Medeia Cohan, creative director, School for Creative Startups
Multitask: I think it’s important to be multitasking all the time – apply for awards and residencies, build up your network and do paid freelance work. These are important parts of raising your profile and broadening your network, both integral if you’re looking to go from an internship to a paid post. Standing out is key.
For freelance work, sites like blurgroup.com are a great way of finding projects that you can submit to no matter where you are in the world.
Use social media: Social media is a fantastic tool for finding work. In fact we find a good deal of our staff through announcements on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I also think these are great places to promote yourself and your skills – word about you looking for work will spread quickly and people might recommend you.
Think creatively about how you can make yourself essential: Lead on projects or create a new area that your company needs and that you hold the key to – then convince them that it’s worth paying for.
Katy Cowan, director, Boomerang Communications Ltd
Break out of the unpaid internship rut: In terms of breaking out, don’t rest on your laurels – always look for new opportunities and if you’re not sure of something, learn about it. Always find ways to boost your skills and stand out, and be prepared to re-locate if you have to.
Make contacts: It is tough but a great place to start is to find networking groups online via things like meetup.com. Also, introduce yourself to photographers on your own doorstep – they’re often well connected and once you make a few friends you’ll be surprised how much work comes your way. Use Twitter to network as well – find relevant people to follow, make friends and suggest meeting up.
Keep an eye on your online profile: It’s crucial to remember that everything you do online can be seen by everyone. So no political rants, no passive-aggressive behaviour – keep it light, fun, happy and professional at all times.
Even if you just think a certain account is ‘personal’ – online, nothing is private, and everything you put out there builds up a mental image of your personality, so tread carefully.
Apply for jobs effectively: If you’re just emailing your CV to lots of random agencies in the hope that one of them will have a job, stop! Pick up the phone instead and be bold – ask to speak to the director of the agency or arts organisation. Be confident and introduce yourself – explain how you’d love to work there and enquire if there are any opportunities.
In the five years I’ve joined my husband in running Boomerang, I’ve had hundreds of CVs via email but only one person actually phoned up to speak to me directly. Although we didn’t have any vacancies at the time, I was so impressed I offered some work experience, which led that person into a full-time PR job in Chester.
Annabel Tilley, artist and co-founder, Zeitgeist Arts Projects
Keep in touch with your peer group: Leaving art college and becoming a professional artist is tough – when I graduated there was such little support or professional practice events for ambitious artists, especially new graduates.
My advice is to stay in touch with your peer group – get together and create a peer critique group to look at each other’s work or put on a DIY exhibition so you can start to get your work out there. Always keep each other informed of opportunities.
Create an online presence and keep promoting yourself: You might have a shiny new website, but what’s point if no one knows about it? Get yourself on Twitter and create regular links to your site and any new work you’re making. Also, give yourself an email signature at the end of emails so people are drawn to your website. But always remember to keep making the work!
Michael Judge, relationship manager, learning, Arts Council England
CV tip: If you have uploaded a CV at an agency, make sure you make some changes, even just a few tweaks every couple of weeks – most agencies will only deal with the ones that show as NEW in the last two weeks.
Sam Mitchell, research manager, Creative & Cultural Skills
Understand the market you’re going into: While many people see the high earnings of top artists, the fact is that the average wage in the sector is £8.60 an hour – this is actually slightly lower than the UK average wage, which our research shows is £8.69 an hour. Considering how highly skilled and qualified the arts sector is, it has fairly low wages.
Go above and beyond: I think once you are within a role you have to start exceeding expectations to get ahead. Again, as this is a really competitive sector you may have to work beyond what you think is your ‘role’ in order for people to recognise and then reward you.
Steve Dutton, artist and professor in Contemporary Art Practice, the University of Lincoln
Hang on in there: It’s obvious, important and often goes unsaid. In the frenzy and hype of art markets and Tate blockbusters it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that being an artist is not only about earnings. I’m not suggesting that money isn’t central – far from it – I’m suggesting that being an artist is about having a practice, and the practice extends far beyond the career, the studio and the market place.
If you can maintain some sense of feeding yourself with good stuff, seeing work, engaging in your local and regional contemporary arts networks (a lot of which are free) then you will hopefully not lose sight of the fact that you are, indeed, artists, despite the incredible difficulty of making a living.
Catherine De Val, team assistant, BBC Performing Arts Fund
Network right: I think the main aim of networking is to start a conversation that you can continue at a later date. Definitely exchange contact details and then, just as you would do after an interview, drop that contact a line to say why you enjoyed meeting them and/or what interested you most about your conversation.
You don’t need so many tricks when you’re being yourself.