Self-employment is currently excluded by the Office of Statistics when analysing the efficacy of art and design courses in creating employment. It is similarly not taken into account within the government’s Future Jobs Fund that is based on there being ’employers’ and ’employees’ with self-employment hardly featuring.

The survey results came very quickly tumbling in, showing AIR’s ability to provide a fast route into consultations with artists, something that arts policy-makers often claim is hard to achieve.

Whilst previous research by a-n, ACE and others over the last ten years suggested at least half of all practising visual and applied artists were self-employed, the new AIR survey reveals that it’s substantially increased.

  • 72% of artists are self-employed
  • 25% are a mixture of self-employed and employed
  • 2% are unemployed
  • 1% is employed

In terms of status by career stage:

  • 88% of established artists are self-employed
  • 73% of mid career artists are self-employed
  • 67% of emerging artists are self-employed

Significantly, the overall level of self-employment amongst artists is considerably higher than for the creative industries as a whole, where it stands at 41%.

This valuable evidence about artists will now contribute to AIR’s discussions with Arts Council around a national strategy for artists’ support. It will also be provided to the regional Turning point groups that will be generating policies and activities to strengthen the visual arts infrastructure.

In particular they will help in making the case for loss of earnings for artists who sit on policy and decision-making panels as well as for a real understanding of artists’ self-employed costs amongst those offering work and opportunities for artists.

Read Do It Yourself: Cultural and Creative – Self-Employment in Hard Times August 2009