Creative Careers: Arts, Crafts and Design

See also: Personal Development

There are a huge range of so-called ‘creative’ careers. Our page on Creative Careers: Media and Advertising covers some of those in the media industry, which are involved in creating and delivering written or film-based content to the public. This page discusses careers that are more ‘arts-based’.

These careers include working in arts, crafts and the world of design. They extend through the performing arts (acting, dancing and music) to photography and videography, painting, sculpture and traditional crafts. They also cover careers such as fashion and graphic design, and illustration.

What is a Creative Career?

In this context, a creative career is one that involves creating something, using your imagination.

In the broadest sense, creative careers can include working in advertising, traditional arts and crafts such as painting or pottery, design work such as fashion design, product design or graphic design (and you can find out more about working in product design from our page on Careers in Business). The creative sector is therefore extremely broad and may be of interest to people with a wide range of skills and interests.

This page does not cover work such as writing, or the technical aspects of producing films or television shows, or advertising and marketing work. Those are covered in our page on Creative Careers: Media and Advertising.

If you think a creative career may be for you, you may be interested in our post on 10 career options for creative people.

It may be easiest to think of careers in this sector as falling into two main groups:

  • Careers in the arts, including performing and visual arts, which are more traditionally considered ‘arty’; and

  • Careers in design, which are similarly creative, but may also be very technical in their nature.

Careers in the Arts

Pure careers in the arts, whether performing arts or visual arts, first and foremost require a huge amount of skill in your chosen field.

For many of these professions, you need to start your training as a child. Dancers and musicians in particular start very young to ensure that they have time to develop the skills. Actors may come to the profession later, but have often been involved in amateur productions for many years first. These are highly competitive professions, and those who start later simply do not have the same level of skill.

Unfortunately, this means that the door to many of these careers may already be closed to you.

It is also important to understand that there is a high attrition rate: very few of those who start as performers are able to pursue their careers at a high level. However, that is not to say that you cannot pursue a career that uses your hobby or interest. You simply need to be flexible about how exactly you use it.

Direct careers in the arts include:

  • Acting, which as well as the obvious ‘being an actor’ also includes less well-known jobs such as being a body double for a star or lead actor, and providing stunt services (and for more about becoming a stuntman, you may be interested in one of our guest posts on this issue).

  • Being a musician, including working in an orchestra to play classical music, and setting up or joining a band or other ensemble. Many musicians combine ‘gig work’ with other work such as teaching or repairing musical instruments. You may be interested to read our guest post on starting a career in music.

  • Dancing, including many forms such as ballet and ballroom. Ballroom dancing has risen to prominence in recent years with television shows such as Strictly Come Dancing in the UK—but there has long been a circuit of professional dancers supporting shows of all kinds.

  • Photography and videography, including creating content for use online or in more traditional forms.

  • Being an artist, including a digital artist and creating two-dimensional or three-dimensional works of art (and you may want to read our guest post on the skills required by successful digital artists).

Beyond extremely good skills in your chosen field, those working in performing or visual arts also need strong self-motivation to keep themselves going in a field that is often tough, with very little reward for the majority of people.

The difficulty of making an income through your own artistic endeavours alone mean that many people working in the arts supplement their art in other ways. Perhaps the most common is teaching. There is considerable demand for good instrumental music teachers, for example, to teach the next generation of aspiring musicians. Drama teachers are also in demand, because parents value the acquisition of public speaking skills.

You can find out more about the skills required by teachers in our page on Teaching Skills.

Others make a career from a linked field, such as repairing or refurbishing musical instruments, working in a school as a drama technician or helping to create costumes and props for productions.

Finally, many forms of therapy involve the arts. Artists of various kinds can therefore expand into provision of art therapy or music therapy. Those who succeed will usually have strong emotional intelligence, especially empathy, alongside their artistic skills.

You can find out more about the skills required to become a counsellor or therapist in our pages on Counselling Skills.

What About Traditional Crafts?

You may be wondering where traditional crafts such as thatching, hurdle-making or weaving might fit into the creative sector.

The answer is that these are very much niche activities. Very few people have those skills, and there is also relatively little demand for them. However, broadly speaking, they require similar traits to working in the arts. First, you will need to develop skills in your chosen field, perhaps by apprenticing yourself (formally or informally) to someone with those skills, through a training course, or by learning from practice.

Second, you will need to be self-motivated, because you will often be working alone. Finally, you will need some entrepreneurship skills, because you are likely to be self-employed or running your own business.

Careers in Design

There is an enormous range of careers available that involve designing. After all, every product or service available to buy has at some point been designed.

Some of the most common include:

All these careers have slightly different requirements in terms of skills and qualifications. However, they also share a common core.

Designers need first and foremost to be able to understand a client’s problem and explore how they can solve that problem. This is a human-centred approach to design, known as design thinking. They therefore need good problem-solving skills, but they also need good analytical skills and communication skills to be able to hear and understand what the client is telling them. They may also benefit from emotional intelligence, because this will help them to build a stronger relationship with the client, and therefore obtain more useful and in-depth information.

Designers also need good creative skills, including creative thinking to help them to develop new ideas. They will need technical skills to manage proprietary software packages to support computer-aided design. They will also probably be working on multiple projects at once, so good organisational skills and time management are essential.

Finally, many designers work freelance, so some entrepreneurship and self-employment skills are likely to be useful.

A Field Worth Considering

Nobody ever said that creative careers were an easy option. However, they can be hugely rewarding.

They allow you to take what is, for most people, at most a hobby or enjoyable pastime, and turn it into a way to make money. The financial rewards may not be as high as in some other fields—but for many people, the joy of doing what you enjoy for work far outweighs financial considerations.