• Rich Banks

Why the F**K do we freelance

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

If you asked me when I was in primary school what I would like to be when I grow up I would of said archaeologist. If you asked me what I would like to be in high school when I grow up I would of said architect. If you asked me in sixth form I would of said graphic designer. If you asked me after I graduated from a graphic design degree 2 weeks into a recession I would of said, whatever the fuck pays! I stumbled into freelancing, it definitely wasn't my first choice career. In fact I hadn't even heard the term until 2 months after I graduated. I thought you got your degree then got a job with an agency, then if you were lucky enough started your own agency. I ended up what I now know is called freelance work a few months after University (they didn't pay) and I haven't really looked back... Until now. I covered briefly in a previous blog how it is becoming harder and harder to make a living freelancing and what we as freelancers could do about it. In this blog I want to talk about if it is possible to make a sustainable living as a freelancer anymore. Over the past decade I have definitely noticed a reduction in available work, alongside a reluctance to spend money on creative services. I'm a firm believer in the saying "you get out what you put in." That means jack shit at the moment. It doesn't matter how experienced you are, how good your portfolio is, who you've worked with or how many hours you work in a day there will be someone willing to undercut you. Which is actually what will happen if you are lucky. Chances are you don't have the social media follower count to even show up on an art directors radar and every local shop owner shouts at you because they are struggling to make a living. Pubs/bars/restaurants that were once a steady source of income for freelancers need your services less and less because they are being crippled by opening hour restrictions, business rates and a lack of customers. Design firms can't afford to hire you because they are having to take lower paid projects and larger companies have there own in house designers. Websites like Fiverr and People Per Hour promote cheap work, which people then see as the normal pricing model. Which is the promoted by YouTubers who get ten people to each create artwork at £2.99 a pop, because it would make a funny video to compare them. Fuck you YouTubers. Cold calling and cold emailing doesn't really work because everyone is fed up of salesmen and Nigerian princes. Bands struggle to hire you because album sales are down and Spotify are paying them 0.014p a song. Charities and public services have had there funding frozen, reduced or even cut. Arts Council England have had a £156m cut from there budget since 2018. If you want to go on an art residency, give a talk at a University or appear in a magazine you are now being asked to pay rather than being paid for your time and expertise. There are so many other examples of why it is incredibly difficult to make a living as a freelancer that I've actually got bored of typing because I could just keep going on and on. Oh... I can't forget the multi million pound companies who will let your invoice sit on there desk for 6 months! FUCK YOU! There is a harsh truth as a freelancer that you need to face aswell, and it's one we try and avoid. We are working in a saturated market, whether illustrator or graphic designer, actor or writer, web designer or musician. We are all fighting for the same space. Something that in my opinion should be celebrated, should also be understood as a difficulty towards making a living. Now is it possible to make a living as a freelancer...Yes. Of course it is. But sadly the people who do (and congratulations to them) are the exception to the rule. Most freelancers, myself included, are left working part time or full time jobs so they can afford to work another?! That shouldn't be normal. They may of been left out of the credits, or not have the follower count or just been ignored and forgotten, but they are there. They are definitely overworked and underpaid but I doubt many would change it, I certainly wouldn't.

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