Hiive: How Design Networks are Reviving the Creative Industry

We sit down with Hiive founder Ciaran Burke, to find out what it is, and how it could change your life…

Getting your first internship, job or a freelance project in the creative industries can be a daunting task. You might be confused where to start or you might be unsure of the skills and experience you have to offer. This is where a professional network could prove very helpful.

Collectives and networks such as Hiive can make this process easier for everyone – from companies and higher education institutions to artists, designers and creatives across all disciplines. We caught up with Hiive’s editor Ciaran Burke to find out more about it and the exciting plans his team has for the years to come…

So, tell us more about Hiive…

We’ve set up Hiive to become the professional network for creative people. Hiive allows professionals, companies and course providers to kick-start creative connections with jobs, projects, courses, knowledge and people. If you’re a creative, it’s a fantastic place to showcase your talent or business, discover opportunities and ultimately grow your network. 

The idea was born out of the success of the creative industries. The industries grew by almost 10% in 2012, representing 5.6% of UK jobs. We needed an online platform that could champion these industries, encourage this growth and get creatives talking to one another within and across the different sectors. Not only that but there was and still is a huge need to open up careers in the creative industries to a much broader, more diverse demographic across the UK.

We now feel we have created a website that has the ability to do just that through giving people a platform to showcase their talent.

Hiive is funded by the industry and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a publicly funded, industry-led organisation that offers guidance on skills and employment issues in the UK. As a result of several freelancers securing paid work through their Hiive profiles, we are looking to launch Hiive Ideas Lab over the next few months. It is something we are very excited about as it is all about unlocking the talent in the Hiive community through generating paid commissions for them.

Screenshot of Hiive

Who’s it for?

If you work or aspire to work within the creative industries, then Hiive has something for you. Likewise, if you’re running a creative business. It has the ability to connect you to relevant people and companies, get you a job, find you your dream course, upskill you, unearth a career path for you and even find freelancers to create incredible work for you.

Hiive was set up to serve the UK’s creative professionals, as well as those looking to break into the industry. To that end, Hiive’s users comprise everyone from apprentices and interns, students, freelancers, late-career professionals, as well as people looking for their first job in the sector. Hiive is also home to a growing number of organisations, including the BBC, Sky, ITV, Penguin, Channel 4, Warner Bros, Google, Framestore, Aardman, Double Negative and more.

Students, apprentices and interns

Hiive is a launch-pad to help kickstart your creative career. Hiive can help you gather advice on how to break into the industry – from those already working in the industry. It can provide you with a platform to showcase your skills, make connections and find the right courses to get you a foot in the door. Finally, with a growing number of creative organisations listed on Hiive, it can help you find internships, apprenticeships and graduate entry jobs.

Early, mid and late-stage career professionals

No matter what stage of your career you’re at, Hiive can help you to connect, collaborate and grow with jobs, courses, knowledge and talent. Whether you are looking to take the next step on the ladder, retrain or take a sideways step, or find the right talent to support you, Hiive can help. The platform has comprehensive lists of creative courses, companies, and industry talent, plus Hiive Swarms, Q&As and a Knowledge section where you can collaborate, learn the ropes or ask advice from others.


As a creative freelancer, Hiive allows you to showcase all of your work in one place, collaborate with other creative professionals, make connections and find new opportunities. Freelancers can mark their profiles depending on whether they are looking for jobs, or currently employed. Finally, as a freelancer you can take advantage of Hiive’s extensive list of over 11,400 course and training programmes, ensuring you stay at the top of your game.

Creative companies

As a company, Hiive enables you to connect with your audience, and attract the best talent from across the UK. With it, you can showcase your business, answer FAQs from potential recruits, and let people know what skills they need to get their foot in the door. Plus, you’ll be matched and recommended to courses for you and your staff, and to other relevant users on the site, based on your company data.

FE college, HE institutions and training companies

Hiive enables you to showcase your courses or training programmes to a growing number of creative professionals, at every possible stage of their careers. It also enables you to stay up to date with the latest industry demands and changes, so you can adapt and update your programmes as required.

Screenshot of Hiive

What does it do?

The main features of Hiive are Talent, Hiive Swarms, Vacancies, Companies, Courses, Q&A and Knowledge

Using the Talent feature, it takes just minutes for Hiive users to build a profile, showcase their skills, and start connecting with industry peers. Once registered, users can quickly customise their profiles, pulling in content from sites across the web, including their employment history from LinkedIn, and showreels from Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr and Dribbble, helping them create a definitive showcase of their talents. 

Hiive Swarms can be used to group together users for a variety of purposes. For example, to share interesting content, discuss industry topics, or even plan an event or project together. There are Hiive Swarms about creatives in Birmingham, about Americans on Hiive and about upcoming film festivals. Put simply, Hiive Swarm is a powerful and flexible tool to facilitate and encourage collaboration and conversation across the industry.

For users looking for their next opportunity, or the right creative talent to add to a company or project, Hiive has a Vacancies area. Here, users have the option to advertise a position or search available vacancies, and Hiive will even track applications for you. The searchable Courses area means educators can use Hiive to connect with the right people to fill their programmes.

