The Creative Brief-case: Care package for freelancers during Corona that melds the two P’s 

Cover Art: ‘The Creative Briefcase,’ by Yuliya Pankratova, Creative Freelancer; artist, packaging designer, graphic designer.

The UK government is creating an economic care package for freelancers in response to the economic impacts of the corona outbreak we were told yesterday.  Rishi Sunak described the design brief in parliament as one that was “incredibly complicated to design”, especially amid other challenges forced by Covid-19. The chancellor outlined the need for a resolution to the “practical and principle” design challenges of this much needed economic solution.

Perhaps then, the creative freelance community can help our government with this creative challenge in the way the creative freelancer community would: by first defining our why and what?  Subsequently solving the unique brand pillars that are required to define our final product solution.  Potentially finalising the freelance design of the package, so it’s translated to the circular economy model of ‘recycle and re-purpose’ just to make sure the financial contribution is served in a closed loop system to our economic environment?

So why should the government be concerned with designing this care package during Corona in the first place in particular for creative freelancers?

Of the 5 million freelancers in the workforce, the creative industry utilises the heaviest majority with 47%  of their creative projects depending on freelance creatives.  With plenty of those creative freelancers also servicing other industry.  Put succinctly this means that between the vast creative freelance community they could probably design Rishi; the ergonomic economic life-ring required, define it’s brand pantone, create it a new logo, build it an app, write it a blog, give it its own theme tune and brand voice, along with some VX and animation, all culminating in a compelling retelling of it’s entire life-story in a documentary, with a 360 degree advertising campaign. However, creative freelancers won’t be able to even start, without any economic salvation thorough out Covid-19 in the first place.

The creative industry as a sector has seen significant growth and was already contributing over 100 billion to the GDP of the UK by 2017.  Take Havas, an international PR and Advertisement company, with offices that live next door to the likes of Google in Kings Cross, London.  Havas turned over a total revenue of 3.8bn last year, 12% of that coming from its UK arm with the largest contribution to it’s revenue coming from the healthcare sector at 22%. Havas employs 20,000 people to service all industry with it’s internationally renowned creative PR and marketing strategies and their projects still rely upon “freelancers.”

Why are creative freelancers some of the most vulnerable economically during this outbreak?

This is because for any one creative brief for any creative agency such as Havas or similarly for the smaller sized companies, a creative project may still require further delegation to smaller production houses, another creative agency or an individual with a specialist service, skill or knowledge base directly.  This is in order to deliver for each brief, a uniquely creative idea and in some cases to achieve budget requirements.  Specialist skills are therefore often required for a short time and on a project basis only, resulting in an opportunity for the freelancer.  However creative freelancer contracts are therefore typically much shorter than other work contracts.  A study conducted of 700 freelancers by Creative Industries Federation accounts for a range in the average length of a freelance contract as being from 1 to 12 months for the majority. However for many creative freelancers these can be as short as a day or two, and when longer, incorporating as little notice period as a week.

This is one of the key reasons that creative freelancers are one of the most economically vulnerable sectors of the workforce and especially in this currently protracted economic predicament. Freelancers are also not normally covered contractually for sick pay, they have no pension from their employer and they often struggle to rent in London or to obtain mortgages as these amongst other recognised economic vulnerabilities are already counted against them.

Creative freelancers were also one of the first and worst workforce sectors struck by the economic corona related contagion.

Well before restaurants and cafes were ordered to close on the 21stof March, international clients such as Addidas are confirmed as calling off UK projects as early as 13thof March. The biggest film projects in the UK were initially delayed and then completely indefinitely shutdown as early as 12th March.  Agents, agencies, production houses and the like, responsibly responding to the crisis, placed an immediate halt on the vast numbers of people including creative freelancers required to come together in delivery of these projects.

So now the government needs to engineer a novel design for it’s economic whirl-pool float and fast for freelancers so they are not sucked under in this downward economic spiral.  Should Rishi post a job description and pose it to the approximately 300,000 creative freelancers joined up on The Dots perhaps? A new job description receives upwards of 50-100 applications in the first 24hours in the current climate.  The pledge by the Norwegian government to supplement with 80% of the average earnings of the freelancer, might serve as a design template as to what is possible.

However, this example of Scandi design, ordinarily widely adopted for its streamlined functionality, is in the UK context, tough to apply.  Norway’s design too presents some problems for Rishi who is looking for something ingenious to make it principallyfair and practically designed.  These two P’s are required to be equally melded for those who are newly self-employed and for those who have been, on average, earning less than others and therefore might need significantly more urgent financial assistance.  The solution might be achieved by capping support to £2,500 a month Rishi has suggested. The UK’s debt to GDP ratio is 86%, whilst Norway’s was predicted to fall to 30% in 2020 down from 36%. Nonetheless, Rishi has clearly clarified his aversion to adopting any circular design in the model.  He has stated he won’t be repurposing or reusing the tax contributions from freelancers already made to government in proceeding years in order to support them back now.

What is for certain regarding the required design solution for an economic life support for freelancers, is that for all their significant economic contribution, this collaborative creative community is lastly being delivered any economic solution.

We will keep you informed of any updates to this care package for freelancers during Corona.

We welcome any comments on this article, this is a coworked conversation.  Please respond below.

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