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Get Your Foot in the Door

Creative Futures is UAL’s annual programme of industry-led events, talks and activities to help you get ahead in the creative industries and create your own future! Valentine del Giudice from SSSHAKE network shares her takeaways from our headline talk, ‘Get Your Foot in The Door.’ 

When entering an ecosystem where word-of-mouth and referrals prevail, 1/ competition can be intimidating; and 2/ to get the first step up the ladder seems to be the hardest part.

Creative Futures headline talk invited Michelle Owusu (Marketing Manager, Channel 4 and Director, SceneTV), Tolu Coker (Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator) and Shannie Mears (Co-Founder, The Elephant Room) to share their top advice and inside knowledge of how to get your foot in the door of the creative industries.

When entering an ecosystem where word-of-mouth and referrals prevail to get the first step up the ladder seems to be the hardest part.

I was invited to attend and write about the talk so here are my key takeaways from this inspiring panel:

About networking

  • Value communities: As Shannie mentioned, collaboration is key and your network is everything. Understand the value of the communities you’re already part of (university, friends etc) and don’t hesitate to create your own around subjects that matter to you.
  • Tap into different networks: Curiosity is a great drive for creativity, be open to join different networks to meet new people and share what you do.
  • Pay-it-forward: As Tolu mentioned, exchanging skills, sharing your values and vision with other people will help you grow and teach you so much along the way— By the way, you can use the SSSHAKE app to connect with other creatives nearby.

About social media

  • Find your voice: Social media are powerful tools to spread messages. As Shannie does with her online publication GUAP, you can use social media to have a voice and inspire for change.
  • Ask for help: Don’t hesitate to leverage social media to ask for help and bring your project to life. Tolu gathered a team for her first video project by calling out on social media.
  • Understand its power: Social media gives you the power of reaching out to new audiences and getting new people to talk about your project. Vogue Italy contacted Tolu on Instagram to feature her video.

About side projects

  • Do projects on the side: Even with no budget you can get things started if you pitch your ideas and concepts well. Find people with complementary skills who share your vision and make your project happen by finding the right partners.
  • Keep an eye open: Regularly enter competitions as it can open many doors like Asos Fashion Discovery did for Tolu. Don’t hesitate to also try different things, such as submitting your works to publications and organisations you like.
  • Extend your practice: You don’t have to restrict yourself to one discipline. Don’t hesitate to extend your practice to new industries and new mediums. You got freedom of expression, make the most of it.

“You got freedom of expression, make the most of it!” — Tolu Coker, Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator

About your next job

  • Start where you are: Just start with what you have and build learning and experience from there. Look around you, are you already working on exciting projects? Can you push them further?
  • Be proactive: Stop waiting, be proactive, approach people on LinkedIn or social media and don’t hesitate to ask for opportunities.
  • Be curious: Don’t keep yourself in the box of what you studied, feel free to apply to different jobs or undertake different opportunities and learn new skills.

About getting paid

  • Always negotiate: As Tolu mentioned, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Many people don’t value creativity as they have no idea about the amount of work, training and research it requires. Defend your rate by breaking down how much time you will spend on the project and always negotiate up.
  • Don’t undervalue yourself: Competition can be overwhelming but please don’t undervalue your work. Look up online the average salaries for the job you’re about to do and don’t price yourself under. It’s ok to work with small budget if you like a project but never accept a pay you don’t feel comfortable with.
  • Take a deposit: As a freelancer, the fear of getting paid late or worse not getting paid at all can keep you awake at night. As Tolu and Shannie do, take a deposit so you can start the project with peace of mind — At SSSHAKE, we are developing solutions to tackle these issues so feel free to get in touch with me if you need help managing your freelancing activities.

by Valentine del Giudice

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Shameless self promotion

Creative Futures is UAL’s annual programme of industry-led events, talks and activities to help you get ahead in the creative industries and create your own future! We asked UAL student Călina Mureșan to write a blog about one of our events…

Shameless Self Promotion

Sandra Fearon, who has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion luxury and media industries, along with Genevieve Muwana, a certified breakthrough and style coach talked about promoting the best version of yourself, without feeling guilty.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘shame’?

Being shameless, means being confident in your abilities and showing them without constantly thinking what others will say. You’ll be judged anyway, whatever you do, but your purpose is not to serve anybody. So, promote the best version of yourself, no matter what.

