Beware of lack of understanding: the value of creative freelancers


Such a knowledge gap has been exposed by the devastating impacts of Covid-19 on creative employment and self-employment, and the uneven support freelancers have been able to access in response.

The term “creative freelance” has been widely used as a catch-all definition, encompassing a multitude of industry-specific roles and eclectic ways of working. Long before the start of the pandemic, Creative United identified this as an issue and a significant barrier to providing appropriate and targeted support to self-employed workers in the arts and creative industries.

As a social enterprise with a decade of experience supporting businesses for arts, creative and cultural organizations, Creative United knows how important it is to funders, policy makers and service providers. understand the value generated by this exceptionally diverse activity. workforce community and the characteristics that define their motivations and ways of working. That’s why we’re excited to launch our new report, Mind the Understanding Gap: the Value of Creative Freelancers.

Understanding place-based savings

Our goal is to create a policy environment – and a broader business case – that understands, values ​​and responds to creative freelancers in today’s local economies.

While recent times have brought awareness to a much wider audience of the contribution of creative freelancers “under the radar” to our society and economy, they have also exposed the long-standing underinvestment and lack of understanding of how it works. that sector. Despite the largest economy-wide and sector-specific interventions ever seen in most of our lives, many creative freelancers have made their way through structural cracks in support, and with far too much regularity.

The report is based on over 100 hours of interviews conducted in mid-2020 with 86 self-identified creative freelancers across Coventry, Northumberland and the London Borough of Waltham Forest. In these interviews, the freelancers described their motivations, how they work, why they work this way and what it means for their professional and personal lives – in short, their lived experiences as creative freelancers.

Define the creation of value thanks to a creative “typology” of freelance

First, our report highlights the specific ways in which creative freelancers contribute significantly, and in various ways, to our local and national economies, communities and cultures. Taken collectively, their activities offer entrepreneurship and market creation, personal development and well-being, the joy and buzz of shared cultural participation, and results in terms of citizenship and community.

In current place-based policy frameworks in particular, the recognition of this wealth of contributions and value, and the understanding of how different freelancers generate such value, should attract higher levels of investment, funding. and support.

Second, our typology of creative independent models is offered as a “plug and play” way to understand their diversity of value to the economy, society and place. Built on the basis of our interviews, the objective of this typology is to directly illustrate how creative independents bring the contribution and the value sought by the investment, to shed light on the justifications for investment and financing and to open up new new policy design possibilities for creative freelancers.

Photo: Jasmine Chan

There are six categories in this typology: Creative entrepreneurs; Creative contributors; Creative work-life balancers; Precarious spotlights; Creative and creative community environmentalists.

Using this typology, we formulate 10 recommendations for national government, institutions of the creative and cultural sector and local policy makers which we hope will spark active reflection around critical issues such as:

• How do you enable “creative entrepreneurs” to be successful?
• What is the best way to support “precarious spotlight” to improve their resilience?
• At what point could you increase the impact, in the most optimal way, for “community creatives”?

We believe the report is must read on why and how you could invest, fund and support the diversity of creative freelancers; that essential – but precarious – part of our much-vaunted creative and cultural industries.

After that ?

Creative United was launched ten years ago as a social enterprise that believes in the power of the arts, culture and creativity as a force for good in society. As an ACE NPO and sector support organization, we have focused on addressing inequalities of opportunity by seeking to meet the needs of the creative and cultural sector, supporting its economic growth and achieving social impacts.

Our combination of consumer credit (Own Art, Take it away) and business support programs (such as Prosper North, Forge and Re: Create 2021) supports the sustainability, growth and diversity of production in these sectors. while providing wider and more inclusive access to arts and culture products, services and experiences.

Along with this work, we seek to achieve positive change by undertaking activities that highlight and enable the cultural, economic and social value of the arts and the creative enterprise to be more widely understood and supported by policy makers. and investors.

Our greatest hope is that the typology we propose will appeal to creative freelancers; that they can see themselves in the report and that this bridges the gap between their lived experiences and the funding and (design) of policy frameworks, programs and projects. And that this enhanced understanding of value creation by creative freelancers ensures that this critical and valuable infrastructure receives the investment and support necessary to thrive, for freelancers, our economy, our communities and our places.

Join the conversation / Does the report reflect you? #FreelanceFutures

Nick Henry is Professor at Coventry University and Director of Creative United.
Mary-Alice Stack is the CEO of Creative United.

Beware of the Understanding Gap: The Value of Creative Independents comes from research from Coventry and Warwick universities commissioned by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Center at Nesta. It was produced in partnership with Creative United, the Coventry City of Culture Trust, the London Borough of Waltham Forest and the Northumberland County Council. A detailed discussion paper on the research was published as part of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Center’s Freelance Fortnight.

This article is a promotional article sponsored and contributed by Creative United.


Comments are closed.