Creative industries workers pocketing 15% pay premiums

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Creative roles appear to be working on their reputation for not paying big bucks – even if they do command a lot in the fulfillment stakes.

An analysis of 2022 starting salaries by recruitment agency Aspire shows that creative roles are all paying at least 15% more than they were in 2021.

Content Editors are leading the pack, with 12 months’ pay now beginning at £38,000 – some 36% higher than the £28,000 pay pack offered previously, the agency’s database shows.

'Freelancers in a strong position'

Similar premiums are up for grabs for mid-weight copywriters (18% up on 2021 to £33k); senior marketing executives (16% up to £36k), and social media managers (25% up to £35k).

And Aspire’s chair and founder Paul Farrer says freelancers can expect similar uplifts.

“While these figures focus on salary, rather than day rates, in our experience, the same can be said for freelancers…who are in a strong position to command higher fees this year,” Mr Farrer told FreelanceUK.

'Inflation-busting pay bumps'

An easing in covid restrictions is the key difference between 2021 and 2022, strongly indicating that pent-up demand has powered what he described as ‘inflation-busting’ spikes in pay.

Yuno Juno, a freelance hiring platform, said as much in its latest self-employed rates report.

The platform’s founder Shib Mathew said last week: “As restrictions began to ease and the 'new normal' of remote and hybrid working practices gained almost immediate traction, the outlook is considerably brighter.”

'Average freelancer day rate exceeds £360'

Ahead of an analysis of freelancer pay rates exclusively for FreelanceUK, Mr Mathew said freelancers in 2021 earned an average of £368 per day – some 5% up on 2020.

Self-employed people offering ‘Market Research’ services emerged as the top earners, commanding an average of £512 a day. Social media freelancers made an average of £307.

But averages can be deceptive. In line with the Aspire data indicating demand for social media managers, one social media manager on Yuno Juno achieved a day rate of £1,120.

'Agile workforce, despite IR35 reform'

“Even as the UK government introduced…[IR35] tax reform legislation in April 2021, targeting self-employed individuals, confidence in an agile workforce….is at an all-time high,” Mr Mathew said.

He is not alone in believing that the new off-payroll rules must be considered in the same breath as pay.

While IR35 does not affect freelancers working as sole traders, Aspire says many independent workers have put up their rates to compensate for the potentially higher tax take.


So far from it hurting self-employed pay, the HMRC framework may have actually notched it up (albeit to counter the prospect of being placed inside IR35 and take-home pay suffering).

Mr Farrer explained: “Major skills shortages means employers are desperate for staff and so, in many cases, businesses are prepared to offer more money – entering a bidding war – to hire the talent they need.

“And following the introduction of IR35 reform in the private sector in 2021, many freelance contractors have naturally adjusted their day rate to balance out paying more tax, should they operate inside IR35 or via an umbrella company. This has led to a further uplift in rates.”

'HR said 'no''

But not all employing organisations are actively demonstrating that amid the cost of living crisis, they know that the headline rate matters more than ever.

Anti-burnout expert Kelly Swingler, who specialises in supporting women to get the placements they really want, explained: “A new client had recently asked for a pay rise of £2,500 to take her to the midpoint of a salary scale.

“HR said 'no' to the pay rise and said she’d need to wait until the end of year review [even though] she’d asked in her [previous] end of year review for the pay rise!”

'£12,000 starting pay increase'

Taking to LinkedIn, Ms Swingler continued: “The day after the interview [for a new role] she received a job offer via a phone call in the morning, had her new contract through by lunchtime, agreeing to a £12,000 increase [compared to] her current role, plus numerous other benefits, and by the end of the day she’d resigned from her current employer.

“She was then [-- upon trying to resign], offered the £2,500 increase! She’s looking forward to starting her new role in a couple of weeks.”

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