New report calls for literary freelancers to be valued with fair and fast pay

Creative Scotland ,
09 February 2023, Scotland

Literature Alliance Scotland (LAS) is launching a research report on the worrying state of the literary freelance workforce in Scotland that is sending them to a financial precipice.

Scotland’s largest literary network is urging arts organisations that engage freelance writers, editors, event organisers and arts administrators, proof readers, educators, publishers and programmers to value them better by offering fair and fast pay and fair working practices - or risk losing them from the sector completely.

The research, commissioned by LAS and conducted by Ruthless Research, provides a disturbing snapshot of the working patterns and conditions of Scotland’s current freelance and temporary workers in the literature, languages and publishing sector. The report highlights a complex and challenging picture that is reflected across Scotland’s creative industries. It shows that freelancers are withstanding an unsustainable financial and emotional level of precariousness. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, recent budget cuts and the cost-of-living crisis are all critical factors affecting freelance workers across the arts.

Based on a survey of 149 freelancers conducted last summer, the report reveals that only 11% of the freelancers were always paid fairly and 25% were never paid fairly. And around one in five (19%) of the freelancers are considering leaving the sector altogether, which would cause a catastrophic skill and labour gap.

Additionally, many freelancers reported experiencing low pay and difficulty negotiating fair day rates for the variety of skilled work they provide. The findings reveal the average annual full-time income of a literary freelancer in Scotland in 2022 was £21,140 - just under the Living Wage*. Many shared that  they earn considerably less than this figure, with 66% making under £20k and more than a quarter (27%) earning less than £5k through freelance work in the sector. Disappointingly, disabled, emerging freelancers working part-time are more likely to earn under £5k per annum.

The findings highlight that most juggle portfolio careers comprising multiple roles, projects, clients and job-seeking opportunities. This magnifies the challenges of managing workloads and career trajectories for this essential cultural workforce.

Read the report