Big Freelancer Report Plain Language Summary



Freelance worker: Someone who is self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular projects.

Performing arts sector: The businesses and workers who make performances or support other people who make performances. 

Many freelance performing arts workers will not return to working in the performing arts because of the pandemic. This is a problem because the performing arts sector needs freelance workers to make performance. 

The pandemic has made the existing inequalities in the performing arts sector worse. Freelance workers’ problems before the pandemic included that:

  • They depended on buildings and companies for work
  • What they were paid changed often
  • They had to pay a lot for things like insurance, materials, transportation and other things in order to work
  • They had few laws or rules that protect their rights as workers
  • That they depended on people recommending them in order to get more work. This means they couldn’t say no to poor pay, poor conditions, abuse and unsafe working conditions because then people might not want to work with them

All these problems still exist for freelance performing arts workers. 

When the pandemic hit the freelance performing arts workers:

  • Had no one in government who cared about them
  • Did not receive money from the Cultural Recovery Fund (the grant given by Arts Council England to performing arts and other culture organizations)
  • Often couldn’t get money from the government to replace work that had been cancelled so they had no money 

Working as a freelance performing arts worker was hard before the pandemic. The pandemic added these problems: 

  • Loss of income
  • Many freelance worker have already left or will leave the performing arts sector
  • People are not sure how to return to work safely

This report makes some recommendations about how to address these problems.

Short-term Recommendations:

  • Arts Council and Cultural Recovery Money should go to freelancers directly through:
    • Training 
    • Allowing people to practice their skills
    • New programs and projects that help communities
  • Early career freelance workers, D/deaf and disabled freelance workers and workers who experience racism are the freelance workers mostly likely to leave the industry. Programs to allow people to keep their current skills and learn new ones should focus on these groups of freelance workers. Programs to allow these groups of freelancers to progress their careers would also be helpful. 
  • Develop a way for the entire sector to return to live performance safely in a way that is similar for everyone

Long-term Recommendations

  • The performing arts sector needs to change. It cannot return to paying freelance workers very little, poor working conditions, and excluding some people from working in the sector
  • Practical change across the whole sector is needed
  • Address issues like:
    • Developing laws and rules that protect freelancer workers’ rights 
    • Fair pay
    • How people learn the skills they use to freelance
    • Freelancer workers’ working environment and working conditions
    • The way the sector keeps particular groups of people from working in performing arts
    • The fact that organizations have a lot more power than freelance workers