So, what is self-promotion exactly?

  • Marketing yourself to the right people in the right way
  • Conveying the right information about you
  • Telling people about the value you add
  • Crafting promises based on your values, interests, strengths, personal qualities and using them to distinguish yourself
  • Self-promotion is your responsibility
  • Self-promotion is necessary if you want to advance and succeed

Genevieve Muwana, photographed by Lei Zhang. 


When promoting yourself there is a model you can follow. Sandra and Genevieve presented the AIDA model:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

First of all, you need to grab attention. Our attention spans can be limited, so start strong. After this, you have to get people interested and curious about you and your work, so you can lead them into desire. After someone has displayed a desire to work with you, there comes action, which means following up, fulfilling your promises and being proactive when you’re working together!

Self-promotion, is not only about you selling yourself, it’s also about you helping your audience or clients to make their life easier. To promote yourself, you need to answer these 3 question:

  • What does the market need?
  • What problem do you solve?
  • Why you?

Many times, lack of confidence in our abilities and fear of failure causes us to underprice our products and services. This is a dangerous path to take because it undermines the unique value you bring to the table and opens up the possibility for other to take advantage of you.

Sandra Fearon, photographed by Lei Zhang. 


To boost your confidence apply the LIP project:

  • Language- be polite, use positive words
  • Internal dialog- don’t let the internal voice demoralize you, try to encourage yourself
  • Posture- always stay straight

Some final tips:

  • Positive attitude
  • Trust in yourself
  • Know your accomplishments and strengths
  • Take risks
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Create your own opportunities (they’re always around you)
  • Plan
  • Do what you are scared of
  • Be proactive and passionate

And there you go, you have the tools for success! It takes practice to become shameless. It’s the same as going to the gym – the more you try to put yourself out there, showing your qualities, the easier it will be the next time. Haters are going to hate anyway, so you be yourself and do things your way because some people need you for that.

Written by Călina Mureșan

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Creatives, it’s time to step up your networking game.

Our partners from SSSHAKE network have some great advice for networking…

Creatives, it’s time to step up your networking game.

Historically, the artist was secluded in his studio waiting for his patron or master to give him work. Although artists did not belong to the lowest social class, the myth of the starving artist is still culturally present today. Brought by the concept of ‘poet maudit’ and consolidated by 19th century Parisian artists’ ‘boheme’ lifestyle, the idea that the real creative genius only comes from starving outcasts is still dominant in our culture.

Today, this heritage is still underlying in the way things operate. From clients’ referral to agents, creatives across industries still have a tendency to rely solely on others to build their own contact network. Proactivity and self promotion are often considered dirty words in the art world.

“If you try to sell yourself too hard, that probably means you are not that good” or “if you are good enough, other people will take care of the selling part for you” are common beliefs among artists. STOP.

Proactivity and self promotion are often considered dirty words in the art world.

Yes, self promotion is difficult. Especially in a creative career that is exposed to moments of doubt. Yes, if you ask another person to sell your work for you, it is very likely that the external person will sell it better than you. It is a matter of objectivity in the sale pitch. However, in the entrepreneurial age, self promotion and networking are vital to kickstart a career.

Networking skills are essential for creative minds to unlock unexpected opportunities that will lead them to extend their practice to new areas and of course to get more jobs.

However, in the entrepreneurial age, self promotion and networking are vital to kickstart a career.

The landscape is changing, the creative industries are booming. Creative agencies can now reach the size of corporations and it is possible for many creators to financially thrive without compromising on their talents. Although the creative sector economic value and activity has increased steadily for the past years, large agencies are still getting most of the cake and it is difficult for freelancers and small businesses to compete against them.

Thankfully, the Internet changed the creative world, by giving an unseen visibility to everyone with access to it. But this digital environment also creates a vivid awareness about the competitive landscape that can be overwhelming when starting out a creative career, especially as a freelancer. On the top of that, remote workers offer extremely competitive rates that create a general undervaluation of creative services (online and therefore offline). It does not come as a surprise that many creatives have experienced the imposter syndrome

In a saturated global creative market where talents play the ‘who is the cheapest game’ and where more and more resources are freely available across the web, the rules have changed. Client loyalty is rare in our digital world where we are constantly contacted by other service providers and overloaded with information. What will make the difference is often not how skilled you are, but how wide and strong your network is. The people you know trust you, and that trust is a real competitive advantage.

