Creative freelancers suffer £5,000 loss a year in free work

34% of freelancers are expected to work for free, while 21% have been forced to give up on freelancing altogether and find alternative employment

Freelancers working in the creative industries lose out on an average of £5,394 per year because they work for free, according to research from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) and the Freelancer Club.

Within the last two years, respondents spent an average 31 days working without pay, if free work was pre-arranged or if an expected fee was not paid. As a result, 45% were not able to cover work related costs and 40% couldn’t even cover basic living expenses.

Another 40% found themselves competing with other freelancers who were willing to work for free, over 33% didn’t feel confident asking for future projects, 34% were expected to work for free by future clients and 21% were forced to give up on freelancing altogether.

Of those surveyed, most (44%) were between the ages of 16 and 29, though the average age was 33. And it wasn’t just those with less experience that had to work for free: respondents had an average of seven years in their field.

Women were disproportionately affected by unpaid work, with 67% of female respondents having recently had to undertake it.

54% worked for free in a bid to gain exposure, 45% to be associated with a reputable brand and 20% said working for free was standard practice in their industry.

Matt Dowling, director at The Freelancer Club, said: “I know from personal experience how common it is for big companies to expect freelancers to offer their time and skills for free.

“But this is a message for freelancers as much as it is for businesses who are taking them on. When you agree to work for free, and the client makes a monetary profit from this free work, you risk creating a race to the bottom that undermines daily rates of pay for the whole industry.”

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