Covid makes creatives wake up to joys of freelancing

freelance2Freelance life may be precarious but it is now more prominent than ever for the creative industry, with the Covid pandemic accelerating a major shift towards independent working across the world.

As has been well documented, the past 12 months have been more hazardous than most for freelance creatives and a new study from global creative platform Genero confirms the immediate and devastating impact of coronavirus as agencies and clients pulled the plug in the early days of the outbreak.

It reveals that over four-fifths (81%) of creatives said that their income had been reduced in the period March 2020 to September 2020, with 40% seeing reductions of over 50%.

The report, The Impact of Covid-19 on the Global Creative Industry, shows that this work wipe-out forced many creatives to seek alternative employment, and nearly three-quarters (72%) had to change their ways of working as a result, either temporarily or permanently.

With restrictions in place, many creatives adapted to providing services from home, and many also moved into freelance work from full-time employment. The shift to freelance is likely to be significant and permanent for the creative industry, the reports states, with only 12% of respondents saying they would choose full time as their preferred way of working moving forward.

The overwhelming majority would like to freelance (47%) or work as a partner in an independent creative business (35%), accelerating a shift to independent, flexible work.

The study also highlights some key challenges that creatives are facing when it comes to production, with increases to both the cost and time required. This is driven primarily by new safety measures such as testing, PPE, sanitisation, health and safety officers and increased insurance fees – as well as restrictions around movement.

Where local regulations permit it, ad shoots are possible, but the survey indicates that there will be changes to the way production takes place for a long time to come – including significant safety measures, an ongoing need for flexibility and adaptability, and a shared understanding of the day-to-day considerations this new regime brings.

Genero co-founder and chief executive Mick Entwisle said that this fragmentation will change the way that agencies and clients engage creative talent in future.

He added: “A flexible, global talent pool offers opportunities for greater efficiency, scale and creativity; but to take advantage, new structures and approaches will be required. For creative talent, it’s undoubtedly been an incredibly difficult time, but we hope we can play a role in empowering creatives looking to make a permanent shift to more flexible, independent work by providing access to ongoing work and exciting opportunities for growth.”

Henric Larsson, founder of full-service content company Chimney Group, commented: “It will be interesting to see how the shift to flexible and independent work impacts in-house strategies. During 2020 we still saw amazing work delivered while working remotely. Adapting to use a distributed creative model will enable brands to tap into a global talent pool, using diverse creatives to make sure their brand is locally relevant in any market around the globe.”

The Genero study follows an analysis of LinkedIn jobs in January, which showed that freelance creative professionals are now in high demand as companies seek to recover from the pandemic. The study of 29 million UK roles placed creatives among the country’s fastest growing jobs.

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