Unpaid work 'the norm,' freelance creatives admit

Working without charging the client any fees whatsoever is still the bane of most freelancers’ professional lives, a creative industry probe shows.

Surveyed between June and July this year, almost two-thirds of freelancers admitted to have taken on unpaid work within the last year.

And rather than being the exception or a ‘one-off’ to create good will, eight in 10 of these freelancers called working for free “the norm,” found the Creative Industries Federation.

Reflecting on the practice of foregoing pay in return for having work, which 65% of the almost 700 freelancers it quizzed confessed to, the federation said it was “disappointing.”

“There have been several initiatives to emphasise the value of creative work and ensure that it is properly recompensed,” the CIF explained, in its report Creative Freelancers.

In particular, IPSE last year campaigned for freelancers to turn down unpaid assignments, after uncovering an average loss of £5,000 per year per creative, who worked for no money.

The Musicians' Union has gone even further, recently opting to ‘name and shame’ outfits that have asked performers to play for free, in its online ‘Work not Play’ campaign.

Boosting their profile or prominence to others in their sector; or using the work to fill out their portfolios are among the reasons that freelancers traditionally give for working unpaid.

“Many in the industry accept that the issue is nuanced and potentially difficult to legislate on,” said the CIF, which surveyed film, advertising, artistic, musical and editorial freelancers.

The federation added: “But there is support for wider recognition of the importance of paying workers and performers properly if we are to allow creative talent to prosper.”


Sep 7, 2017
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