Creative freelance probe recommends 10 actions

Entrepreneurial, in need of guidance but “invisible” to policy-makers -- the nature and plight of freelancers in 2017, according to a probe of 700 self-employed creatives.

Published by the Creative Industries Federation, the probe was shorter than the nine-month Taylor Review, which it briefly mentions, but has much more detail about freelance creatives.

“Creative freelancers are often innovative and entrepreneurial, with many juggling a string of different contracts and work streams in portfolio careers,” it says.

But “many” creative freelancers “struggle to access good quality affordable advice,” on issues like IP protection, and the lion’s share are “happy” being freelance.

Often unfairly perceived as “people who can’t get a proper job,” such independent creatives also suffer from being misunderstood by those who make rules for them.

“What they do and how they do it has not been widely understood,” says the probe, which involved 700 creative freelancers and 50 organisations.

“This means that policy that affects them is being developed sometimes in potentially damaging ways or in apparent ignorance of their needs.”

Cue the federation’s 10 recommendations to “improve the working lives of this vital but undervalued part of the workforce.”

The first four, designed to get the government to recognise the importance of the creative freelance workforce, and the second five, designed to support them, are:

1. Make self-employment, across all sectors, part of a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ministerial brief.

2. Introduce an immigration system that "works for creative freelancers."

3. Support a creative careers campaign -- (“A UK-wide advertising campaign that inspires people to enter into the creative industries and dissolves misperceptions about careers within it, including freelance work.”)

4. Ensure that the way government ranks higher education institutions does not disadvantage those institutions where students become freelancers instead of taking staff jobs after graduation.

5. Support an independent UK-wide virtual hub (“A ‘business booster network’ -- which signposts existing business advice, maps local support services, and facilitates peer-to-peer mentoring for creative entrepreneurs.”)

6. Protect freelancers’ creative workspaces against development into residential spaces, by making sure usage cannot be changed without planning permission.

7. Fund the accreditation of online courses aimed at freelancers.

8. Consider the freelance workforce as part of HM Treasury’s review of patient capital (investment with no expectation of turning a quick profit).

9. Pilot mechanisms to provide sustainable social security for freelancers -- (“For example, short-term relief grants or community supports underwritten by government,” and ensure current mechanisms, including universal credit, work for creative freelancers.)

10. Provide freelancers extra support during the transition to Making Tax Digital.

“Freelancers are the undervalued backbone of Britain’s thriving creative economy”, said CIF chair Rick Haythornthwaite. “They have been invisible to policy-makers for too long. [Our report] ‘Creative Freelancers’ sets out to change that.”

Imelda Staunton, the actress and a formerly self-employed professional, said she hoped the government would now be able to understand what the freelance side of the creative industries are all about.

“I hope the government takes this [report] homeand reads it rather carefully,” she added. “[It recommends] what it needs to be the very best it can be.”

Writers were the most populous group of creative freelancers who contributed to the report by sharing their experience, ahead of ‘producers,’ then ‘artists’ and ‘consultants,’ followed by the fifth most populous group creative ‘directors.’


21st July 2017

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