Some students on creative courses know from the outset that they wish to work on a freelance basis. For others, the decision to work on a freelance or self-employed basis is made because freelancing is the industry norm or it is essential to have a track record built up through freelance work to be considered for advertised jobs. 

Those interested in developing their practice in the community may well need to become ‘social entrepreneurs’ to secure essential funding.

Working in any of these ways means you will be setting up in business. You have to consider:

There are also some specific arts-related aspects that creatives need to explore, including:

The Design Trust provides an excellent summary of the key issues faced by creatives when setting up on their own.

Support at Manchester Metropolitan University:

There are a number of excellent web based resources that can help you think through the issues of going freelance and begin to plan ahead. These are listed in this handout but before exploring them, it is useful to know about the range of advisory services available within Manchester Met. These will help to reassure you that you are making informed decisions and help you to identify the experts who can advise on key aspects of your plans and mentor you in those early days of starting out:

Online Resources and Creative Start-up Toolkits:

The following organisations specifically support students and graduates setting up a creative business or intending to freelance in the creative sector:


Staff at Manchester Met’s Market Place Studios and Innospace offer advice on the appropriate funding streams available for creative business start-ups. These include:

Competitions and Exhibitions

As a creative, you should also consider entering competitions and exhibitions. Many offer cash prizes as well as bringing your work to a wider audience. Opportunities are occasionally posted to the Creative Manchester students group on Facebook. Dedicated listings include: 

Social Enterprise

Social enterprise is an alternative and increasingly significant means by which artists and designers work in their local communities using their practice to tackle social problems and improve communities, people's life chances or the environment. You still need to run such projects on a business footing, including making an operating surplus from selling goods and services in the open market. However, the surplus is reinvested back into the enterprise or the local community it serves.

For further information see:

Sources of funding include:

Finances, Tax and VAT

It is vital you track and manage your finances from the outset. This includes registering for tax and VAT.

Protecting Your Work

As a creative, it is vital that you protect your work whether it be a design, product, brand, logo, software, photograph, website, film or copy. This is termed Intellectual Property (IP), and you have a number of options including:

The Innospace team can advise you about the best form of IP protection for you but you can also undertake research online at: 

Online Support Networks

Freelancing can be a very lonely road. As a result, many freelancers join both online and offline networking groups to ensure they have access to supportive communities.

The Guardian:

More informal network groups can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Support Networks in Manchester and the North West

Other creative networks include:

Meet Up Groups
: A number of informal groups for creative practitioners, freelancers and new business start-ups are based in Manchester. They meet regularly to share ideas, develop practice and collaborate GLUG is part of a well-known group that has events taking place throughout the UK. As groups are set up on a frequent basis (or cease to meet), it is always worth googling for new ones, or set up a group of your own. Manchester School of Art graduates and students have, with ever-greater frequency, been forming groups or linking to already established groups through Creative Manchester on Facebook.

Selling Your Work:


Manchester boasts a number of studios and galleries that welcome enquiries from new graduates, although rent and commission will be levied.

Market Place Studios: As the School of Art’s own studio space in Stockport, Marketplace Studios provide creative start-up support to our graduates. The studios are based in a refurbished three storey building in Stockport’s Market Place and offer two floors of incubation space. The ground floor provides a shop/gallery and project spaces to run courses for the general public. Expressions of interest are currently being invited from graduates interested in delivering short courses, workshops and masterclasses in all aspects of creative practice. For further information about the Studios or to arrange a visit, contact

Other galleries include:

Occasionally, posts to Creative Manchester on Facebook advertise available studio spaces.

Online Galleries

Once you are ready to start selling your work, you can utilise any of a number of online galleries and showcases. Most online galleries will charge you a membership fee and/or collect a percentage fee on point of sale.

The Guardian have a useful guide on how online galleries can help you to establish yourself in the industry.

A sample selection are listed in the careers guide “Getting Work in the Creative Industries.”

Arts Thread: Originally focussed upon textiles and fashion but now expanded to cover all aspects of design. Arts Thread offers a dedicated area for students and graduates to profile their work. Arts Thread also works in conjunction with New Designers.

Selling Artwork: Although created for fine art photographers, this site contains useful information for any creative wishing to sell work.

Online Shops

A number of established sites are now being used successfully by makers and designers. See the following articles: How To Set Up An Online Shop and Top Tips To Sell Your Crafts Online.

The most popular sites are:

Pop Up Shops

For Pop-Up spaces in Manchester.

Helpful articles on how to organise a pop up include ‘Tips on starting a pop-up shop,’‘Why run a pop-up?’.

3Space: This charity works in partnership with property holders to make otherwise empty commercial space available free of charge for a limited period for community use. Sharing space to build local networks and to provide infrastructure for innovation by social entrepreneurs. The spaces can be used by charities and other non-profit organisations, social enterprises and early stage start-ups free of charge for a range of temporary projects.

Markets and Trade Shows 

More options exist than ever before. For events in the North West, useful sites include:

The Manchester Youth Market and the Teenage Markets, which take place in Stockport and Bolton, are for anyone aged 12 to 25 who makes products and wishes to sell.

Sites Hosting Short-term Commissions

The number of sites that advertise short-term commissions, especially in design, have grown dramatically in recent years. They provide an online global market place that is often referred to as ‘The Gig Economy’. These can be useful for testing out whether freelance work really is for you as well as helping you earn some cash whilst you are completing your professional portfolio.

Most also provide guidance on pricing your work and making your pitch. The 10 sites listed below are a good starting point:

In addition, general sites that offer commissions for creative students and recent graduates are:

Careers and Employability Support

We offer range of support services to Manchester Met students and graduates:

For more information visit