This week’s blog by BCre8ive Co-Founder Phil Parker looks at the skills and work needed by creatives to survive in the coming years.
NESTA have produced a report calling for 1m more creative jobs to be created by 2030, while at the same time Susan Jones in the Guardian newspaper points out the ups and downs of being a self-employed creative. So with over 17,000 new media graduates about to leave Universities in the UK this summer what do they need to do to survive, and become one of the 1m new creatives who will drive the UK economy over the next fifteen years?
- Create Original work
This may seem obvious but when 300 hours of ‘original’ video material is posted on YouTube every minute; there are 50 billion ‘original’ pins on Pinterest; 16,000 ‘original’ games in the App Store alone and over 2m ‘original’ books are published a year – the concept of being original needs some clear definitions. Crucially, work needs to stand out from this mass of productions, which dominate the global Internet space.
Easier said than done, but it highlights the need to review your work in the light of what already exists and develop new work which provides something different. This means working with familiar forms from drawing a cartoon, to making a dress or working in genres from romances to thrillers but then adding your own original touch to these familiar creative outputs. It is this additional element being added to something familiar, which makes something ‘original’.
- Put Quality First
Setting yourself high standards is critical to long-term success. This can be practical skills based – your ability to create very highly polished pieces of work, through to thought based – your ability to recognise and solve problems. The key is always strive to create a better version than what has gone before. You will not always succeed, but you will impress others, and often be supported as a result.
“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.” Ed Catmull Creativity Inc. 2014
- Embrace Failure
Very few creatives achieve success with their first works; even fewer go on to be successful throughout their creative lives. Your ability to take risks, fail, and start again is part of your ability to survive. This approach is applauded in entrepreneurs and often rewarded with high levels of financial investment. In the creative sector people are often dismissed if at first they do not succeed. Therefore, you need to believe in yourself, and have a supportive community, who will help you develop your work.
- Find Collaborators
There is a romantic notion of the lone artist creating on their own but the reality is most successful artists have had their collaborators. Some forms of creativity make this obvious as in film making e.g. Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, others less so, for example, the painters Cezanne and Pissarro. Graphic novels have been dominated by collaborative teams and some deliberately created as team projects e.g. IDP: 2043 which was overseen by Denise Mina, and contained work by Dan McDaid, Mary Talbot, Irving Welsh and several other writers and graphics artists.
“In the long history of humankind(and animal kind,too) those who laern to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed” Charles Darwin
- Develop Communities
Collaborators, whether they actually work with you or merely comment on your work, give advice, make suggestions, are clearly part of your community but with social media there are opportunities now, which have never been available to any previous generation. No matter what you interests or the subject/s you have chosen to work on there are social media groups, forums and networks who will be focused on the very thing which interests you.
The development of the ‘Twilight’ saga and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ are well-documented community-based projects, but every form of creativity, and subject can be developed and shared on the web.
In the past if you wrote TV episode, or had a gallery showing, which few people saw, that was it – start again. Now everyone who saw your work is contactable – you already have an audience for your next piece of work. This is to say nothing of your own social media network, and the online Talent Pools e.g. our own at BCe8ive but also Talent House and CreativePool.
- Organise Funding Sources
Apart for directly selling creative work grants have always been a part of the creative funding environment be it from charitable foundations or public funders. These range from the small individual support available through ‘Grants for Arts’ ; Creative England and other national public bodies to specific arts funders e.g. the Wellcome Trust
However, these traditional sources are now being complimented by new sources of financial support for creatives.
The creative industries are finally being seen as a possible focus for investment. Admittedly this is skewed towards games and other App style propositions, but in 2015 there are various loans and development schemes created for people starting on their creative career. These include AIMStartUps and The Arts Impact Fund aimed specifically at creatives, to more general business start ups, e.g. StartUp Loans which are for any new business – this can mean you!
The other lending explosion is peer-to-peer where people invest in you or your work with the aim of being paid back in the future. For an overview of this rapidly changing source of money in the UK look at the U-Switch site
Then of course there is the established Crowdfunding mechanism in film and games dominated by Kickstarter and IndieGoGo but now expanding into graphic novels, e-books, performances and complimented by a growing Crowdfunding community including Crowdshed and Crowdfunder.
- Be Agile
Diversification, and changing focus, has always been apart of creative lives.
You may define yourself as an animator, artist, writer, filmmaker, director etc. but the vast majority of the people who work as creatives also use their skills in other contexts – often, and traditionally, education.
However, the big opportunity the web and digital production provides is the ability to adapt a creative project for different audiences on different platforms. In order to do this effectively you will need to collaborate with others, work with a number of different publishes, exhibitors, etc. plus of course launch your own work into the communities you have connected with or created yourself.
Becoming one of the million possible new creatives in the next fifteen years will not be easy, but if you can combine all the above elements into your work then you stand a good chance.