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

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1 Helping myself to thrive

Before you explore the support networks that might be available to you, you can start by helping yourself.

A group of six young individuals sat on a bench holding up blank speech bubbles.

When you have that initial creative business idea, you need to nurture it and give it time to grow. Don’t just jump straight in. In his book How to think like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb highlighted seven principles that support the process of creativity. In a recent keynote presentation (Ramirez, 2017), he explained them as follows:

  1. A curious approach to life – give yourself the time and space to think, wonder and contemplate.
  2. A commitment to test knowledge through experience – view the situations and challenges in your life from different perspectives and try to filter out the distractions.
  3. The continual refinement of the senses – mindfulness is the key to sharpening your senses.
  4. A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty – don’t stick too rigidly to established beliefs and norms.
  5. The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination – balancing apparent opposites allows you to think with your whole mind rather than just a portion of it.
  6. The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise – balancing your body and mind has a positive effect on your wellness.
  7. A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things – the key to making progress on a big task is to generate first, then organise, and that means being aware of the big picture from the outset.

Self-help books and blogs are widely available and most of them will outline a series of practical steps to guide you in nurturing your freelance idea.

For example, the following list of actions is based on advice from The Startups Team (2021):

  • Evaluate yourself – look at your confidence, knowledge and experience and identify where you need support.
  • Market research – to check whether there is an audience or market for your product or service and identify who they are.
  • Assess your finances – knowing how you are going to fund your initial costs is crucial. If you are planning to work on a PC in the corner of your dining room, your costs might not be significant, but if you need materials or to hire a workshop, for example, then you’ll need to consider how you’re going to afford that. You’ll also need to consider your cash flow and personal finances in order to manage the potential uncertainty of fee-based income.
  • Create a business plan (or project plan) – to get the ideas from your head into a more structured form.
  • Choose a business structure – sole trader, partnership or limited company, each has different considerations.
  • Brand your business – you’ll need a name and a brand that your customers can recognise.
  • Protect your business – whether that’s through a physical alarm system, copywriting or legal protection, etc.

There’s a lot to think about in those bullet points and you’ll explore them all in more detail as you progress through the course. For now, Activity 1 encourages you to reflect on the needs of two different businesses.

Activity 1 What to do next?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

With the bullet points outlined by The Startups Team (2021) in mind, decide what you think both of the following individuals needs to do next. Make notes in the box beside each case study.

Table 1 Next steps for Lisa and Jasbir

Lisa has a lot of technical writing experience and now wants to become a freelance content writer. She has identified her target audience and has some prospective clients lined up. What does she need to do next?

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Jasbir has an idea for an arts event that she thinks some local organisations will provide funding for. What does she need to do next?

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Discussion

Using The Startups Team’s bullet points as a guide, you can see that both businesses outlined have similar needs. Market research is a crucial starting point.

Table 1 Next steps for Lisa and Jasbir (completed)

Lisa has a lot of technical writing experience and now wants to become a freelance content writer. She has identified her target audience and has some prospective clients lined up. What does she need to do next?

Lisa has done her market research and understands the demand for her service.

Before launching, she needs to decide on her business structure, create a business plan so she knows where she’s going, and brand her business by choosing a name.

Her start-up costs are not likely to be high and she has potential work already lined up. Financially, her next step should be to estimate when she will need to generate more work in order to sustain her freelance career.

Jasbir has an idea for an arts event that she thinks some local organisations will provide funding for. What does she need to do next?

Market research will tell Jasbir what finances might be available to fund her event and help her to identify organisations to target. It will also help her to evidence demand for her event – crucial for winning the funding. She will need a business plan to present to potential funders. A name for the event will also be important.

Now that you’re more aware of some of the things you can do for yourself, you can start to identify some of the areas where you might need additional assistance.

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