The people you know trust you, and that trust is a real competitive advantage.

Unfortunately, the importance of networking is not taught in art schools leaving creatives with an unfair disadvantage in the business side of their industries. That is the reason why we create safe places both online and offline for creatives to grow their network, share skills and foster collaborations.

At SSSHAKE, our mission is to address misconceptions to help creatives think like entrepreneurs and therefore, to thrive in their career development.

The power of networking doesn’t lay within talking to a person who will directly offer you a job or buy your art. It is about extending your network in order to spread awareness about your expertise as far as you can, while unlocking unexpected collaboration opportunities along the way.

It is [all] about extending your network in order to spread awareness about your expertise as far as you can, while unlocking unexpected collaboration opportunities along the way.

My personal takeaways for creative networking

  • Be a giver not a taker — When giving without expecting in return, you often get way more back than what you can imagine. And in case it doesn’t come back… Well you can never be mad at yourself for helping someone out!
  • Focus on building meaningful relationships — The greatest benefits of networking will unfold in the long run. Always follow up with your collaborators and keep your connections updated about what you are working on.
  • Be open minded — That goes without saying that being open minded opens many doors, both on a professional and personal level. Don’t turn away people because their ideas seem strange in the first place. You always learn the most by being exposed to different perspectives.
  • Explore, experiment, have fun — We are lucky to be part of the creative industries where breaking rules is advocated. Go out of your comfort zone and don’t hesitate to try new things. Go to events, meet people from other industries, show your work and share your vision…
  • Be yourself Whatever your personality type is, you can’t go wrong with networking. If you are a social person you will be able to build a large network easily. If you are not that social, focus on building strong relationship with a smaller number of people, and keep it growing at your own rhythm, it will be as effective.

“I am a part of all that I have met” AL Tennyson

So, if you’re convinced it’s time to make your first steps into networking, I’d be happy to connect with you on SSSHAKE or to introduce you to the right people during our next event!

Thanks Younès and Tiphaine for stepping up my writting game


By Valentine del Giudice

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Our top 10 reasons to attend Creative Futures

Bookings are officially open for Creative Futures 2019, with 40+ events to help you get ahead in the creative industries. Here’s our top ten reasons to attend…



1. Network with industry professionals

This year hear inspiring talks from alumni and partners including The DotsD&ADDezeenExposureThe Champion AgencyCockpit ArtsThe Design Trust, DACSconnectt and many more!


2. Learn to promote yourself

We’ve got events on brand building, the art of promotion: creative tips for getting yourself out there  and how to book freelance work and brand yourself online.


3. Get yourself a professional headshot

If you’re looking to establish a professional network online or gain press coverage for your business, having a good quality headshot photo is key. Headshot photos can be expensive but, luckily for you, we’ve drafted a professional photographer to help! They’ll be taking headshot photos of UAL students and alumni every day at Creative Futures – for free.


4. Make yourself future proof

Get ahead with future-proof, preparing for the future of work and the future of social networks.

If you’re a student, get advice from the future too, with what I wish I’d known when I graduated,  and life after UAL: how to be resilient.


5. Gain knowledge on something specific

Hear from the Lumen Collective, who focus on themes of astronomy and light, regularly exhibiting in churches as well as galleries. Join Lumen: the power of a collective.

Or if architecture is more your thing, join careers in architecture and spatial design to hear tips and experiences from UAL alumni. 

Looking to go into Fashion? Join how to build resiliency into your career in fashion.


6. Learn how to create a career you love …

Get top tips from off the record: secrets to finding a fulfilling career, and checklist your way to a dream job.


7. Or do it yourself!

Join do what you want: make your job, don’t take a job and hear from the founding members of Graffiti Life with love what you do and get paid doing it.


8. Learn to look after number one

Make sure you don’t under-price yourself with know your value: costing and pricing your work and services and prevent yourself from burning out with inspiration and exhaustion: the balancing act of wellbeing.


9. Get great content for applications, interviews and elevator pitches.

It’s always great to give solid examples during interviews, and attending events like these shows that you’re pro-active and passionate about your discipline. You can talk about what you learnt during the sessions too! And if you want a chance to practice your pitching, join you are special: your USP, your pitch and if you need some advice on talking to employers about your needs join interview preparation and disclosing that you are disabled.  


