Planning on setting up a business in the arts, creative or cultural sector but unsure where to start? Are you an artist, designer, stylist, photographer, sound engineer, interior decorator, editor, or similar in need of a helping hand to get started? You’re in the right place! Follow the guide to find out the five key steps to ensure your project is a success.
Supporting your development
Having a creative or artistic talent or idea is great, but you will inevitably find yourself faced with an unmanageable pile of administrative, financial and legal complexities. You are probably wondering how on Earth you can realise your ambitions and make your plan a reality. Fortunately, Brussels has both specific and general support structures to guide you through the twists and turns of creating a business plan, a legal entity and other procedures. Depending on your needs, you can either opt for personalised support from an advisor or for collaboration through group workshops. Here are some attractive options available to you.
ILES ARTIST PROJECT
If you are an artist or project leader in the visual arts, fine arts, live entertainment, literature, cinema or music sectors and you are registered with Actiris, you can benefit from START support to get a clearer idea of what your project entails or WORKSHOP support to get stuck into developing your artistic project. At the end of each support session, an action plan is drawn up and individual support is provided. More info
ILES CREATIVE BUSINESS
If you are a job seeker and want to set up a business in the cultural and creative industries sector, Iles Creative Business offers you one-to-one support, training in creative entrepreneurship and help in applying to join the Backstage Brussels business cooperative. To get things started, just sign up for an information session at this link.
Is your dream to set up a business in the fashion or design sector? Have you already launched your business and need some advice? Are you looking for an incubator workshop? Do you want to expand your business internationally? The experts at Mad Brussels, the city's fashion and design platform, can offer you personalised advice! Interested? Sign up for the upcoming information session on the last Wednesday of every month via email@example.com. As well as coaching, Mad Brussels also offers visibility for creatives in Brussels on its website, along with events, calls for projects, jobs and training in the design and fashion sectors. Check out their website or Facebook page.
Play.brussels, a cluster of hub.brussels, offers individual and group support in developing operational businesses in the audiovisual sector as well as in events and networking for all small and medium businesses in the cluster. And...it’s free! What a great networking opportunity!
If you are in the performing arts, AD LIB. asbl offers made-to-measure support tailored to your artistic ambitions and resources in order to make your project a success. The main goal of AD LIB is to support and boost the visibility of both emerging and experienced artists and companies in the performing arts in order to help them grow and ensure their creations are broadcast nationally and internationally.
MISSION POUR L’EMPLOI DES ARTISTES
The Mission pour l'Emploi des Artistes has four main areas of focus: training, consultancy, support for artistic and cultural projects and organising and staging events in the industry. The association provides various services and tools, such as general information on employment in the socio-cultural sector, collective intelligence initiatives, training and advice on creating and managing a not-for-profit organisation.
LEGAL ADVICE FOR ARTISTS
Are you an artist and do you have legal questions? Are you looking for advice on your social or fiscal status, or do you have questions about the health crisis, contracts, copyrights or neighbouring rights?
Every Thursday afternoon, the Pelgrimshuis in Saint-Gilles hosts legal and tax consultations which are also open to anyone involved in artistic life. You can meet a specialised lawyer who will give you concrete advice in complete independence.
C-SHIP: A LEARNING PROGRAMME IN THE CULTURAL SECTOR
The C-SHIP programme aims to enable professionals in the creative and cultural industries to build sustainable and resilient businesses, develop and/or strengthen their management skills, while maximising their social contribution and positive impact. The project is based on the cultural economy, social entrepreneurship and "agile working methods".
This training (FR) is organised online by ICHEC in 24 half-days of 4 hours from 1 March to 9 June 2022. Registrations close on 25 February.
Various different organisations offer general support to help you set up your business (creating a business model, business plan, financial plan, and so on). Some services are free: such as 5 Guichets d’Economie Locale and Iles, Microstart or Credal services specifically for women.
Others operate on a membership basis or charge for certain services, such as BECI, UNIZO, ICHEC PME and Solvay Entrepreneur.
sources of information and support
Your project is up and running but you are looking for clear and concise information on the many complex aspects of your future business: the social status of the artist, VAT, going global with your creations, upcoming trends, and much more besides... so where can you find out about all this? Here are some sources of information which could well help you navigate your way through all the twists and turns:
ILES ARTIST PROJECT
As well as providing support, Iles aims to keep artists informed by holding monthly information sessions (online registration), providing practical information documents in its online legal library and offering a legal advice email service at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Artist project also organises training sessions focusing on technical aspects of the artistic sector, such as budgeting for the production of a show or setting up a not-for-profit organisation.
The Cultuurloket is a mine of information on the administrative and legal aspects connected with artistic businesses. There is a whole range of documents, brochures, tables and template contracts available on their website. You can also get in touch with them directly and you can even get a one hour consultancy session to ask any questions you might have. Find out all about it here!
CONSEIL DE LA MUSIQUE
The ‘Conseil de la Musique’ is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to inform, advise and promote the music sector in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, chiefly through publications, events such as “La fête de la musique” and competitions. Find out more on their website.
The Media Arte website is full of information on the audiovisual and digital industry with all the latest news, trends and training in the sector. If you want to find out more, just take a look.
