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How is the 'great resignation' effecting the freelance market?

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​The events over the last few years have had a significant impact upon the creative industries talent pool, leading to plenty of movement within agencies, brands and studios. We are continuing to see a record number of vacancies, and despite the continued uncertainty, the creative industries are expected to grow by 26% within the next three years, adding an additional 300,000 new roles. So, what does this mean for the creative industries, and the freelance market? 
The Great Resignation 

In early 2021, as we emerged from the depths of the pandemic, workers started to reassess their priorities, and realign their belief and value systems with where they worked. This change in ideology, coupled with the fact that over 80% of businesses were looking to scale quickly in order to recover lost revenues, resulted in the “The Great Resignation”.  

With swathes of employees leaving their jobs in unprecedented numbers, the highest since 2009, workplace policies and provisions were accelerated like never seen before as businesses competed in attracting, engaging and retaining talent. Many organisations adapted their candidate acquisitions strategies by enhancing their remuneration and benefits packages; and our 2022 Salary Survey, found that on average, salaries went up by 10.2% for permanent roles and 7.1% for freelancer day rates.  

For businesses, the talent and skills shortage has meant that they have had to be flexible with their hiring processes and decisions making. In anticipation that this shortage is going continue, and with almost half of businesses regretting half of new hires, utilising the freelancer community is not only a viable option to help businesses plug the gap, but it also pulls upon a larger, diverse talent pool to choose from.    
Candidate Driven Market  

Despite uncertainties including Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis, the market remains very candidate driven, with an abundance of vacancies but scarcity for top-tier talent and skills. Over 85% of hiring managers believe there are not enough quality candidates in the market, and for those that are open to moving, almost 75% are being counter-offered.  

Amongst the respondents to our 2022 Salary Survey, over a third said they were looking to leave their role within the next 6 months, while a Balancing Act survey, reported that 78 per cent of respondents felt the pandemic had altered the personal enjoyment they gained from work. 

As a result of this candidate driven market, businesses have relied heavily on the freelance network to ensure that they have the right resources to maintain and deliver the high volume of work required to recover. However, the impact of the IR35 legislation in the private sector significantly altered the attraction and retention rates within the freelance sector.  
The Current Freelance Market 

Pre-pandemic, we used to experience peaks and troughs, with January and August usually being the quietest months, however, this shifted in 2021 as the demand for talent was at an all-time high. We are seeing this trend start to emerge again as ‘normality’ returns and people are able to once again, socialise and travel without restrictions.
A consequence of this means that we are experiencing more candidates than ever requesting part-time of flexible roles. This is in addition to freelancers seeking a healthy work/life balance, increasing commuting costs and the subsequent baby boom.  

Findings from our survey stated that over 83% of respondents wanted to retain hybrid working, and this very much remains the case. Over the last 12 months, we have seen businesses shaping and adjusting their workplaces and policies, creating more ‘destination workplaces, where employees choose to be, rather than where they need to be. Those that set non-negotiable mandatory workplace policies, will likely find it difficult to attract and retain talent.  

For businesses, it’s much harder to onboard candidates and build a remote culture. It can also be challenging understanding nuances of the work, and can also elongate the briefing and feedback process. Of course, in many cases, working remote can work just as effectively, but to ensure it does, freelance employers need to consider their induction processes and have more robust management and communication channels in place – you can view our blog about this here. 

Currently rates are inflated at all levels, as outlined above, which is partly due to demand, but also the IR35 legislation. Candidates know they are in demand and are using this buoyant market to make up for their losses during the pandemic with 60% having experienced losses in income. Despite this, businesses know the scarcity of great talent, and are operating longer contracts, even during quieter periods, to retain. 

This also has meant that some candidates are reporting feeling burnt out, often citing lack of support, and ultimately has resulted in a greater turnover in freelancers leaving roles for more flexible jobs or for time out. Again, businesses need to provide this additional support that challenges this, ensuring that employees wellbeing is put front and centre.  

Based on our recent experiences, the year ahead will continue to challenge us, but with the creative industries set to significantly grow in the next few years, there is a great opportunity for progression and growth – especially in the freelance arena. Operating as a freelancer can provide candidates with more flexibility, more money and more scope to work across a variety of different projects which in turn drives higher levels of engagement and motivation. If you’d like to discuss the current market or are interested in making a move into the freelance world, please do get in touch