Boom-time for freelance designers

Financial upheaval in wake of the Northern Rock credit crunch is not hurting freelance designers, who are pocketing inflation-busting pay increases.

Leading design recruiters say the market is so buoyant that arguably there has never been a better time to snap up freelance or temporary contracts.

Such is the reported verdict from Design Week’s latest salary survey, which found that areas short on skills are now paying freelancers annual premiums of up to 13%.

One recruiter speaking to the magazine even said that for some design specialisms, like digital and packaging, rates over the past two years have climbed 100%.

And with the scarcity of top design skills not abating premium rates are set to continue: pay for freelancers is predicted to climb an average 9% over the next 12 months.

Design Week also reported agency databases show freelance design professionals, in some roles, are earning higher rates than their permanently employed counterparts.

Recruiters at The Book, a Leeds-based agency, told the magazine clients are demanding freelance packaging designers, artworkers, Web developers, Flash designers and branding specialists.

Clients are most likely to hire a design freelance possessing a broad skill set, particularly if it includes digital and moving image experience, suggesting senior freelancers stand to do well.

But the market is not elitist: it is showing healthy demand for junior designers, typically to plug a gap, and more of a need for middleweight freelancers, typically with less than five years’ experience.

Perhaps the only real worry on the horizon is how client companies can keep justifying the inflated rates they pay freelancers, often for carrying out the same role as an employee.

Stuart Newman, managing director of Network Recruitment, reportedly said higher rates for freelancers puts a huge strain on consultancies trying to keep full-time staff happy.

Employees, he added, know that freelancers don’t have to commit as much to the company, and, in the process, can earn double the money.

And of course the only other threat to the buoyancy, which all recruiters polled by Design Week expect for the foreseeable future, is IR35.

Newman apparently warned the market for freelance designers “may change” if the effects of the Intermediaries legislation, known as the freelancer’s tax, take hold and dent confidence among clients and freelancers alike.


28th September 2007

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