I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last two months interviewing creative entrepreneurs as part of a project for University of the Arts London. And despite the fact the people I interviewed spanned industries as disparate as product design, puppet-making, acting, fine art and architectural psychology, clear themes emerged that were common to almost all when I looked back on what they’d said. This isn’t exhaustive by any means but the things that most stood out were:
They make their own opportunities
Whether it was finding internships, work experience, shadowing, entering competitions or organising their own exhibitions, one trait that characterised everyone I spoke to was they were, without exception, pro-active. They recognised there were opportunities to develop whatever their level of experience – many had started creating their own opportunities before they started their degree courses and used the knowledge of the people around them, whether that was tutors, other students, or creative people who inspired them.
Generous with their time, with their advice and their skills. Most people I talked to went out of their way to support others in their industry (and often beyond), looked out for opportunities for people they had met and shared their ideas quite freely. Many seemed to be passing on the generosity that had been shown to them by others – tutors, technicians and other professionals who had helped them get a foothold in the creative industries. And the majority found this approach paid dividends for them too, in the form of strong contacts who passed opportunities back their way, and recommended them for roles and commissions they wouldn’t have been able to access alone.
Relatively few people I spoke to worked entirely alone. Even people for whom the creation of their work is inherently a one-person affair – the fine artists and illustrators – everyone I spoke to collaborated with others in some way. Some had formed collectives and partnerships to combine disciplines, while others had looser social groups with whom they shared ideas. But in one way or another, they all share information with others in the industry, talk about it, write, blog or tweet about it. .
Almost everyone said they networked, though not necessarily formally and the majority said they’d found most of their work, through contacts rather than applying for jobs.
They’re committed to learning
Most of the interviewees said they had taken on additional courses outside their degrees and had taken short courses which took them in all sorts of new directions, and they were, without exception, all enquiring and inquisitive. They wanted to make connections between their craft and other industries. Even, or perhaps especially, the well-established artists talked about always learning, always making sure they are challenging themselves.
Many of the interviewees said in addition to their creative craft, they’d learned a whole raft of business skills to make it in the creative industries. In many cases, as well as really pushing their skills in their creative craft, they were their own accountants, promotors and website managers, and said managing the business side of things was in itself a huge task. None of them bemoaned this, but instead immersed themselves in learning these new skills.
Currently reading: The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
Currently listening to: Broadsides, by Bellowhead