Big Freelancer Survey 2024 logo
This year’s Big Freelancer Survey is launching very soon. Here are a few questions you may have on your mind…

1. There are lots of surveys out there – do I really need to fill in this one too?

The Big Freelancer Survey is the only survey of freelancers, by freelancers, for freelancers.

The survey is designed by freelancers, the data is collected and analysed by freelancers, and the results are presented to reflect and amplify the experience of freelancers. The raw data from the survey is held by Freelancers Make Theatre Work and will never be shared with anyone else. This is your survey, and provides a unique chance to make your voice heard.

The survey findings help to inform the work that FMTW and other organisations do to support freelancers, and to advocate and lobby on behalf of freelancers in theatre and across the industry. Previous year’s surveys have been referenced in Parliament, within DCMS and other government departments, by arts councils, and at industry conferences. The results help empower and amplify the freelance voice in rooms where it hasn’t been heard before – all thanks to your efforts in responding to the survey.

2. Haven’t I already filled in surveys for FMTW in previous years?

Yes, if you have responded to previous Big Freelancer Surveys, thank you so much – and welcome back! The BFS is a unique five year project: gathering this data over this period allows us to plot a trajectory of the freelance workforce’s experiences. It also means we can use the results of previous surveys to look more closely at some of the issues raised.

This year’s survey is in a similar format to BFS22 and BFS23, so if you filled those in, hopefully the familiarity should help ease your path through BFS24. We’ve also streamlined the questions this year with the aim of making your journey through the survey as smooth as possible.

3. Why do you need to gather so much demographic data – age, gender, ethnic background and so on?

We know this is a lot of work to get through at the start of the survey. Getting this data allows us to “break down” the rest of the survey data in a whole load of different ways, to analyse, focus on, and examine the detail of specific issues. Having the demographic data in this specific format also allows us to compare the results of this survey directly with those from other surveys, allowing us to confirm those results, or possibly challenge them if there’s disagreement. We’ll always approach the analysis from the viewpoint of the freelancers themselves.

Remember, you’re welcome to skip any of the demographic questions if you’d rather not provide that information – your responses to the rest of the survey will still be recorded in the overall data, and are every bit as valuable.

4. Why do you need so much information on my income and financial status?

The responses to BFS23 revealed huge issues when it comes to freelancers’ pay – most of all, that the overall levels of income among freelancers are shockingly low, increasing the impact of the current cost of living crisis, and intensifying the retention crisis within the freelance workforce. Low pay isn’t the only issue facing us right now, but it does underpin just about every other issue. This year, we’re taking a closer look at that, with the aim of examining the problems in more detail and providing a more solid and comprehensive set of data.

If you’re not sure of your exact figures for any of the questions, your best estimate will do just fine. And as always, if you’d rather skip any of these questions, please feel free to do that.

5. Why are you asking about mental health this year?

The reports we receive as individuals and as an organisation suggest that the mental health of freelancers is a serious issue at present, with much of the pressures of getting the industry back on its feet over the last few years disproportionately landing on freelancers. We’ve included three questions to try to take a closer look at this.

We’re also aware that this is a sensitive topic which many respondents will find particularly difficult to discuss, so you’ll have the option of skipping this section entirely before any of the questions are presented. Again, this won’t affect any of your other responses – they’ll all be recorded and valued just as highly.

6. Why are there no Scottish Gaelic and Irish versions of the survey this year?

For the previous two surveys, we’ve had the funds available to produce versions of the survey in English, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish. Unfortunately, our budget for the survey is much tighter this year. We believe it’s important that all our freelancers are paid fairly for their work on the survey (we aim to practise what we preach on this), and so producing versions in various languages involves a substantial financial outlay.

Thanks to the generosity of a donor, we have a Welsh language version this year, and we’re hoping to have our Scottish Gaelic and Irish versions back next year, as well as exploring the possibility of a version in Cornish. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback for us on this aspect of the survey, please do get in touch.

7. What happens to my data after I’ve responded to the survey?

The raw data from each Big Freelancer Survey remains within FMTW and our partners at the University of Essex, and is treated with complete confidentiality. All responses are anonymous, and will also be further anonymised where necessary – the aim is that no respondent should be identifiable from any of their data, no matter how detailed it is.

The analysed data will then be presented in a report on the survey, which is scheduled for release in June. The raw data and the primary analysis of it will never be shared with any organisations outside FMTW and the survey team: FMTW retains the raw data from the survey, from which point it can be analysed further where needed. In particular, we welcome data analysis requests from individual freelancers, so having read the report when it’s published, if there’s anywhere you’d like us to take a closer look, please do get in touch – it’s your data.

 

The five year Big Freelancer Survey is a unique long-term project which is now approaching its conclusion, and it’s vital to keep going. There have been well over 10,000 responses over the course of the survey project so far, and we’ve come so far, thanks to the time and effort of all of you in responding every year. A General Election is fast approaching, and with it will come a whole load of new ideas, and new approaches to theatre funding. That means that it’s crucial, now more than ever, to keep freelancers at the heart of those discussions

Thanks for all your support over the last few years – now let’s keep up the great work!

The Big Freelancer Survey 2024 goes live on March 13th – watch this space for more details very soon.