It's a jungle

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 May, 2003, 12:00am

Unlike accounting, medicine and law, a 'career' in freelancing is all about uncertainty, unpredictability and instability. But that is also where the fun and challenges lie, according to practising artists.

A new series of 'survival workshops' - costing between $50 and $100 - has started this month that aims at providing people who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts the 'ABCs' of management.

Course co-ordinator Tseng Sun-man said the workshops are to give participants a new perspective on the definition of the term 'career'.

'Having a career doesn't mean having a full time job anymore,' said the former secretary-general of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. 'In the arts, if you have a qualification in playing a musical instrument, it does not necessarily mean you have to find a job in an orchestra ... you can also opt for part time teaching or even as a freelance artist, that is, you find work as it comes along.

'But as freelancers, they must know the basics on how to market and promote themselves as well as find money through fundings.'

He added that freelancers needed to change their mindset as life would be very different from having a nine-to-five job: 'You don't really have holidays as freelancers and there is no steady income, which means instability. This is a characteristic of freelancing.'

Despite this sense of insecurity, Mr Tseng said freelancing had become a trend among artists in the last decade because the market was unable to absorb the hundreds of students graduated from the Hong Kong Academy For Performing Arts, which came into being in the mid-1980s.

'So the survival course teaches [young artists] the ABCs on how to manage their own career. If you are dancer, it doesn't mean you have to join the [City Contemporary Dance Company] or any dance group,' said Mr Tseng. 'You can set up your own business and freelance for these companies. That means you must know how to write a press release and how to get fundings from either the ADC or corporate companies.

'In the United States, freelance artists spent about 40 per cent of their time on management, not artistic creation.'

Veteran choreographer Poon Siu-fai said fresh graduates today should not narrow their paths.

'If you want to make money, don't even think about becoming an artist,' he advised. 'But you can make a good living out of freelancing ... it is hard work though.'

For more information about the survival workshops you can call 2922 2822.