COMMISSION DES ARTISTES
The Commission des Artistes is part of the FPS Social Security and aims to inform artists about their rights and obligations. It is also the body which issues artist cards and visas. To get in touch with them, click here.
SOCIÉTÉ DES AUTEURS ET COMPOSITEURS DRAMATIQUES (SACD)
The SACD manages copyright related to theatre, dance, stage music, circus and street art as well as cinema, TV and radio drama. Members can take advantage of various services, legal advice, grants, promotion and professional support to help make their work a success. Check out their website to find out about the services and initiatives they offer.
The ‘trial and error’ approach
After the preparation phase, you still need to take a leap of faith into the unknown. The good news is that there are options enabling you to test out your business. As well as the general options available, such as JobYourself or the Tremplin-indépendant initiative, there are other programmes specifically intended for those in the artistic sector:
Many people developing projects in various sectors carry out their business activities through SMart. By becoming a SMart member, you will have access to a whole range of services, including an invoicing tool. In this case, SMart is your employer and invoices clients, and then pays you a salary. Of course, you have to pay taxes and social contributions on the amounts you earn, but if you earn nothing, you have nothing to pay. If you are unemployed, you simply have to fill in the boxes on your control card on the days you work and you will receive your unemployment benefits on the other days. That’s perfect if you are starting off your business and looking to work completely independently while maintaining peace-of-mind.
In the same vein, Tentoo (online tool), Merveille (temping) and Amplo (HR partner) also offer solutions for working as a freelancer without becoming self-employed.
Workspaces for creative people
An underestimated challenge to artists and creatives is loneliness! It is good for you to share your successes, failures and words of encouragement with your peers, so why not work in a pleasant environment where this is possible? The icing on the cake is that some work spaces also offer support in helping you develop your project. You can find a whole list of coworking spaces, serviced offices and business centres on the 1819 website by clicking on the “Who can help me?” tab. Here is a small selection specifically for artists:
The Pepibru business centre brings together start-ups from the music (management, label, publishing, etc.), audiovisual (pre-production, production, post-production) and communication (digital marketing, PR, photography, etc.) industries in a 14,000m2 space. The centre offers all-in packages for start-ups, flexible coworking arrangements and longer-term leases with a full range of services for growing companies.
More than just a coworking space, Créatis is an incubator especially for cultural and creative industries. This initiative aims to support and speed up the development of companies in the cultural sector: media, audiovisual, music, digital culture, advertising, fine arts, crafts, heritage, live entertainment, and so on. Priority is given to companies developing an innovative business related to digital technology and working on projects which can be rolled out on the European and international markets. 20 companies from the cultural or creative sectors are hosted each year with the focus on business development. They benefit from being part of a positive ecosystem and can take advantage of personalised support from experts. This initiative is supported by ING bank and companies are hosted in the ING Art Center Place Royale.
The Creative District is Brussels’ hub for creative, cultural and media industries offering a wide range of services such as coworking, meeting rooms for hire, training, professional and cultural events, business incubation and e-media services (rental of studio and editing equipment, audiovisual production, etc.). Creative District and its network has a broad range of individual and turnkey solutions to help you develop your business and give you the visibility you need. Go and take a look, you may well find exactly what you’re looking for!
And there’s more: other spaces might also be useful for creative businesses: Monday and Studio CityGate
The quest for funding
So you'd love to open your own gallery, head off on tour or organise fashion shows but haven’t got the budget to do it? There are obviously the usual sources of funding available, such as banks, crowdfunding, investors and even sponsors. Some financial organisations are specialised in the cultural and creative sectors. Here are a few:
- Finance & invest.Brussels
By investing in the future of the media, creative and leisure industries, finance&invest.brussels is supporting a sector with excellent prospects.
- The ST’ART fund finances the creation and growth of creative and cultural companies in Wallonia and Brussels and helps them access private funding.
- The Triodos Bank is one of the world's first sustainable banks. It only gives loans to organisations and companies which are based in Belgium and operate in a sustainable sector from a social, cultural or environmental perspective.
- Promethea aims to develop and promote corporate sponsorship in the culture and heritage sector.
- Do you work in a non-profit organisation? The website vieassociative.be, supported by Idéji, gives an overview of the financial support available to them. Part of this support concerns the artistic and creative environment.
- In 2021, the Brussels-Capital Region launched the first edition of its new call for projects Crea.brussels, aimed at strengthening its support for the cultural and creative industries. This call will be relaunched in 2022. Its terms will be revealed during an information session on 21 February.
A final word before you get started
This is where it all begins! You're ready to spread your wings and realise your dreams. But it's about more than just words, here are three pieces of expert advice to make sure everything goes swimmingly:
- Take the time to set out an overall vision for your project in the medium-term and then draw up an action plan for achieving your goals. If things are too vague, you may well lose your way.
- Make sure that your artistic project is truly original. What is distinctive about your project which will help it stand out from all the others?
- Target the professional networks which could help you develop or promote your project. What groups, places and partners are out there that could give you a helpful nudge in the right direction?
Sources: interview Mathieu Seron (Backstage), France Morin (Artist Project), Corentin Delescaille (Actiris).
Article updated in February 2022 by the 1819 service.