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Survive & Thrive as a Creative Freelancer: A Beginner's Guide

Learn the business systems, marketing, and strategic planning skills needed for a sustainable career in creative freelancing.

750 enrolled on this course

Image shows display easels from the Kingston University degree show with light coloured wood and a variety of drawings and designs.
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Gain vital business skills to establish yourself as a professional freelancer

One third of workers in the creative industries are freelancers. In such a competitive sector, making your freelance career sustainable takes more than just a healthy dose of creativity.

On this six-week course, you’ll learn everything you need to make managing your freelance business a success.

Discover what it takes to turn a freelancing side hustle into a viable career

When starting out, many freelancers fall foul of common pitfalls due to a poor understanding of the business processes required.

On this course, you’ll be guided through the basic principles of planning a business and how to market your skills. With this knowledge, you can source a client base that suits your skill set and deliver service excellence with every contract.

Master small business management strategies and freelance processes

Drawing on research from creative entrepreneurship, you’ll explore freelance business structures and consider how legislation in your country regulates freelance workers. You’ll also learn about financial planning for freelance work, including start-up costs nd taxes.

On this course, you’ll find out how to look after your mental health and wellbeing and build resilience as a small business owner. This vital aspect of business management will allow you to stay healthy while handling the pressures of running your own business.

Expand your self employed prospects with guidance from freelance creatives and industry experts from Kingston University

You’ll learn the techniques to grow your business from experts with first-hand experience of forging a freelance career in the creative industries.

By the end of the course you’ll be equipped with the tools to develop a well-structured creative business and marketing plan, as well as having the financial know-how to manage your money.


  • Week 1

    Getting Started as a Freelancer

    • Introduction

      Introduction to the short course.

    • Your Big 'Why'

      Understanding and articulating your reasons for freelancing.

    • Design your life/Design your business

      Explore how you can customise your creative freelance business to suit you and your needs.

    • Set-up structures

      Discussion about how you set up your freelance creative business and assemble a team to help you succeed.

    • Conclusion

      Wrapping up week one on the foundation of your creative freelance business.

  • Week 2

    Finding Clients

    • Introduction

      Introduction to finding clients as a creative freelancer.

    • Who do you want to serve?

      This activity is all about gaining clarity as to who your freelance creative business will serve. This will set you up for your marketing activities in the next activity.

    • Talking to potential clients

      This activity gets at the heart of what marketing is all about: talking to potential clients.

    • Crafting your marketing plan

      This activity builds upon the previous two to put the pieces together to craft a marketing plan for your creative freelance business.

    • Conclusion

      Conclusion to finding clients as a creative freelancer.

  • Week 3

    Working With Clients

    • Introduction

      This activity will outline key ways to think about working with clients successfully.

    • Demystifying clients

      This week considers your clients from a broader perspective to help you understand how to work with the more effectively.

    • Understanding contracts

      This activity will delve into contracts for freelance creative businesses.

    • Getting paid for your work

      This activity will discuss strategies to improve your chances of being paid for your work.

    • Conclusion

      This activity will wrap up the week's learning.

  • Week 4

    Managing Your Business

    • Introduction

      Introduction to week four.

    • Finder, Minder, Grinder

      In this activity we will examine some of the core activities you need to consider for your freelance business.

    • Looking after the money

      In this activity we'll discuss financial management for small business.

    • Reinvesting

      This activity will consider the necessary reinvestment in your freelance business in order to keep it going.

    • Conclusion

      This activity will wrap up the week's learning.

  • Week 5

    Growing Your Business

    • Introduction

      Introduction to the key learning for this week about growing your business.

    • Taking stock of your business

      This activity will guide you to step back and consider your own business and how it might grow and evolve.

    • Rethink, reassess, reinvent

      This activity will guide you to consider 3 key ways you might consider growth in your creative freelance business.

    • Hiring and managing staff

      This activity will delve into the subject of hiring and managing staff for your creative freelance business.

    • Conclusion

      This activity concludes the week's activities framing your learning.

  • Week 6

    Thriving as a Freelancer

    • Introduction

      This activity introduces the key topics and ideas we'll cover this week.

    • Looking after yourself

      This activity will guide you to consider ways you can look after your mental and physical health as a creative freelancer.

    • Planning for a rainy day

      This activity will consider how good financial management can help your creative freelance business to be more sustainable.

    • Sustainability

      This activity will use the theory of the quadruple bottom line to explore ways you can guide your creative freelance practice to be more sustainable.

    • Conclusion

      This activity concludes the final week of the short course.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the legal considerations and structures of freelance work (using the UK as an example)
  • Investigate financial planning for small businesses, including start-up costs, tax and cash flow (using the UK as an example)
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan for your freelance business
  • Identify tools to manage yourself as a freelancer
  • Build confidence in finding and working with clients as a freelancer

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for freelancers who want to work within the creative industries or those thinking of a career change and are considering freelance work.

This course would also benefit current creative freelancers wanting to strengthen their freelance practice.

Who will you learn with?

Dr Steven Sparling is the Head of Department, Creative Industries in the Kingston School of Art, Kingston University. He holds a PhD in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship.

Who developed the course?

Kingston University

At Kingston University, we are passionate about enhancing our students’ life chances by helping them make the most of their learning opportunity while equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed in the 21st Century’s demanding workplace.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
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Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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