How to Start Your Career as a Creative

The Bund, Shanghai

The creative industry and its disciplines tend to be among the first victims of a recession and its financial stranglehold. Cash-strapped consumers are more willing to sacrifice cultural non-essentials (theatre, films, books, fine arts, information technology) over necessities like food and shelter.

On the other hand, escapism via creative diversions becomes a human need during the rigours of daily life in times of economic hardship. Art is a salve for the oppressed soul, after all.

It was reported earlier this year that the United Kingdom’s creative sector has outperformed the rest of the British industry since 2008. Creatives account for 5.6% of the nation’s employment, generating a whopping £8 million pounds an hour.

Government data revealed that employment within creative industries increased more than tenfold the rate of overall job growth in the country in 2012.

We cannot conclude that these statistics render the creative sector recession-proof, as it might be a consequence of other factors and incubators. Professionals previously working conventional (and increasingly defunct) 9-to-5 jobs may have had to forge alternative career paths. Or it is the rise of the millennials, a generation craving inward job satisfaction over tedious stability that has influenced this trend?

Changing economic landscapes, worker mindsets, or the constantly mutating nature of mass culture – whatever the reasons – have led me to think of ways creatives can kick-start their careers.

Here are four ways, whether you’re an MFA graduate of a posh art institute or a former banker turned sculptor, that you can embark on your artistic career path:

1. Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio

A solid body of your own work is a louder testament to your abilities than your academic grades. “Wow” your potential employers with what you’ve already created, rather than hollow promises what you can craft. Grab their attentions by setting yourself apart from the pool of applicants – don’t emulate the greats but be distinctive in your aesthetic style. That’s how Picasso, Warhol, and Van Gogh became household names.

2. Form collectives with other artists

Like a nurturing support system, these will give you access to material resources and free advice from the art community while allowing you publicize your work to the public and cut overhead costs. You can also network with industry leaders and seek out commission projects.

3. Be careful of unpaid internships

While working in a museum, gallery, or consultancy gives you access to key players and industry skills, and embellishes your CV, be wary of falling into the trap of permanent unremunerated labour. Be clear from the outset that you are loaning your skills and expertise for a short-term placement, either with the eventual expectation of becoming a longterm member of the company or finding paid work elsewhere.

4. Tap into the World Wide Web

The Internet has been heralded as a democratizing force, so take advantage of its economical, immediate, and diffusive nature. Advertise your personal brand and artistic creations online with social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn) and become an online dealer. Investors and venture capitalists like disruptive business models, so think outside the box when marketing your web gallery.

Whatever is happening in the world economy, there is never a better time than now to begin your career in the creative sector or strengthen what you have already started.


Mashoka Maimona

Mashoka is a Canadian journalist, communications specialist, and human rights advocate who has written for the National Post, London Free Press, and Sarnia Observer. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Carleton University School of Journalism.

Mashoka is a political aficionado, literary buff, and grammar enthusiast who loves to cosy up with an old-fashioned journal and let her thoughts run wild. Follow her on Twitter @MashokaM.


Any best practices you would like to share with the creative community? Please do and comment below!

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