Skip to content
>> Home > Policy > Policy Briefs > Recovery and growth for creative freelancers: during and post-pandemic

Recovery and growth for creative freelancers: during and post-pandemic

Asian person fitting designer outfit with straps to model

Insights from our Industry Champions: in partnership with the Centre for Cultural Value

At the end of March 2021 we consulted a panel of our Industry Champions to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of the pandemic on creative industries freelancers across the UK. This Industry Panel informs the national research project on the impacts of COVID-19 in the UK, which is led by the Centre for Cultural Value (CCV), in collaboration with the PEC and The Audience Agency. 

Our Industry Champions are trusted and respected practitioners, drawn from all parts of the creative industries. They have deep knowledge of industry practice and a desire to inform academic research that leads to better policies for the creative industries. This panel was made up of 15 individuals – both creative freelancers themselves or those who work with freelancers – from a wide range of industries and regions across the UK 

The discussion considered the following questions:

  • What needs to happen in the short term to get freelancers back on their feet? 
  • What long-term changes could be made to help freelancers thrive in the future? 
  • What interventions have worked, and what interventions could work? 

There was general consensus that the pandemic has exacerbated challenges that freelancers were already faced with, such as unstable job prospects: research from the previously mentioned national research project has shown that 55,000 thousands jobs in music, performing and visual arts were lost during the first lockdown, and that as a result of the pandemic there has been a collapse in working hours across the sector. 

The impact of COVID-19 on the freelancer workforce has been felt in all industries, but it has been a particularly pressing issue for the creative industries where, according to the latest Employment Estimates from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 32.3% of the workforce is self-employed (as opposed to 15.6% of the UK workforce overall). There are several reasons why this is the case: the creative industries function by nature on the basis of “project-based production systems”, where different skills are required for different productions and creativity benefits from collaboration and access to networks. Additionally, and as was emphasised by the panelists, many freelancers have chosen this work-model as a way of life because they enjoy the benefits and flexibility that come with it. 

Freelance work is by its nature less secure than employed work, however the pandemic has highlighted the lack of job security and employment support as a major area of concern for the creative industries and an issue that needs to be addressed going forward.

This briefing outlines the key points discussed by the panel, and spells out implications for national and local government policymakers, industry and trade bodies, funders, and research organisations.  

Please reference this paper as:

Chandler, J. (2021) Insights from our industry champions – recovery and growth for creative freelancers during and post-pandemic. London: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre. Available from:

Image by Skylar Kang

Related Policy Briefings

National Theatre London -courtesy of Samuel Regan Asante
Policy Brief: Transitioning to Sustainable Production across the UK Theatre Sector

This policy brief outlines recommendations for transitioning to more sustainable theatre production …

interior of library
Authors’ Earnings in the UK

This policy briefing sets out areas for possible policy action, proposed by the researchers at CREAT…

TV with streaming app logos on screen
Television production, international trade and pressures to consolidate

The UK television production sector is one of Britain’s leading creative export sectors. This briefi…

person sewing a leather belt on sewing machine
Three ways to support growth in the creative industries

Three ways to support growth in the creative industries The Creative Industries are an economic powe…

coastal village scene with waves lapping sea wall
Policy briefing: Creative industries innovation in seaside resorts and country towns

This policy brief is based on a PEC Discussion Paper: Creative Industries Innovation in Seaside Reso…

person in grey body suit moving past stage set of forest
Policy Briefing: R&D in the Creative Industries

The creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy. One in eight UK bu…

people in large lecture theatre
A global agenda from the PEC’s International Council

You can now read the report in A Global Agenda for the Cultural and Creative Industries is the …

neon light of speech bubble with heart shape inside
The birth of neo-regulation. Where next for the UK’s approach to platform regulation?

A new era of tech regulation is about to begin. However, planned legislation is leading to a tension…

view across Albert Docks Liverpool
Placemaking, Culture and Covid

In September 2021, we consulted a Panel of our Industry Champions on their experiences of …

view down a spiral staircase
The Creative Industries in the UK’s Export Strategy

This brief is based upon the findings of our latest research into the features and barriers facing t…

How to design a creative higher education system that supports economic needs

As the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is faced with important policy decision…

photo of modern walk bridge over river linking to a town on riverside
Creative places: Growing the creative industries across the UK

This is in part because of the economic importance of the sector: one in eight UK businesses are par…


  • Jo Chandler

    Jo is a postgraduate student at Edinburgh College of Art. She worked as an intern for the PEC to help plan and write up the Industry Champions panel on creative freelancers

Sign up to our newsletter