career developed organically.

Case study 2 The organic approach

Adapted from Creative Career Stories (Ball et al., 2010).

BA Decorative Art graduate – freelance glassmaker, button maker, gallery employee and trainer

‘I started off by working in a gallery. […] The staff were wonderful and I started teaching there; that was a big break. […] Now I work in a gallery one day a week, I work as an invigilator (which is quite a menial job but it gives me a chance to think), I do regular selling outlets (music festivals, up-market craft fairs, pamper evenings…) and I do talks. I got on the circuit for WIs, University of the Third Age, Red Cross, etc. which are all desperate for interesting people. I’ve bought an overhead digital projector to show images of my work and I explain how I came to be doing it. I can put my work out and I usually sell maybe £100 or £200 worth. Also I do one or two glassmaking teaching sessions a month, usually two or three days work each time. And then there are the patchwork groups for which I make buttons.

Handmade glass blowing

‘People find me for work. I’ve had a lot of introductions through talking to customers. And I network. […]

‘It’s difficult combining jobs because things clash. So you have to be very organised, keep a diary, keep track of everything that’s going on and keep track of emails. But I’d be bored solid if I had to do the same thing all the time. That’s probably something about being creative, that you like variety, and all the different activities spark off each other.’

Now complete Activity 4.

Activity 4 Case study take-aways

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What can you learn from this freelancer’s experience 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:

  • Be open to the opportunities that come your way and consider how they could work for you, rather than assuming they won’t and turning them down. You can always make a choice about reducing your commitments when you know which of them suit you the best.
  • Be aware that when you say yes to an opportunity, you are not simply gaining that one piece of work. You are also creating the potential for further contracts from referral or repeat commissions.
  • Take care not to overcommit. Find some time for yourself between commitments and deadlines.