Becoming self-employed with one's own art-based consulting business

Combining the best of both worlds: This is the goal that alumna Bella Zhang (M.A. Business Psychology) is pursuing after graduation. In Sweden, she has started her own consulting business and offers, among other things, art-based workshops in companies on the topics of health promotion, mindfulness and team development.

What comes to mind when you think about your studies?

A process of learning and development. Constantly acquiring new information and knowledge that inspire me and make me reflect on my understanding of the world. It is a process of expansion I would say, as I get to know what I did not know before, I get to try things that I normally would not try on my own.

So, through each challenge, I take one step out of my comfort zone, even if it is just a small step, me as a person, my thinking and mindset are all expanding with or without my conscious awareness at the time. Like everything else, there are parts that we enjoy and there are parts that we find difficult and challenging, but at the end of the day, they are shaping the process of our growth and taking us to the next stage of development.

You acquired a Master of Arts in Business Psychology. What is your current job position?

I’m currently in the process of establishing my own arts-based consultancy business in Sweden, and developing potential collaboration projects between China, Sweden, and Germany in the fields such as organizational development, organizational health and well-being promotion, intercultural integration, and sustainable leadership development.

Did you get any further work experiences prior to your current position that you would like to share with us?

During my studies, I conducted different arts-based workshops and coaching sessions for individuals and groups, topics included personal development, stress management, and mental health promotion.

I also volunteered in the UNICEF Berlin International Team in which I could apply my knowledge and skills in psychology and arts in few different educational programs, such as teaching children water hygiene, correct hand washing routines, and how to deal with grief via creative activities (drawings, movements, storytelling with puppet play).

During the pandemic, I held weekly online workshops for individuals and groups to promote mental health and well-being through resilience building, self-care practices, emotion management, aesthetic appreciation, etc. 


When did you figure out your preferred career path?

When I just started my study of M.A. Business Psychology, I knew I wanted to combine arts and business together, as I love them both, but I did not know how exactly I was going to do it. During my studies of Business Psychology and Expressive Arts Coaching and Consulting, I could see many things both fields shared in common but were articulated in different ‘languages’ (arts versus business). I guess I kind of figured out my preferred career path while studying both courses, it was not easy, sometimes felt like my mind constantly shifted from A to Z, from complete rationality/scientific rigidity to emotionality/creative flow. I suppose this process enabled me to see the values in both fields and perspectives, and somehow in the mist of confusion I found the ‘middle way’ that I would like to continue walking on.

Why did you decide to study M.A. Business Psychology?

I always wanted to study business psychology after I had graduated from the University of Edinburgh. During my study in Edinburgh, even though my major was in psychology, I had also taken international business courses, so my interest in business and organizational studies had always been there I’d say. After few years working in different positions in business, I figured out what I did not want to do and what I wanted to do more in my professional life, then I decided to further expand my knowledge in business psychology.

Another factor that motivated me to study business was during my time working in business organizations, I observed many of my colleagues (including myself) were constantly stressed out, there were challenges and problems in communication, intercultural collaboration, leadership, etc., so I was curious to find out how to resolve these issues and make people feel happy and healthy at work.

Which contents of your studies are part of your current job? How do your studies help you in your work routine?

All contents of my studies are relevant to my current work one way or another, perhaps Occupational Health Management (OHM) is particularly helpful. This course is the key that really ties my studies of Business Psychology and Expressive Arts together, as one of the main approaches of OHM is ‘salutogenesis’ (health promotion approach) which is also the main approach of Expressive Arts. Through OHM I gained a deeper insight into what factors that could lead to good health and wellness at work and what factors that might lead to disease and illness. With this understanding, in my thesis project, I was able to use arts-based methodologies to promote health potential factors that could lead to work joy and confidence. I could say this course helped me build the bridge between business & arts and gave me the opportunity to work in both fields.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue using arts and creativity to empower individuals, organizations, and social communities. Although bringing arts into business organizations is still quite new, I strongly believe arts can support organizations in various areas, such as innovation, change management, learning and development, cultural integration, etc. So I’d like to keep working towards my vision and hopefully be able to do more creative projects that can bring positive impacts on organizations and societies, particularly in areas of psychosocial health, multicultural leadership development, and climate neutrality.


What do you like most about your current job position? What is your biggest challenge?

I love that it is definitely creative, I can shift between the business world and the arts world, so both of my hemispheres are working together (haha). But it is not easy, especially it is a relatively new field (arts & business) and many people are skeptical about applying arts in business practices, so the challenge is to get people in the business world to let go of their fear of the unknown and become more open towards new approaches. Sometimes I also need to come up with a new ‘language’ that makes sense to both fields, it can neither be too arty nor too rigid, it has to be something in-between. Like any creative work or life itself, you don’t know how things going to evolve, you have an intention to move towards a specific direction, but you don’t have the control over everything, so you just have to trust the process and let things unfold on their own. Uncertainty definitely brings opportunities, but it can also cause fear and insecurity when you start your own business, so I just have to constantly remind myself to trust the process of bridging arts and business together.

What would you tell fellow students that study Business Psychology?

‘Don’t give up!’ (Haha). There will definitely be times that you’d feel frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed, but just keep going, take one day at a time, all your hard work will be paid off. Take this learning opportunity as a way for you to figure out what you want to do, pay attention to things that create a spark in your heart, they may give you inspiration towards your future career path.

Which characteristics should students have that want to study Business Psychology? 

Curiosity, you will need curiosity to ask questions, to conduct researches, and to generate new concepts and scientific discoveries.

Courage, you need to have the courage to face challenges and step out of your comfort zone.

Patience, you need to be patient with yourself and others, especially in a group project with a tight deadline, you have to be aware and respect that people learn in different ways and at different paces, be a little more patient and don’t push yourself and others too hard.

Introspection, always take some time to reflect on what you have learned and how it is shaping your way of thinking and understanding, we all need this introspective process in order to transcribe information we’ve learned from textbooks into our own knowledge.

Collaboration, good teamwork is essential for many projects during your studies, instead of competing, find ways to collaborate with others in order to achieve excellent results together, this is far more meaningful than ‘fighting’ on your own.

Thank you for the interview!