Creative workers in the UK — including photographers, illustrators and content creators — are struggling to make ends meet as inflation and living costs continue to surge and fears of a fast-approaching recession swell.
61% of these entrepreneurs are concerned about losing their jobs and 55% are struggling to cover essential household bills, finds a new report by WeTransfer, which surveyed 2,545 creatives in the country, who are full-time, part-time or freelance. The creative industries account for 2.3m (6.9%) of jobs in the UK.
Freelance creators — who bear the costs of running their own businesses — are particularly vulnerable to financial insecurity, especially during times of economic downturn. Many companies are failing to pay invoices on time and freelancers are being forced to reduce their rates to compete for available work, the report found.
Startups rely on creative entrepreneurs for specialised services from website design to marketing; they can often be a more affordable option than hiring full-time employees.
Yet creative freelancers are often among the first to have their projects or contracts terminated when businesses are cost-cutting, as they're viewed as a “useful, but often disposable resource”, says Amos Eretusi, founder of social enterprise The Kusp, which works for under-represented creatives.
Rising energy bills affecting job security
UK creatives surveyed by WeTransfer identified rising energy bills (50%) and rising inflation (46%) as having the biggest impact on job security.
Rising costs of energy and equipment are making creative jobs more expensive to carry out, report freelancers Sifted spoke to. And business customers facing rising costs themselves may be trimming back on paying for creative services, such as branding or marketing, meaning there's less available work for creatives.
44% of creatives surveyed said that they have had to use their savings to pay their bills in the last six months. Furthermore, over half of the freelance creatives surveyed reported that their income could no longer cover their essential bills. While 48% of freelancers have increased their fees due to inflation, 49% feel actively pressured to lower their rates to ensure they can secure enough work. Freelancers are also experiencing cashflow problems as customers are taking longer to pay invoices: nearly half (48%) of freelance creatives said it can take from six months to a year to receive full payment for delivered work. Creatives seeking additional income A fifth of creatives are looking to take on an extra job in the next year to supplement their income and be more financially stable. Freelancer.com, a global freelancer marketplace, is also noticing this trend. The platform says its monthly new user signups in the UK have tripled since the middle of the year — rising from 7,279 in June to 21,538 in November — partially driven by full-time workers looking to make more money alongside their day jobs. There’s no shortage of creative work on the platform too: design, video editing and marketing jobs are always in-demand and often rank in the top jobs on the platform, says Freelancer.com’s vice president Sebastián Siseles. He adds that freelancing can not only be lucrative, but it can actually provide more stability than full-time work in times of market downturn. "Although full time employees receive certain benefits, they are stuck to a single employer, and are dependent on the volatility or good wealth of such an employer" “Although full-time employees receive certain benefits, they are stuck to a single employer and are dependent on the volatility or good wealth of such an employer, while a successful freelancer splits its risk across many different clients, and even more, across different countries, economies and volatility,” he says. Freelancers hit hard by burnout Uncertainty around future work opportunities is also having an adverse effect on creators’ mental health, says Eretusi. 13% of creatives in the UK said they experienced burnout once in the last year, according to the survey. While, 25% said they had more than one burnout in the last year. Eretusi adds that many freelancers are seeking to move into full-time jobs — “where they can find them” — or are even jumping ship to unrelated industries “while things stabilise”. The result is that many creatives — who typically choose their careers to do what they love — cannot make use of their skills. Freelancer.com’s Siseles says that freelancers, independent contractors or casual workers would do well to be prepared for times of market downturn by building an emergency fund and diversifying their income streams. “Also, income should be considered on an annual basis, as you may have great months of income and some others not that great,” he says. Eretursi also mentions that some charities have provided monetary support for creators to give them "breathing space" when times are tough financially, but “there could be scope for more” of this support. Miriam Partington is Sifted’s DACH correspondent. She also covers future of work, coauthors Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter and tweets from @mparts_