Freelancer Commissioner

The creative industries are significant drivers of both culture and the economy, contributing £109billion to the UK in 2021. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport estimates that the sector is responsible for 2.3 million jobs in the UK as of September 2021. Freelancers make up a large proportion of these jobs, with 669,000 being self-employed. This runs at over twice the national average of 15% of UK workers being self-employed.

Freelancers within the industry therefore provide incredible economic and cultural value to UK. Yet we have found that creative freelancers are often excluded from the support they need to address the unique challenges that they face.

Issues facing freelancers

Support – During the pandemic, 200,000 self-employed creatives in London alone missed out on desperately needed government support. A failure to understand and account for the unique nature of freelance workers means that government policies are failing to address the problems they face.

Tax and benefits – Current tax and benefit rules do not work well for many freelancers such as authors. Many hold a number of jobs to sustain a creative career, and need to navigate a complex, bureaucratic tax and benefits system. This can be made particularly difficult when freelancer earnings typically fluctuate from month to month.

Diversity – Research has shown that certain demographics are disproportionately affected by negative impacts on the sector. The Centre for Cultural Value found that data on pandemic job losses in the screen industry showed a staggering 51% fall in the number of female freelancers, compared with only a 5% decline for men.

Skills – Policymakers have acknowledged the need for varied education pathways into careers and lifelong learning for career development, but initiatives like the apprenticeship levy have not been aimed at the self-employed workforce. Future skills policies must accommodate for freelancers who make up a significant proportion of the creative sector.

Proposal for a Freelancer Commissioner

Despite initiatives like the Creative Industries Council, government engagement with freelance creatives is woefully lacking. Better engagement is vitally needed to address the challenges we have outlined above.

We are therefore calling on the Government to establish a dedicated channel for engaging with the freelancer workforce through the appointment of a Freelancer Commissioner.

We recognise that this need extends beyond just the creative sector. The Commissioner would represent not only freelance writers, but also visual artists, performers, directors and designers.

The Freelancer Commissioner could sit within either the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or Department for Work and Pensions. 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 Freelancer 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 the systemic challenges that they face.

In June 2023, the Earl of Clancarty spoke in favour of our proposal for a Freelancer Commissioner at the House of Lords debate Arts and Creative Industries: Freelancers and Self-employed Workers.


He said: “There is no clear channel for dialogue between freelancers and government. The Creative Industries Council contains no representation by unions or societies which advocate for individual artists or creatives. A freelance commissioner would help to bridge that gap.”

We urge the Government to consider our proposal and appoint a dedicated commissioner to protect and support freelancers across the UK.