Did you know that according to the Creative Industries Federation, a third of the creative industries sector are either self-employed or freelance?
This article features a summary of useful insights from creative industries staff at the University of the Highlands and Islands, sharing their practical advice and links to resources to help navigate a career as a freelancer. The university ran a social media campaign labelled #FreelanceFeb throughout February to raise awareness and encourage a dialogue around the challenges, benefits and realities of being self-employed.
Build contacts and collaborate
Stacey Toner, Creative Industries Curriculum Team Leader based at Moray College UHI, has developed her own arts organisation, providing work for freelance artists.
From the perspective of arts administration, her advice is to dedicate time to paperwork every week – and if you commit to a piece of work, follow it through. Securing the next gig will often come from successful delivery and building a reputation of being reliable.
“We have a flourishing performance culture in the Highlands, but this does require a significant degree of entrepreneurship and self-motivation…
Don’t wait for the opportunities to fall into your lap – go out and make them happen.”
Patience, determination and self-motivation
Anna McPherson, Lecturer, Contemporary Film Making in the Highlands and Islands:
“It’s important that you work at your craft. Determination will get you through challenges and you’ll reap the rewards.
Your work may take you to the four corners of the world.
I had the amazing opportunity to carry out documentary work in remote Nepal after the 2015 earthquake I’m planning to revisit this Easter. Here’s a short extract of the footage.”
Frank To, Art and Design Lecturer, Inverness College UHI.
Frank To (instagram @Frank_To_Artist) is a celebrated artist using gunpowder to promote peace. “You have to be prepared to go all out and break your limits. It’s better to strive to be the best than to settle for less.”
Develop diversity and be innovative
Professor Keith McIntyre, Interim Director of the Centre for Rural Creativity at the University of the Highlands and Islands:
“The notion of the artist working in self-imposed isolation is not an unfamiliar story. Having private creative spaces are essential, however, I have found enormous benefits to collaborating with other artists or technical specialists.
Do seize opportunities to work on multi-disciplinary projects. It can be creatively and professionally rewarding. Returning to the privacy of the studio can be reinvigorated by this valuable process.”
Simon Reekie, Contemporary Art and Contextualised Practice leader at Perth College UHI:
“Outside my work at the university, I work as a self-employed artist and freelance art therapist.
Through working as an artist and art therapist, I have learned that it is vital to find meaning and joy in all the work that I do. I have found a way to follow my passions and hopefully be of use to others at the same time.”
Faye Hackers is a technical knitwear designer and mixes freelance work with her contemporary textiles Programme Leader role based at Shetland College UHI:
“Freelancing helps me keep my practice fresh and informed. I work predominantly with trend forecasting, technical structure design and technical shape design for kids and women’s knitwear at a high street level.
Staying on top of trends is a key part of working in design. I have a home studio, containing all the machinery and equipment I need to take on design jobs from afar.”
Katie Masheter, Curriculum Development and Employer Engagement for the Creative Industries Subject Network:
“Seize all the opportunities flung your way or seek them out. Never underestimate the power of your network and potential connections you meet day-to-day. There are lots of mentors out there who can help you hone your practice. Someone recently said to me; if not you, then who? If not now, then when?”
Develop good organisational and planning skills
Pete Honeyman, Creative Industries Subject Network Leader, musician and wood turner:
“Take care of business. Be proactive and professional with contracts, communications and finances, be aware of and plan for your responsibilities. With that taken care of you create a safe and less stressful space to work and express yourself – which is the important stuff.”
It’s important to manage your money well, @HMRCgovuk have online resources to help you understand the different tax thresholds & what you can claim as expenses – all key if you don’t want to end up with an unexpected bill!
Mandy Haggith Literature Lecturer based at Inverness College UHI comments on the benefits of being freelance:
“The beauty of being freelance, for me, has been the ability to organise my work as an activist and researcher to make sure I always have time to prioritise my own creative projects, like writing my historical novel trilogy, The Walrus Mutterer, The Amber Seeker and The Lyre Dancers, plus grabbing opportunities for pieces of work that directly support my writing by helping with research for the books, such as working with archaeologist as a writer on an iron age dig.”
Mandy’s top tips for working freelance are:
1) cultivate a couple of really strong, core relationships with client organisations and be reliable and consistently available for them;
2) have a sense of where you’re trying to get to and regularly pitch for work that will take you there, even if it’s a long shot;
3) there will be times of feast (too much work) and times of famine (not enough), don’t worry; 4) take inspiration from trees, which root deeply, work hard when the sun shines and take time for resting;
5) don’t let work take over your life, otherwise what’s the point of being free?
Make use of the #supportingresources available and network, network, network!
Blogs | Do you want to know how to make the most out of your camera? Llewellyn Bailey from the university’s webteam shares his top tips for video production, featuring short informative videos from our YouTube channel. Check it out
@CreativeScots support the arts, screen & creative industries across Scotland. As well as a helpful resource for funding and reports, the ‘Creative Scotland Opportunities’ page is where you can find and promote any role or position for free – sign up for a regular newsletter that helps keep you in the loop.
Business Gateway offers practical help for new and growing businesses. Online resources, tailored advice, workshops, events and business development programmes. Not sure if they can help you? Just ask!
Check out the Creative Rebels podcast – inspiring interviews with creative people who have rebelled against the 9-5 (and advice on how you can too). Hosted by David Speed and Adam Brazier, co-founders of Graffiti Life & Parlour Tattoo.
Scotland’s first Impact Hub serving the Highlands and Islands offer a flexible co-working space in the heart of Inverness. It brings together lone workers, to combat social isolation and encourage social entrepreneurship. A space to work and to connect with like minded individuals and organisations. Rent a desk for an hour, a day, a week, a month. Book a meeting room, join for coffee or a networking event.
With thanks to all the contributors and the University of the Highlands and Islands Careers and Employability Centre and the webteam for producing the #FreelanceFeb campaign.
The University of the Highlands and Islands Careers and Employability Centre offers all students and graduates support with personalised careers advice and support with skills development. Book at appointment via Future Me
Check out the list of Creative Programmes on offer to study at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Feel free to share your own advice and tips in the comments
Reference: Creative Industries Federation website https://www.creativeindustriesfederation.com/statistics accessed on 28/02/20