Why the UK is great for creative businesses

 23 July 2014

The UK’s world-class creative industries are booming – good news for the start-ups that are so vital to the sector. Creative business mentor Damian Baetens from Transmit explains why now is an excellent time to launch your business.

Hivehaus benefited from Transmit funding to help develop its business creating modular living space.
Hivehaus benefited from Transmit funding to help develop its business creating modular living space.

If you know where to look, you’re likely to find opportunities to get into the creative industries through training schemes, apprenticeships and paid internships.

However, as the creative sector is overwhelmingly an industry of sole traders and small businesses, instead of taking a job it could make more sense to ‘make’ one. Sometimes you have to just get out there and show people what you can actually do.

Luckily, the UK is a great place to start a creative business or become self-employed in the creative industries.

The UK creative economy is booming

So why is it a good time for you to be thinking about a start up?

The creative industries are the fastest-growing sector, worth £71.4bn in 2012 alone. Their success has prompted praise from the Government, with Culture Secretary Sajid Javid enthusing: “Our world leading creative industries are a veritable powerhouse.

“They drive growth and outperform other industries, with employment increasing at around five times the rate of the national average.”

The creative industries are the fastest-growing sector, worth £71.4bn in 2012 alone. 

The UK is pitched to become the leading hub for the world's creative industries within a generation, according to the the UK business leaders' organisation CBI.

But it’s important to highlight that small businesses, including start-ups, make up a large proportion of this thriving sector, with around 85 per cent having five employees or fewer.

The growing attention about the value and the importance of the creative industries to the UK has to be good for start-ups, which are vital for the future of the sector.

You can start a creative business yourself

It’s always going to be hard to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder, but showing people what you can actually do is better than sending off countless CVs and sitting inside the crowd.

Take a step out and sell some jewellery. Make a record, promote a show, set up a pop up shop or self-publish. Make it happen and try not to be passive, as your personal ‘brand’ will not develop without some action.

If you’re actually doing it then you won’t need to pitch yourself or your abilities so hard, and the ‘leap of faith’ from employers or business partners is much shorter. 

Working freelance and selling your services to other people means you’re in business already, so maybe it’s not such a big step into self-employment after all?

You can register as self-employed and get the basics about running a business from government advice resources.

For more specific advice and mentoring about running a creative business, you can approach national organisations Creative England and Creative Scotland through to private companies like us at Transmit who all have a background in running commercial creative business and offer finance, mentoring and business support.

Innovation is improving opportunity

There are many ways you can promote yourself and establish your own routes to market these days. It’s much easier to do this now than ever before.

You can create a web presence and trade using retail platforms yourself. You don’t need permission from the traditional gatekeepers to do this.

The challenge is to get noticed over the digital surface noise, but if you have a good product or service and a compelling ‘story’ the pathway is there.

Showing people what you can actually do is better than sending off countless CVs and sitting inside the crowd.

When I started in the music business all I had was a cassette demo tape and I would knock on people's doors begging them to sign my band. It was often very demoralising. I got there in the end and signed two acts to major labels. But I was constantly having to persuade people how great my band was when I’d rather have built up a fan base ourselves and got on with it.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but there are so many ways to build grassroot momentum now and evidence your product's or service's business case.

On top of this, the UK is at the forefront of innovation in the creative sector and our intellectual property is second to none, so embrace it.

Networks and business support can help 

Access to finance and support for start-ups and small businesses has been flagged as key to the creative industries growth strategy

As we've touched on, there are national projects out there to support creative businesses, such as Creative England and Creative Scotland. There are also some great regional projects like Generator in the North East, Creative Lancashire in Preston and Creative Barnsley in South Yorkshire. In Scotland there are fantastic organisations like Cultural Enterprise Office and Creative Clyde in Glasgow who can help you.

Lots of other countries do not have this kind of support. While it’s not perfect, this a good place to be starting a creative business. People move here from abroad to start up from all over the EU and from across the world, so working in the UK is an advantage for you.

So research what is available locally first, and then nationally, to see what is available in terms of business support and funding. 

Use the networks that we have here in UK and don’t be shy to ask questions to clarify your understanding of what they do. Different support projects have their own objectives, but most will be happy to signpost you to others if they are not the right place for you.

Transmit have a contract to deliver start up loans in England and Scotland and are creative industries specialists. Over 2013-14 they supported 250 start ups with over £2.5 million of finance. The scheme has been extended to cover anyone who is 18+.