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Your guide to freelancing in the arts

Paystream News

Kerry Hull

Thursday 16th Jul, 2015

Arts Council funding may have been slashed by the government in recent years, but the UK's creative sector is in serious need of fresh blood in the form of the next generation of freelancers.

The hiring of new creative individuals appears to have slipped down the agendas of major organisations such as the BBC recently and this could be having a damaging effect on the firm's ability to deliver the best service possible, meaning contractors and freelancers are arguably now more valuable to the industry than ever before.

Dinah Caine, chief executive of Creative Skillset, told Broadcast Now: "At the moment, the BBC seems to be cutting its contribution to training and skills and treating it as an overhead cost, rather than critical to delivering a world-class service both for itself and the wider industry."

However, the new head of the Arts Council Darren Henley has pledged to begin rebalancing creative funding in the UK, meaning more opportunities for arts freelancers could be on the horizon.

What's more, recent figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show there was a 5.5 per cent increase in placements in the country's creative industries between 2013 and 2014, indicating that there are jobs out there for workers with the right skills.

Commenting on this, culture secretary John Whittingdale said: "These latest figures demonstrate how the UK's creative industries continue to be one of our great success stories.

"It's fantastic sector which now accounts for more than 1.8 million jobs in the UK.

"Our films, music and other artists are celebrated around the world and this government is determined to ensure our creative industries continue to grow."

So what exactly does freelancing in this sector involve?

How to get noticed in the creative sector

The first step on your journey to becoming a successful creative freelancer is getting noticed.

A good place to start is by putting together a comprehensive portfolio providing examples of your work and experience so far. Make sure this as up to date as possible and add to it as much as you can.

You also need to ensure you're constantly nurturing and developing your skills, learning to use the latest technologies and creative mediums to make sure you can add value and bring something new to your clients.

This can be done by attending creative courses and workshops, which will look good on your CV, potentially helping to increase your chances of securing contracts and enabling you to earn more money.

In addition, between June 29th and July 3rd 2015, the government hosted the social media event #CreateUK to celebrate the work of the country's creative industries, providing firms in the sector with a platform to promote their achievements.

Advantages to freelancing

There are numerous advantages to going it alone and becoming a freelancer or limited company contractor, such as getting the chance to decide your own working hours and fitting in assignments around family commitments, allowing you to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Creativity can be constrained by the traditional nine-to-five office working environment, making freelancing the perfect platform for this type of work.

Getting the opportunity to choose how long to spend on projects and how much to charge for them will only help your creative juices to flow.

Your payment options

There's no doubt that creative freelancing can be tremendous fun, but like with all forms of work, there is a certain degree of HMRC compliance and paperwork involved as well.

Several payroll options are available to freelancers, with PayStream providing help to all, whether they choose to work as a limited company contractor or through an umbrella company.

Limited company contractors are the director of their own limited company and need to complete all the paperwork associated with this, including making sure they are paying the correct amounts of tax and national insurance to HMRC.

Although this may sound daunting, PayStream's My PSC service is here to help. The service provides you with a safe pair of hands to help you with your limited company admin, advising you when needed, leaving you to get on with what you do best.

If you decide to work through an umbrella company instead, you become an employee of the umbrella company and will have your income tax and national insurance payments deducted from your wages before they are given to you.

Again, PayStream offers an umbrella company service which will ensure you stay on the right side of HMRC, while also maximising your take home pay.

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