Creative<br/> Careers FAQs

Careers FAQs


Do I need a degree?

It is possible to start a career in some creative industries without a degree – and a degree is no guarantee of a job in the career you want. However, by studying your craft and passion at a higher level (whether through a degree, an apprenticeship, or higher level study at a college) you show potential employers that you are dedicated to your subject and will be able to build your skills and identify particular areas of interest that you may not otherwise have considered. A degree can also open up internship and graduate opportunities that may not be otherwise available. Passion and talent can go a long way in the creative industries, but having a strong foundation of skills and learning behind you might be the thing that takes you further towards your dream career.

What’s the difference between being self-employed, freelancing and salaried?

Many workers in the creative industries are considered self-employed or freelance. This means that they don’t work for one specific organisation all the time – they either run their own business or work independently for other businesses. There are many benefits to working as a freelancer:

  • Freedom to choose your own projects
  • Flexible location (including working from home)
  • Earning more
  • Broader work experience
  • Trying out new things
  • Whether you succeed or fail is your responsibility, and you aren’t reliant on others

However, there are also disadvantages to consider:

  • Work is not always steady or reliable
  • Harder to maintain work/life balance
  • Lots of chasing invoices
  • No sick pay or holiday pay
  • Paying taxes separately
  • Whether you succeed or fail is your responsibility, and you aren’t reliant on others

If you are a salaried member of staff you will generally only work for one or two companies and have a regular monthly or weekly income from this job. You will also enjoy employment benefits such as holiday and maternity/paternity pay. You may receive a slightly lower salary overall but you will not have to pay taxes separately and pay is regular and guaranteed.

Different people are suited to different ways of working, and while some thrive as freelancers and don’t enjoy the structure of salaried employment, others may find the uncertainty and lack of security is not for them.  

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of an artist’s best work, which showcases their style and versatility. When applying for a course in art and design based subject areas (e.g. fashion, fine art, photography) you may be asked to provide a portfolio as part of your application. This is your opportunity to show the college or university your skills and knowledge and to highlight your personal style and point of view.

Will I need to audition?

Most performance-based courses will require you to audition as part of your application. The college or university will usually give you some guidelines about what is required so you have plenty of time to prepare, and they may also be some improvisation required on the day. It’s really important to show your passion, interest and skill in your audition so think about which piece best showcases who you are as a performer. Don’t be surprised if you’re also asked to perform outside of your main discipline – for example, many acting and drama courses may also require you to sing or take part in a movement exercise as part of your audition. If this isn’t something you are confident in, consider taking a class or practising at home to make sure you’re fully prepared.

Do I have to be an artist or performer to work in the creative industries?

Not at all! Only a handful of jobs in the creative industries are performance or practice based. All businesses, creative or otherwise, need people to work in roles like marketing and customer service, and there are industry specific roles that are vital to keep organisations running.

If you’re into art and design but don’t want to be an artist, you could look for a role as a curator, manage events or public programmes for a gallery or heritage site, or be involved in the management and training of assistants and volunteers.

If you’re into theatre, dance or music, you might want to look at backstage roles such as stage management or becoming a technician. You could also look for roles that involve scheduling performances and deciding which pieces fit best in an organisation.

If fashion is your passion, you could look into merchandising, marketing or buying for large organisations.


Jargon busting


A short performance given by an actor/musician/dancer/etc to show their suitability for a particular role or course.


Hired to work for different companies on particular assignments, rather than working all the time for the same organisation. Self-employed, but not necessarily running a business.


A period of work offered by an organisation for a fixed amount of time, to allow a person to gain work experience in a particular industry.


Interacting with other professionals to develop a set of contacts in your industry.


An edited collection of an artist’s best work, showcasing their style and versatility.


Someone who does not work for a specific employer who pays them a consistent salary or wage. A business owner or freelancer would be considered as self-employed.

Small companies and micro-businesses

A small company generally has a turnover of less than £6.5million per year, and fewer than 50 employees. A micro-business generally has no more than 10 employees.

Unsociable hours

Generally evening/night or weekend working.

Vocational course

Training that has a focus on the skills and knowledge required for a particular job – e.g. a vocational photography course will focus on the skills and knowledge you need to be a photographer.