The Rise and Rise of the Creative Entrepreneur

“To be successful as a self-employed artist takes a hell of a lot of self discipline. You need to be flexible, a good time manager, have a head for numbers and embrace a really good work ethic.” – Kim Lawler.

The creative economy presents a world filled with opportunity. As a sector, the strength of the creative industries lie in the ability to manage risk and innovate in response to the uncertainties of the day, where the risks are as great as the potential rewards. In this environment, we are witnessing a seismic shift: how artists work, think, train, trade, collaborate and are valued is changing. That being said, conventional thinking still sees the art and business worlds as contrasting, with an education system that continues to encourage one pathway or the other. In spite of this, modernity has seen a blurring between these two apparent parallels and entrepreneurship has become a necessary part of the discussion around the sustainability of creative practice, for various reasons. This includes the saturation of the market, competition accessing finance and the development of the ‘digital’ sphere.


The Internet and advancing technologies have contributed to the unprecedented rise of creative entrepreneurship, given that it has significantly affected the way artists create, promote, sell, communicate, deliver and find work. The speed and scale of accessibility also means artists can now reach audiences in what used to be ways reserved for the institutions and large scale corporations.

Contributing to the bridging of the ‘arts and enterprise gap’, it seems “governments have abruptly woken up to the presence of the creative industries and their importance – both as feeders of ideas and products to other businesses, but as highly valuable cultural capital in keeping Britain a place that attracts the brightest and most energetic.” – Anne McElvoy

Furthermore, the multidisciplinary practices of young creators mean modern artists aren’t just relating to one artistic identity. In fact, the creative entrepreneur isn’t limited to the artistic sphere at all, instead, using their forward-thinking, entrepreneurial vision to conjure up new opportunities from nothing, with the business acumen to make it happen.

Versatility has become a new focus as creatives attempt to diversify their income streams, like any good business. But does this come at the compromise of artistic integrity? The commercial vs. artistic debate has always been prominent in the creative industries and this shift to entrepreneurship undoubtedly flags it up. Alternatively, we could instead choose to view this as an opportunity to explore different interests. The flexibility and agility of creative entrepreneurship is one of its great advantages.

Of course, professional artists have always relied on their talents to generate wealth, but creative entrepreneurs take that a step further to explore the full potential of their ideas and create value for others, as well as themselves through their skills.

“The value they [artists] create lies not in their physical products (if any) but in intangible assets such as their brand, reputation, network and intellectual property.” – Mark McGuinness

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Creative entrepreneurs:

  • Are proactive, turning ideas into products and services, effectively evaluating the processes and outcomes along the way.
  • Identify opportunities in the marketplace, using business skills to turn these ideas, products and services into profits, enabling the continuation and sustainability of the practice. In this regard, some consider creative entrepreneurs as different to creative freelancers, who may be earning income solely through paid work for clients, whereas the entrepreneur creates their own opportunities, produces results and making profits.
  • Build relationships, virtually and offline, connecting with partners, clients, audiences and stakeholders, often placing collaboration and effective communications at the heart of these associations.

“Creative entrepreneurship is spawning its own institutional structure—online marketplaces, self-publishing platforms, nonprofit incubators, collaborative spaces—but the fundamental relationship remains creator-to-customer, with creators handling or superintending every aspect of the transaction.” – William Deresiewicz

The path of the creative entrepreneur is not, by any means, an easy ride nor does it run without obstacle. The decision to pursue business in any capacity isn’t one that should be taken likely, however, it can be the most rewarding, fulfilling decision you’ll make. After all, doing what you love for a living makes it all worth it.

Our next Creative Enterprise programme resumes later in 2016, providing professional artists from across the industries with business, marketing and law training, enabling sustainable practice. If you’re interested in participating or contributing to future programmes, contact us:


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