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Freelancers in the Creative Industries

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One of the defining features of the creative industries is a high reliance on freelancers whether that is in film, design, tech or the arts. 32% of the creative industries workforce as a whole is self-employed (including freelancers), compared with 16% of the UK workforce (Oct 2019 – Sept 2020, DCMS, 2021).

In fact, across the whole economy the last decade has seen a rapid growth in self-employment, with self-employed people representing 15.3% of employment in 2019, up from 12% in 2000.

Yet, despite being an essential and growing part of the workforce, creative freelancers are poorly served by many parts of the policy infrastructure.

COVID-19 has exposed the lack of support for self-employed workers. Many struggled to access the government’s income support schemes, and PEC research has exposed how some creative sub-sectors have been particularly hard hit, with a loss of 68,000 jobs in the performing arts sub-sector in 2020.

In particular there are three key areas, in skillsimmigration, and employment policy, where freelancers have been under-served.

This briefing sets out how the research published as part of the PEC’s ‘Freelancer Fortnight’ can help policymakers to better understand this part of the economy and to recognise that, when it comes to designing policy for freelancers, One Size Can’t Fit All.

Please reference this paper as:

Easton, E., Beckett, B. (2021) Freelancers in the Creative Industries. Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre, Available from:

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