How can we improve the lives of Creative Freelancers in the Performing Arts, where the current climate necessitates juggling several jobs?
Research by creative freelancers in the performing arts shows 98% of creative freelance workers have been dependent on other work or income during their careers.
This research was carried out by freelance members of the Creative Freelancers: Shaping London’s Recovery (CF:SLR) cohort in 2021.
We were employed as part of a 5 month project initiated by Fuel Theatre and the GLA (Greater London Authority) to look into job conditions, creation, and retention for Creative Freelancers in London.
We surveyed 144 Creative Freelancers who we found through the CF:SLR cohort, partner organisations, advisory group, and through @JobJuggling on social media.
As Creative Freelancers ourselves working multiple jobs, this research was motivated by our own experiences (having lived the reality of job juggling even as we carried out this project).
Our recommendations are informed by relationships within and outside the CF:SLR cohort, conversations with our partner organisations, unions, and employers, as well as the quantitive data and qualitative evidence contained in our survey results.
This work is not complete.
Our research expands on work begun by the 2020 Freelance Task Force, Freelancers Make Theatre Work, trade unions, industry bodies, academics and others.
The research team included Director Tash Hyman and Performer Beth Watson, who partnered with the National Theatre and Camden People’s Theatre to support their work. Their research has been published in full with Freelancers Make Theatre Work.
98% of respondents have, at some point in their career depended on other income outside of their earnings as a creative freelancer in the performing arts.
At the time of the survey, 88% currently rely on another source of income. This includes a large proportion of workers aged 35+ working in the arts for 5+ years.
42% of respondents work for an arts organisation in a non-freelance role, with the majority in a public-facing part-time or casual role (eg, bar, box office, FOH).
45% received support from their partner or families.
10% felt supported by their employers.
Respondents cited barriers to career progression in relation to class, disability, neurodivergence, race, gender (including trans identity) and caring responsibilities.
Researchers call for more collaborative pilot-focussed projects to be co-ordinated across arts organisations to road-test recommendations aimed at improving the lives of creative freelancers in the performing arts.
Alongside recommendations to reform contracts, conditions, hiring processes and pay of freelancers (in line FMTW, PiPA, Open Hire, and March For The Arts, and wider CF:SLR research), advice to arts organisations includes a call to reconsider
relationships and contracts with in-house part time and casual workers – in recognition of the vital role of these jobs in supporting and developing creative careers.
Recommendations for unions include more focus on the concerns of multi- hyphenate workers, both within the sector and across multiple sectors, and a broader sliding scale of membership fees in recognition of the reality that most creative careers involving juggling jobs across industries and/or specialisms.
Survey respondent key quotes
‘I could never take higher paying part-time jobs that required a particular set work pattern, as that might mean I’d have to miss work to go to auditions or leave if I got an acting job. But the flexible 0 hours work pays so low one has to work loads of hours just to survive London rents/cost. It’s exhausting.’
‘Opportunities seem limited despite there being more supportive noises in the sector about supporting women of colour like myself. Frankly this is quite depressing given I have been part of this sector for 20 years.’
‘The reality of jobbing acting [is] unsustainable. I’m 38 now and I need to earn more if I want to have a family, I don’t have much time left.’
‘Freelance jobs in the arts frequently expect everyone to drop everything to get the work done. You can’t do that for more than one organisation at a time. If you have caring responsibilities or a disability you can’t do that at all.’
‘A creative freelancer career [is] not feasible if you have responsibilities/bills to pay and you don’t come from privilege‘
‘Managing this kind of lifestyle as a neurodivergent person has led to frequent meltdowns.’
‘Within arts organisations it has been great when management recognises my interest in the creative side and offered […] opportunities within my role (e.g. shadowing youth theatre workshops during my contracted hours), or paid freelance roles where relevant.’