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How is the freelance market shaping up in 2021?

How is the freelance market shaping up in 2021?

almost 3 years ago by Emma Head

We are often asked about the current state of the freelance market. From freelancers keen to know that there is work out there and what skills are in demand, and from clients who are planning ahead for projects and need to know that there will be freelancers available, and with the right skill sets.

There is no getting around it, freelancers have been some of the hardest hit people in the pandemic, with no job security and often not knowing what is really going on in the wider market as they have no team to ask or people checking on them. Therefore, here at Beyond The Book, we are keen to give you as much insight as we can in a market that is ever-changing.

In the lead up to the end of 2020, there was great momentum building within the freelance market; people were spending money on Christmas and campaigns, as well as needing freelance resource to help deliver against tight deadlines. Perhaps not as much as would normally be needed, as many campaigns were paired back, but nonetheless momentum and goodwill were high.

When 2021 started and we were all plunged into lockdown once again, the momentum that was building hit a small pause (this is excluding sectors such as healthcare, corporate/annual reporting, the events market now delivering many virtual events and some retailers needing to do more within the digital space), which made January a little quieter for some freelancers, but many were reporting an upturn in being asked for availability as many clients went into planning mode.

When we entered February, the pause was lifted and many of the client's plans given timescales. This resulted in more bookings across all skillsets, but many only until the end of March, due to hesitancy around the impending changes in IR35 legislation.

Educating clients and freelancers in the changes in the IR35 Off-Payroll legislation kept myself and Kaisa very busy in February, delivering a separate webinar for each. While many have prepared, there is still some confusion, from both freelancers and clients, as to how this may affect freelance placements post 6th April. We remain cautiously optimistic that many clients are keen to still use freelancers, but the new ways of booking will take some getting used to, and may also impact take-home pay in certain circumstances. This said, most clients that we have spoken to are keen to retain the freelancers that they have built trusted relationships over the years.

We have recordings of both the webinars, should you have missed them and there is also a useful insight piece on our website that explains what the IR35 legislative changes are.

It is important to say that many creative agencies fall into the ‘small company’ exemption and as such, nothing will change for them; so our advice to freelancers is to read up as much as you can on the legislation, have a look at who your clients are, and ensure that there is a mixture of sizes of clients and sectors. Remember to ask upfront before accepting an assignment, if it falls in or out of IR35, to avoid any disappointments. This includes companies where you have previously worked.

As to what freelancers or freelance skills are in demand from clients, it's no surprise that the Digital skillsets are playing a big part. However, there is also still wider demand across the board, and below are the types of freelancers that we are being asked for:

  • 2D/3D Animators with Illustration skills

  • Digital Designers – UI and motion graphics skills (to create animated banners)

  • UX Designers

  • AR/VR/AI and Experiential-led creatives

  • SEM Specialists (SEO & PPC)

  • Content Producers/Designers

  • Conceptual Creatives

  • Social Media Managers & Influencer Marketing bods

  • Creative Teams (Art Director/Copywriter teams)

  • Web Developers 

While we are still placing Artworkers and print-led Designers with our clients, the above skillsets are what seems to be busiest currently and, as the market adapts and changes, we will endeavour to keep you updated and help you stay one step ahead.

We will soon be publishing a salary survey that will also cover freelance rates, but if there is anything else that you feel would help you navigate through the coming months, please do get in touch!

We want to support the industry we love as much as we can.

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