10 top tips for working in the creative sector

Article by
Simon Hollingworth

Scarily I’ve now been working in the creative sector for more than 20 years and during that time I’ve helped set up theatre companies, run arts education programmes, managed a venue for 10 years and, since summer 2015, I have been a freelance creative producer working with venues, festivals, tours and projects. But have I actually learnt anything in all of that time? Well maybe, you decide…

1. When starting out, offer your services for free, throw yourself into anything you are asked to do and do it well and with good grace – if you do this the chances are that pretty quickly you will get paid work

2. Expect to work hard and for long hours – if you find you are starting to begrudge this, then you are almost certainly in the wrong career

3. Go to see stuff… as much as possible – just lap it up! Whether you think it’s going to be good or bad, your ‘cup of tea’ or not, the more you see the more you will learn

4. Learn from those around you even if you don’t warm to them personally. Everyone you work with will be able to teach you something, even if it’s how not to do it …

5. Take time to listen… to audiences, to colleagues, to artists and performers, to businesses, funders and potential clients. Of course, this is easy when they’re saying nice things but much tougher when it’s negative, but remember, they may have a point! Plus it’s a great challenge to try to turn people who complain into advocates

6. Embrace partnership working – make and keep as many connections as possible and use other people’s (and other organisations’) knowledge, skills and experiences to help you deliver your ideas and maybe take them further too

7. As you get older, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to have all the answers. Hopefully, you just have more experience in knowing how to implement other people’s …

8. Be prepared to recognise what was once a good idea might now have had its time

9. Remember that working in the arts is not just a job, it’s a vocation and a way of life. You generally get poorly paid and often have to work very long hours, but it’s an absolute privilege and more often than not it’s also loads of fun too.

10. Above all try to stay positive, energised and upbeat and good things will happen!


Simon Hollingworth is an East Midlands based freelance Creative Producer working with Venues, Festivals and Tours and across a variety of small and large-scale projects. His background is in arts education and for 10 years he was the Director of Lincoln Drill Hall. 

To discover more about Simon and his work, please visit www.mrholly.co.uk 

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  1. This is one to print off and pin to the board at work. It’s such valuable advice which I think we can all relate to and is worth revisiting periodically.


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