Coventry University launches new research study that will help address the futures of creative freelancers

Creative freelancers in Coventry are being urged to join a Coventry University study aiming to help the freelance community shape its future beyond the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Nick Henry, from Coventry University’s Centre for Business in Society (CBiS), is leading a new research project that aims to discover more about creative freelance business models and how they work.

Not enough is known about creative freelancers and the diversity of the pay and conditions hidden within this sector, even though they make up 30 per cent of the creative industry.

To fill that knowledge gap the Professor of Economic Geography is asking artists, photographers, technicians, designers, actors and anyone who identifies as a creative freelancer living or working in the city to come forward to support this new research.

The study is one of six national projects commissioned by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and will advance understanding around the contribution of freelance workers to the economic and place-based impacts of the creative industries in three selected areas, Coventry city region, the London Borough of Waltham Forest and the County of Northumberland.

The professor and the university’s partners the Coventry City of Culture Trust, Creative United, Northumberland County Council, Waltham Forest Borough Council and Warwick University Institute of Employment Research saw a need to investigate the diversity of freelancer business models before the pandemic in March, and with many freelancers from creative industries unable to work and struggling for regular income due to the lockdown imposed during the crisis, he stressed how this study has gained importance over the last few months.

“When we were awarded this project, we knew that freelancers are a lifeblood – but potentially vulnerable lifeblood – of the booming creative industries. We wanted to know how do they, and their different business models, engage with and embed in place? And with what economic and social outcomes? We still want to know, but that vulnerability has been laid bare by the pandemic crisis.

“Our funders and partners want to know more, because they are committed to creative freelancers and because place-based policy opens up possibilities to support them to be sustainable and resilient – even in times of crisis. We look forward to some great interviews and some innovative policy discussions.”

Professor Nick Henry, from Coventry University’s Centre for Business in Society

The study is expected to complete in late Autumn and responses to a survey and in-depth interviews will help the research team to establish a classification of freelancer business models that will enable policymakers, funders and development agencies to develop more targeted strategies for supporting this part of the creative economy, the vulnerability of which has been exposed further by the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

“With the help of our partners and the freelance community itself, we are determined to take steps now to address this knowledge gap by documenting the business models adopted by creative freelancers so that their particular way of working and economic contribution can be properly understood and appreciated as an essential part of our creative economy.”

Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive, Creative United

To find out more about the project and the full portfolio of six research projects that the PEC have commissioned, please visit the PEC web site.