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How employers can support freelancers

Posted on March 22, 2023

Freelancers are all too often the lifeblood and the lifesavers of a creative organisation. They’re the flexible extra resource we bring in when the workload suddenly increases and there’s no time (or budget) to hire; they’re individuals with incredible specialist skills who can change your organisation but you could never afford to hire permanently; they’re the crew on a theatre or TV production who make mind-blowing, award-winning work or in the case of many sectors in the creative industries, like film and TV, they are quite literally your entire workforce.

And yet, as Creative Access’ freelancer report shows, many employers are not treating their freelancers in this way. They are treating them as ‘other’ to their permanent employees; investing in training or wellbeing for everyone except their freelancers or worse, claiming to create a culture of ‘belonging’ that includes everyone except the large proportion of individuals not on permanent contracts.

If you have a creative organisation, at some point you will need freelancers. And here is our best practice for how to attract, retain and support the best freelancers in the business:

Think about their mental health and wellbeing
  • Being a freelancer can be especially hard on your mental health
  • Employers can play an important role in supporting freelancers with their mental health and wellbeing by opening up access to training and employee assistance programmes to freelancers
Give free access to your employee training
  • 78% of freelancers in our survey said professional training was one of the most important areas employers and industry bodies can support them
  • Ensure your freelancers can access all of your internal training
  • Really progressive employers are now offering freelancers a stipend for further professional training – it’s definitely one way to ensure the best freelance talent will remain loyal to you over your competitors
  • Or there may be professional training that your team could provide freelancers such as personal brand building, legal or financial management training
Provide a line manager and a mentor
  • For any freelancer working with you for more than a few weeks, they should be allocated a line manager, who should check-in with them regularly and provide performance reviews as they would with a permanent employee
  • You could also consider offering your freelancers a mentor through Creative Access
A culture of inclusion means everyone
  • If you are truly building an inclusive culture you can’t segregate employees based on their employment contract
  • Freelancers should be included in all social events, if you celebrate birthdays in your organisation make sure theirs is marked too
  • Make it clear you will make reasonable adjustments for disabled freelancers – 91% of disabled freelancers in our survey highlighted this was an issue with employers
Help them build their network
  • Having a strong and growing network is critical for freelancers to find new projects and earn money
  • Look at where you could help by writing testimonials for them on Linked-In or for their website or introduce them to people in your own network
  • Showcase the work they’ve done for you on your organisation’s channels and name check them

Read the findings from our freelancer report here: Report: Freedom or working for free? Freelancers in the creative economy.