10. See where being proactive can take you

Find out how to identify & approach your ideal client or employer, volunteer to boost your career and get work experience in the art world.


Sold? Check out our 40+ free events and book now!


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Graffiti Life: Graffiti Artists to International Advertising Entrepreneurs

Founders of Graffiti Life, Iona Thomas and David Speed are hosting “Love What You Do and Get Paid Doing It” at Creative Futures! UAL student Elliott Nielson shares what he learnt from this pair of entrepreneurs during their last talk ‘ Graffiti Artists to International Advertising Entrepreneurs’…


“Every creative is capable of greatness”

Imagine the beautiful irony of ducking and diving CCTV to spray trains, only to get paid by the train network for advertising a few years later. Or, studying at Central Saint Martins plus working a couple of unrelated jobs, to getting the career you want and going back to CSM to talk about it all. The Directors of Graffiti Life, David Speed and Iona Thomas visited UAL to share their interesting story. Their honest advice for achieving a career as an artist was reassuring and inspiring.




David Speed, co-founder of Graffiti Life

Back in 2010, with an idea for a business but no clients, David bought some cheap plastic boards, taped them to the back of a bus stop during a Croydon street fair and started painting. Since then, Graffiti Life have been going wall to wall, client to client; their progression coinciding with the world’s growing love for urban art. They create hand painted murals for brands like Nike, Adidas, BBC One’s launch for Luther and even Microsoft’s Halo 5.

Standing on Croydon high street, painting for free, handing out business cards is not something any creative particularly wants to do. However, if it’s for the success of doing what you love becoming your career, then get yourself out there. The more opportunities you take, even if unpaid, the more stepping stones to something bigger appear…


People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Chances are if you love something enough to do it for free, someone else will pay you to do it.

This point leads me into the key steps for success from David and Iona’s talk:

No1. Find your passion

If you haven’t found yours already; do different shit! Go try different things, because sometimes ‘it takes closing those 99 doors to get down to focus on the one’. What is it you want to create every day of your life?

No.2 Surround yourself with the right people

You are the sum of the 5 people you spend most your time with. Good friends bring out the best in an artist and it’s key to remember, every person you meet will change your life. Thirdly, what’s the point of it all without the right people around?

This one sounds easier said than done but, the biggest lesson Graffiti Life learned was having the wrong person in their team. If everyone loves what they do, they’ll give 100%. Plus, none of you will ever be working.

No.3 Build an audience

Graffiti Life built theirs through Instagram. We live in a world of algorithms and it’s hard work to build an audience. So if you’re using Instagram to promote your brand, treat it like a business tool – a free one at that!

Adam, Graffiti Life’s other director who sat in on the event, recommended quality content over saturated consistency. However, you still want as many people as possible to see it, so follow people that will like your art, comment on their photos, reply to their comments on your posts etc. Hashtagging and DMing people are acceptable methods. Cold emailing works! Shamelessness is the key principle to Kim Kardashian’s success, why should you be afraid of it? All you need is 1,000 true fans of your art and you’ll be able to make a career out of whatever it is you do.

No.4 ‘Til you make it, Fake it!

The most telling part of the talk was about the most difficult part of anything, starting (your career)! Early on, Graffiti Life painted at an event for a company, a sponsor for that event went by the name of Red Bull. Although technically not a client, Red Bull’s logo was added to their portfolio and that particular idea proved very successful.  Sheer confidence, no lies, just undeniable confidence.



Iona Thomas, co-founder of Graffiti Life


The room felt empowered, people sat up. David recommends business strategist Seth Godin’s Purple Cow for those wondering how to sell their creativity. Students’ questions were concerned about having their uniqueness stand out in this ever-expanding arena of business and art and social network mumbo-jumbo. Yet it’s not just jargon, marketing yourself is just part of today’s world and the opportunities for artists are abundant.

We often look to great people for inspiration. We say, ‘that person’s great, I can’t possibly do that’. David says it’s an excuse. This is one of the many barriers we tell ourselves as artists.

The good news is “most of the barriers we tell ourselves are imaginary”. Start by working out where it is you want to go – then work out all the barriers in your way to getting there… You’ll realise it’s never as many as you think.

Join Iona and David at Love What You Do and Get Paid Doing ItBook now!

By Elliott Nielson


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