Hiive already lists over 11,400 online, part-time and full-time courses; everything from 2D animation courses to fashion and textiles apprenticeships. Hiive encourages peer-to-peer learning and discussion via its Knowledge and Q&A sections. The Q&A area enables users to post public questions and vote on the answers they receive, while Knowledge acts as a repository of useful industry resources, such as information about job roles, how-to guides, and help videos.

Screenshot of Hiive

Tell us about IdeasTap…

Working with IdeasTap is an incredible opportunity for us, albeit one tinged with sadness as it’s come about as they wind down. These guys are the industry leaders, the go-to guys when it comes to helping people in the cultural sector get the best start in their careers, and are an organisation we’ve been inspired and influenced by hugely whilst working on Hiive. Having this partnership in place will encourage IdeasTap partners to continue offering opportunities for creative people through Hiive. We have in place a platform that is already supporting and nurturing creatives through employment and educational opportunities.

Ideas Tap has pledged £100,000 to continue supporting creative people after it closes its doors in July – planning to launch a series of funds, competitions and mentoring opportunities through Hiive. Hiive has awarded over £5,000 in bursaries since launch and with this new partnership we’re delighted to be able to continue rewarding great ideas with the financial backing they deserve.

Our mission over the next month is to work with the IdeasTap team on developing a plan that will hopefully appeal to the bulk of their 200,000 users with a series of activities, features and opportunities provided to them on Hiive. One of the great success stories of IdeasTap was in their ability to give opportunities to creatives from every background across the country through their creative competitions such as the Innovators Fund and The Columnist. We aim to continue to offer those kinds of opportunities, working with as many of IdeasTap’s partners as possible along with new partners.

Another key aspect to their success was their ability to put on fantastic training and educational events around the country for their members. Alongside Creative Skillset, we hope to roll out similar style events around the country that will be of use to people working in both the creative industries and the performing arts.

While Hiive initially started out focusing on the creative industries, already over 10% of our user base is made up of individuals representing the performing arts. With so many performing arts members on IdeasTap, it is really important that we work with IdeasTap and their partner organisations to provide them with the right content and opportunities on Hiive. With that in mind, we will be looking to bring across the amazing resource of content that IdeasTap has developed over the years so that it can go on helping people for many years to come.

Screenshot of Hiive

What do you think of the creative industry in the UK?

There are a number of factors which have allowed the UK to have an enviously successful creative economy. First and foremost, the UK benefits from having a highly educated workforce that has English as its mother tongue. This will always ensure you have valuable exports from the creative economy. Traditionally the UK has always had a long line of talent from across all of its creative industries that have gone on to become global superstars in their field. Laurence Olivier, Adele, Viviene Westwood, William Shakespeare, Jonathon Ive, Nicholas Grimshaw, Steve McQueen, Ian Livingston –  these role models for their industries consistently show to any UK native that if you have a talent in a chosen creative field you can go on to achieve great things.

However, taking things at a more micro level, there are a number of things which have spurred the UK’s creative economy to a much headier growth rate over recent years in my opinion. There has been an increase in the number of entrepreneurs both in the economy as a whole and within the creative economy. Taking games as an example, we now have 1,902 games companies in the country which is absolutely phenomenal. NESTA have ear marked 12 games hub around the country which are contributing to the 22% year on year growth the industry is experiencing. The video games industry is strongly co-located with other creative industries such as Design, Advertising, Software and Film, Video and TV. This is especially the case with iOS developers.

The government has played its part too in encouraging young businesses to grow through the very successful Enterprise Investment Scheme. Also tax breaks have benefited the TV & Film industry hugely in attracting some incredible productions to the UK over the last number of years from Game of Thrones to the upcoming Star Wars film.

Screenshot of Hiive

Where do you place Hiive among platforms such as LinkedIn?

There are a lot of great sites for the professional communities, like LinkedIn, and others for a creative audience, like Behance and Dribbble, but none that brings everything together in one place for individuals, businesses and course providers. With Hiive you can showcase your skills and portfolio as well as connecting with other creatives and influencers. Users can learn new skills and collaborate across Hiive Swarms, our new microsites. If you’re a business, you can find new talent and connect with other companies facing similar challenges and opportunities. If you offer courses, we have a community of over 23,000 creatives desperately keen to keep learning and getting better at what they do.

What’s it like working with the Hiive team?

Hiive is backed by Creative Skillset, the industry skills body for the creative industries. A group of major creative industries employers called for a professional network like Hiive to be created and then Creative Skillset worked with the industries to make it happen.

Working with Creative Skillset has opened us to a fantastic network of industry employers who have shaped the growth of Hiive from each of its creative disciplines. We also have a tight knit team of developers, project managers and editorial team who have helped build the community from scratch. The team is made up of a lot of fun people from varying backgrounds. If you want to get to know us better, there are a few ‘getting to know us’ videos up on our YouTube channel.

The team at Hiive
The Hiive Team

What does the future look like for Hiive?

We want Hiive to be synonymous with people in the creative industries. The day is coming when I’ll overhear someone saying, “Oh, I saw your Hiive,” and that will please me greatly. Hiive Ideas Lab is something I’m very excited about. It’s all about unlocking the talent in the community through generating paid commissions for them. I can’t say too much at the moment but we’ve already had some incredible ideas flying around… watch this space!

We hope you enjoyed this article and feel inspired. Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share:

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