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Entrepreneurship and the creative graduate

November 2018

Students entering into professions within the creative industries are required to be more entrepreneurial than other graduates in order to achieve success

It is vital that creative graduates have the ability and resilience to carve their own career path as 89% of creative businesses employ fewer than five people.1

Therefore, it's not always the case of looking for a job or opportunity, but creating your own, resulting in a career path that's unique and driven by both ambition and talent.


Creative graduates often have portfolio careers, which means not having one full-time job at one location but having two or more part-time/contract/uncertain jobs that altogether make up a full-time wage.

Commonly, a part of this will involve working as a freelancer – being self-employed as part of a contract to an agency or organisation. This is often unavoidable in an industry where 40% of the workforce is made up of freelancers, according to the 2016 update of the Labour Force Survey.2

Traditional job opportunities are few and far between with up to 200 people a day applying for the most coveted positions

Freelancing allows organisations within the industry, predominately micro businesses (employing fewer than five people), to be more ambitious in their projects, to grow in number and be able to accommodate projects and secure particular skills on a short-term basis and then to shrink again without the expense of permanent employees and resources.

The statistics back this up. While only 4.6% of the general graduate population work in this way, it is true of:

  • 17.8% of fine arts students,
  • 12.2% of design students,
  • 23.3% of performing arts students.3

The importance of networking

Networking is essential if graduates are to access opportunities within this fast-paced industry - traditional job opportunities are few and far between with up to 200 people a day applying for the most coveted positions.4

With the ability to network at the touch of a button, thanks to advances in technology, a whole new approach to recruiting has developed utilising social media to quickly and easily fill opportunities.

Therefore, utilising social media and networking is a good way to establish career ideas and carry out research into the roles that may be available, as well as identifying gaps in the market and building up skills that are commonly required.

These developments in technological networking can work in favour of those who previously would not have flourished in a face-to-face networking environment, or had access to networking opportunities and contacts.


Creative arts graduates have to be confident in their own personal brand and market themselves effectively, as well as recognising profitable opportunities and having the skills to manage themselves as a business.

Creative arts graduates are expected to be a Jack-of-all-trades with a 'can-do' attitude

According to the latest Creative Media Workforce Survey (2014), 56% of creative media respondents found current or recent roles informally and 77% completed unpaid work experience.5

Sought-after skills

Graduates are expected to have both a broad knowledge of the creative industry and specific understanding of particular aspects within it. They are expected to be a Jack-of-all-trades with a 'can-do' attitude.

Soft skills most commonly associated with creative graduates include:

  • adaptability,
  • tenacity,
  • commercial acumen.

These are being sought after by the more traditional large-scale recruiters, with some specifically targeting creative graduates in their recruitment drives.

Recruitment in this industry can be very fast-paced and being in the right place at the right time is vital. Therefore, those who are able to establish networks, use social media effectively and are willing to be as proactive as possible, marketing their skills to a range of potential employers in a range of industries, are the ones most likely to secure opportunities.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of HECSU/Prospects


  1. DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates 2017: Employment and Trade, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, 2017.
  2. This freelance creative is trying to shake up the gig economy, Campaign, 2017.
  3. HECSU
  4. How Many Applicants Does Each Job Vacancy Get?, Mediargh, 2017.
  5. HECSU

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