Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Creative Industries: Scotland’s hidden superpower – Rachael Brown

During the pandemic we all consumed creative products, services, and experiences like never before. We devoured tv shows, ordered and consumed books, made music, generated ideas, bought fashion, created art, played games, recorded podcasts and took part in online classes in everything you could think off. Despite this, somehow the creative sector is still not valued as being an important industry. It’s something over there, not as serious as manufacturing or hospitality. They’re lifestyle businesses, additional business fuelled by happy individuals working hard to be creative.

In the UK alone creative industries generate more than the life sciences, aerospace and automotive sectors combined, and yet it is under-valued and under invested in. For example, in the north-east of Scotland, an area known for its dominant energy sector, the creative industries are worth more than tourism, fishing and agriculture combined but don’t feature in any focused way. Why is that?

I’d suggest it’s all about perception and the impacts we value relating to the economy, business & entrepreneurship. We know that the creative industries are dominated by SMEs and freelancers, disproportionately so in comparison to other sectors, therefore we perceive the creative industries as small lifestyle choices – if you can’t get a real job you freelance.

We value secure jobs in and jobs out in big businesses with big investments. We don’t really see the small micro entrepreneur as having value, creating value, or indeed, making value. Our lens on creative entrepreneurship is far too narrow.

At Creative Entrepreneurs’ Club we have gone from 300 members to just under 4000 members in 3 years, launching the UK’s first response during pandemic for creative freelancers to fine tune and develop skills, to flourish. We are a data driven social enterprise bootstrapping our way forward, for creatives by creatives.

What lens do we see this hidden superpower through:

  • Micro-enterprises and creative businesses grow and shrink with equal finesse – this is not market failure, but by design, therefore are poised to be adaptable to the current opportunities, as well as weather challenges, clearly demonstrated during pandemic.
  • Investment returns are not fast, but they are deep.
  • Freelancers and Micro-enterprises can and do work globally from day one.
  • Pre-pandemic we ‘lost’ talent physically to London and other places, but now we are losing talent digitally, and do we even know where and to do what?
  • Flexible working, lone working and new business models coupled with digital freedom have and will create new working patterns and portfolio careers.
  • The future isn’t all about scale, micro businesses & freelancers are demonstrating maxi impact, no longer are people trapped in ‘big’ business, a new wave of creative entrepreneur is emerging ahead of the curve, we don’t resource our understanding of that enough.

Scotland is known for innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. We talk about it all the time but how do we live it as creative entrepreneurs. Defaulting to traditional structures and institutions can only take us so far, why? Because creative entrepreneurs give us something new, pioneering if you like – the canary in the coal mine.

The patterns and behaviours around work that were adopted during pandemic, were commonplace in the creative industries. The trend of purpose driven business in Scotland and beyond are thriving in creative industries, and that adds another level of challenge – not only are they creative, but now socially motivated and purpose driven, as well as global and small, and connected and profitable, and, and, and. No one box fits.

So, what can we do to support such an important sector?

How about the first Festival of Creative Entrepreneurs. What an international calling card that would be – Scotland leading the way in being the best place to be creative and entrepreneurial. A festival celebrating our people, celebrating their creativity, and showcasing what a diverse mix of businesses and entrepreneurs we have. Highlighting what is possible when we invest in people. Creative people, creating solutions for a new world.

What a superpower.

Rachael Brown is CEO of Creative Entrepreneurs’ Club