Getting Started in the Creative Industries

Where to start… Well, the easiest place to start is with what you love, or at least what interests you. The creative industries are a diverse mix of job roles and disciplines that – in short – encapsulate businesses with creativity at their heart. This could be design, music, publishing, architecture, film & video production, visual arts, fashion, TV & radio, advertising, marketing, gaming or performing arts to name a few. What is important to remember, is that this doesn’t mean you need to be a design pro or incredible writer to crack it. The range of opportunities for a myriad of skillsets means that it is open to anyone, whatever your interests, which is encouraging, but can sometimes be daunting when getting started.

Breaking down the basics

Key to know, is that there are three primary routes to break into creative industries:

  • Agency: providing services to brands and companies
  • In-house: working at a brand/business to provide work with or without agency help
  • Freelance & self-employed: working for yourself to provide services to agencies and brands, or drive your own commercial value

Each comes with their own pros and cons, whether you choose to go it alone from day one or gather experience and know-how from colleagues at a brand or agency. Which you choose will come down to (honestly) answering some questions about what you want from the first years of your career.

  1. Do you thrive working as part of a group and sharing skills with others?
  2. Do you have a clear idea of the business you’d like to pursue?
  3. How important is it to be you own boss?

Agency, In-House or Freelance… where do you want to go?

If collaboration, culture and shared experience from the office is important to you, then the world of agencies can be a good place to start. The mix of clients and businesses working with you, a range of disciplines and an eclectic mix of personalities around you means that the work you do will be varied, often fast-paced and filled with chances to learn a broad set of skills.

And, as if the creative world wasn’t complicated enough, the agency landscape can be pretty confusing too. However, there are some very distinct starting points that can help you to make a decision. Researching and understanding these is important for any role/specialism:

  1. Media agency
  2. Experiential agency
  3. PR & communications
  4. Social media and content
  5. Digital marketing
  6. Influencer marketing
  7. Creative agency
  8. Production agency
  9. Web agency

Alternatively, more structure to your working day and discipline could be more your thing. In-house roles offer consistency (as you’re working with one brand/business) and more opportunities to get into the detail of a company and its creative offering. Smaller teams can lead to more autonomy, but sometimes less movement or slower progression up the ladder. As with agency life, there are still decisions to make before entering into the in-house world; business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C)? One doesn’t necessarily mean more creativity than the other, but generally B2B will place more focus on the  corporate world and like-minded businesses, rather than creating work that will be important to people at home.

The decision to work for yourself versus and employer can be a big one, particularly as you start your career. To make it simple, working for yourself can be approached in two ways:

  • Freelance: Working for yourself to provide creative services to brands, agencies and individuals 
  • Self-employed: Owning your own commercial business and pipeline

For those who enjoy flexibility, variation and managing your own to-do list, freelance work can be an interesting way to experience a range of working styles, agencies, brands and disciplines. The challenge with both freelance and self-employment is the financial independence and culpability, and the importance of being able to identify opportunities and work for yourself. For some, this can be huge incentive, particularly if you have a craft or passion that is easy to sell, for others looking to define their skillset and experience a mix of roles, this might not be such an attractive option.

Getting to grips with your search

It’s a big world out there! But one filled with endless different options, experiences and routes to success. To get some helpful research together to make an informed decision about your next move, here are some places to start.

  1. Get online and look at the work people are doing. What do you like?

Look at the top UK creative agencies, media agencies, PR agencies and production agencies to begin to build and idea of the work they are doing, the brands they work with, and the jobs they have on offer. Big players include my agency Karmarama, Mother London, BBH, Engine Group, Carat, Saatchi and Saatchi and Ogilvy

  1. Start paying attention to brands, companies and charities that you like

We all want to do work that we care about. Keep an eye out for adverts, events, social media content that you like – or hate – and begin to build a picture of what you might like to do yourself

  1. Take tips from the pros

Networking groups like Bloom or WACL – both aimed at women in creative industries – can be a good place to find mentors and talks to attend. Look to not-for-profit groups like Create Jobs and Arts Council for information on roles and career paths available, and information on how to get access to them. Podcasts like ‘The Creative Boom Podcast’ and ‘Never Not Creative’ are great for listening to some of the creative world’s most exciting experts give frank and helpful insights into the industry

A reading list to get you started…

  • The Multi Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon
  • How to Fail by Elizabeth Day
  • Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Dr Mark Epstein
  • Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  • Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Ameilia Nagoski

Author: Katie Hunter, Social and Influencer lead at Karmarama

About OK Mentor


Ok Mentor provides free, real world training and mentorship for young women looking to break into the creative industries. Established and managed by a group of industry leaders, it aims to inspire confidence in others to succeed from an early age.

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