Professional Practice - Blog Eight

Today’s talk, presented by Debbie Longbridge the arts Careers Consultant, was on the topic of self-employment and business support.  Debbie began by providing a definition of self-employment from the Creative Industries Federation who defined it as: ‘...someone who is normally seen as responsible for the success or failure of their business and decides what work they do and when they do it.’

(The full article from the federation can be read at the following link:

Moving on to highlight the skills needed to be successful at being self-employed Debbie informed the group about the Be The Boss Programme ran by The University. It was interesting to learn about the programme as it highlights the full range of stages I would have to move through and learn about in order to develop into a successful freelancer.

What the talk did make me consider is whether it is the right time for me to undergo this development or whether it would be more beneficial to complete it later, if at all.  My main question would be if I did enroll onto Be The Boss would this help me to develop skills that are transferable or valuable in the near future? Or would the skills come into play further into my career rather than at this early stage?

To determine this I think I would need to know more about the tasks at each stage of the development programme to see if it is suitable for me, and at this time. Moving forward I’d like to meet some students who have completed Be The Boss to learn more and hopefully gain answers to my questions.

(Be The Boss online information:

Thinking forward to graduation, I would like to work in a studio for at least three to five years after completing the MDes course because I think it will provide the opportunity of gaining industry experience whilst having the support of a professional working team. I expect this will also allow me to work on a range of projects with different clients, finding out more about how I would like to work.  But also who I would like to work with, vital for mapping out a self-employment path.

Besides these advantages, working in a studio after graduation provides financial support and stability rather than taking on the challenge of freelance straight away. Also, it would allow me to develop relationships with industry contacts, so if I do choose to take the step into full-time self-employment, I will have a strong network of professionals to call upon.

After Debbie had concluded her talk regarding Be The Boss she handed over to Laura Williams, the Commercial Business Services Manager at the University of Derby, who oversees the running of Banks Mill. Laura introduced herself to the group and began explaining her role and how she helps students and other local creative businesses through Banks Mill a creative business incubation hub.

I attended the Open Studio event at banks Mill back in November 2018, so knew of the venue and how it provides a range different sized spaces for creatives, however, I was not aware of the additional advice and support that they offered, so it was great to hear more from Laura.  

Reflecting afterward, I do feel that Banks Mill could potentially help me in the future. Being close to home but in a separate environment, it would be great as a base to run a business from. It allows for collaborations with other creatives, heightened business exposure plus, extra support which is there if I do need to access it.

Over the next year, I’ll make sure to attend more events at Banks Mill including the Derbyshire Open Arts at the end of May ( and the Print Open event ran by Green Door Printmaking Studio (, which will be on later in the summer.  This is so I can get to learn more about the facilities, support and other creatives that are based there so if I do decide to have a studio I’ll be well informed and ready to go.

As well as Banks Mill, Laura mentioned a number of other local business incubation locations such as; Darley Abbey Mills, Friargate Studios and Sadler Gate Studios. Just in case one of these would be more suitable than Banks Mill, I will research into these other locations, to see if they specialise in the type of support they provide and look out for opportunities to visit.   

An alternative idea which the talk made me consider is, rather than an independent space could renting a desk within an established space be more suitable. The question I would need to find an answer to would be: could this method create connections, keep costs down and create a professional working atmosphere, while a grow my practice, in the same way, or better than Banks Mill can?

Overall, I feel the talk by Debbie and Laura was very stimulating with lots of takeaways to research and consider to develop my practice and career. Other notes I made to read about later include:

Creative Industries Federation

Royal Society of Arts London

Other industry-specific societies?

Make it out there - creative based careers website

When my group met for a Studio Group Update this week, we talked briefly about house style and visual consistency. Hopefully, by doing this when the group continues to work on their individual tasks during the week, everyone will have quality levels in mind and a want to produce a high-quality outcome to show we have worked as a group.

Our main discussion at the meeting was a review of Connors first draft webpage.

There were a number of positives including; the choice of font, bold colour use and incorporation of April’s illustrations within the header. The general responses the group gave were that the webpage needs to feel relaxed and fun rather than formal. A way to do this is by tying in the house colours, making the layout playful and having a focus on artwork within the page.  

Connor's First Draft Webpage

Suggestions were made by April, Adam, Joel and I, to help Connor to develop the webpage. My suggestion was to pull out a few key facts and have them in graphics that rotate around on a banner/carousel on the web page or use the artwork to add text to as a feature on the page to showcase facts. April was keen to see type being used creatively to add further interest and, Joel and Adam suggested adding a brighter colour, to the existing scheme, such as a yellow or green to add contrast.

As well as working on the Birdhouse project, this week I have emailed Lise from the Chase to organise a visit to their Manchester studio. I’ll be travelling up on Thursday 4th April to see Lise, hopefully, meet some more of the team and learn about the working practices of a large studio such as The Chase.   

A task for this next week is  to explore more about the Banks Mill memberships, after being introduced to them during this week’s lecture.  In particular, I would like to see if there are events I could get involved with through the different membership options.  Previously I have participated in Warwickshire Open Studios which was not only a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from a public audience but it also extended my creative connections. Therefore I can see that any local creative events I can get involved with would only help to build up my network of contacts within the design industry.

The community of Warwickshire Open Studio artists for twenty nineteen will be sharing their work via the website: as well as through printed programmes distributed across the county.  

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