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Freelance work & fair pay

A colour photograph showing magenta paint being poured from a paint can onto an orange canvas.
The artist working on Poured Painting: Magenta, Orange, Magenta, 1999. Colour Photograph
© Ian Davenport. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2024

The UK’s creative industries provide 2.46 million jobs and had an estimated GVA of £126 billion in 2022. The arts sector alone contributed £49 billion in 2022. Despite being essential to this success, artists are some of the lowest earning workers in the creative industries.

DACS advocates for fair pay and improved working conditions for artists, on behalf of our members and all artists.

Freelance Labour

DACS has joined calls led by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), for a Freelancer Commissioner to help the Government better understand the challenges faced by the UK's freelance workforce, including artists and other creative workers. DACS works with organisations across the creative industries to campaign for better support for freelancers across the sector, including ALCS, BECS, Creative UK, Directors UK, and the Creators' Rights Alliance.

There is no clear channel for dialogue between freelancers and government. A freelance commissioner would help to bridge that gap.

Nicholas Trench
The Earl of Clancarty
  • Freelancers make up a huge proportion of the jobs in the Creative Industries: 49% of the cultural sector workforce are freelance workers whilst 70% of visual arts workers are freelancers, vastly exceeding the national average of 16%.

    This figure encompasses the majority of artists and creators, as well as producers, curators, writers and technicians, with many freelancers having mixed roles, such as artists and curators who are teachers, lecturers and freelance writers, or who have contracted part-time employment.

    Despite their value to the sector and their contributions – both economic and cultural – to the UK, freelance workers have been poorly served by many parts of the policy infrastructure. In addition, the precarity of freelance labour within the visual arts reinforces inequality in the sector, positioning creative careers as only for those with the means to take on precarious and short-term projects for low pay.

  • We are calling for a dedicated Commissioner to help Government understand and work with the UK’s freelancer workforce as we recognise that this need extends beyond just the creative sector. We recommend that a Creative Freelancer Commissioner should sit between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Work and Pensions, encouraging a clearer understanding of the unique challenges faced by freelance workers across departments. As part of the role the Commissioner would be required to hold regular roundtables with different sectors, including the Creative Industries, with representatives from membership organisations and freelancers themselves.

    A Creative Freelance Commissioner would successfully plug the gap in knowledge currently held around self-employed work in the UK. This position would champion the vital role freelance, self-employed and atypical workers play across the creative and cultural sectors while identifying and finding solutions to unintentional systemic challenges that they face.

Artists' Earnings Research

In 2011, DACS commissioned the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University to research the average earnings of fine artists, photographers, illustrators and designers in the UK.

In 2024 we commissioned CREATe, University of Glasgow to deliver a new Artists' Earnings Survey. The survey aims to build a clear and comprehensive picture of artists’ earnings today and how they are generating income, to understand the challenges they face in sustaining their practice.

The survey is open from 7 March - 7 April, and can be accessed below.

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