We need to talk about freelancing.
About one in three of the creative industries workforce is a freelancer, double the rate across the rest of the UK (1), and it’s not surprising. Leaders love the way it allows an organisation to flex and adapt and freelancers love the variety, flexibility, and creative freedom (2) ― it’s a natural fit alongside childcare and family commitments.
But we all know freelance work has its challenges too. Bidding for every scrap of work that comes in is highly inefficient and the work is often underpaid or at least, the brief is under-estimated. Often organisations are working with low budgets and short-term funding, which leads to short-term contracts. We must ask ourselves if the system relies on those lucky enough to have another stable income at home, or alternative means of support.
In addition, the definition of 'freelancing' may surprise you. As Sara Whybrew at Creative & Cultural Skills outlines in a workshop on recruitment: if you are specifying fixed hourly rates, days of work and/or duties or if you’re requiring a specific person to fulfil a job role rather than provide services to your business, then it may not be 'freelancing' you are describing, but rather a fixed term or in some cases a permanent contract of employment.
A freelancer ('self-employed contractor' is the proper term) is someone who undertakes a contract for the delivery of services. It doesn't matter what we call it, it's the conditions under which people are expected to work that determines the true status of their employment - this was the root of the Uber drivers’ successful court case in 2016. This is serious business. Calling a role freelance when it is not one, deprives people of the rights and benefits that they are entitled to, such as the right to statutory holiday or sick pay, a minimum wage or protection from unfair dismissal (exceptions apply to the latter). Other situation-specific rights, such as childcare vouchers, could be a deal-breaker for some parents. If someone can’t or won’t accept these terms, then they are unlikely to take up a job in the craft sector.