Freelancing in the Cultural and Creative Industries

Music, dance, theater, design, and visual arts, it is hard to imagine life without. The Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI’s) form an essential part of the foundation of our society and are indispensable from our daily lives. Human creativity is the sole source of production of goods and services in the Cultural and Creative Industries. Unrighteously so, workers of these industries are often undervalued and treated as hobbyists. But don’t be fooled… people working in the CCI’s are an essential part of the key to innovation within our society, and without innovation, there is no future.

The Cultural and Creative Industries are home to many independent workers, or as we like to call them, freelancers. In certain sub-sectors, freelancers make up almost 70% of their total workforce. 

To get a better understanding of what freelancing in the Cultural and Creative Industry means, we first need to understand what the CCI’s are. In this article, we are going to analyze the Cultural and Creative Industries. Why are they important to our society? What is their value? How many people work in the CCI’s and how many of those are independent workers? And lastly, how can we improve the position of the creative freelancer?

Key takeaways

  • 30+ million people across the globe work in the Cultural and Creative Industries
  • 33% of workers in the Cultural and Creative Industries are self-employed
  • 70% of the Performing Arts workforce are freelancers
  • Entrepreneurship should be a leading concept within art educations

What are the Cultural and Creative Industries?

UNESCO defines the Cultural and Creative Industries as activities whose principal purpose is the production or reproduction, the promotion, distribution, or commercialization of goods and services, and activities of content derived from cultural, artistic, or heritage origins.

The Cultural and Creative Industries are sometimes referred to as the Cultural Sector, the Creative Industry, or even the Creative Economy. Each of them has a slightly different definition of which sector is included as policymakers often have their own interpretation of what ‘culture’ and ‘creativity’ means. When talking about the Creative Economy, we include a much broader range of sectors and markets that are not defined by UNESCO as ‘cultural’ or ‘creative’. These sectors may still produce cultural products of their own, are customers of the CCI’s, or may facilitate and distribute products and services from the CCI’s. For example, how a TV is made and sold for the sole purpose of watching Television.

Luckily, there is a common understanding of what the key sectors of the Cultural and Creative Industries are. 

  1. Advertising (advertising agencies)
  2. Architecture (arhcitecture firms)
  3. Books (physical and digital book sales)
  4. Movies (motion picture production, post-production, distribution)
  5. Music (recording & publishing industry, and live music)
  6. Newspapers & Magazines (publishing industry)
  7. Performing Arts (dance, theatre, live music, opera, and ballet)
  8. Radio (broadcasting)
  9. Television (programming, production, and broadcasting)
  10. Video Games (publishers, developpers, retailers)
  11. Visual Arts (visual arts creation, museums, photography, and design activities)

A broader definition of the Creative Industries could potentially add Industrial Design, Fashion, Gastronomy, and High-end Luxury goods and services. 

In common practice, the Cultural and Creative Industries are divided into 3 main subcategories: 

  1. Art and Heritage (Visual Arts, Performing Arts, etc.)
  2. Media and entertainment (TV and Movies)
  3. Creative Business Services (Advertising, Distribution, etc.)

What is the value of the CCI’s?

Capitalizing US$2,250 billion worldwide, the Cultural and Creative Industries are major drivers of the economies of developed as well as developing countries.

In Europe, the core activities of the Cultural and Creative Industries represented a market size of €253 billion or 1.7% of Europe’s GDP. That is far more than the sectors Agriculture (€201 billion) and Telecommunications (€187 billion), which are commonly considered to be Europe’s heavyweights. In 2019, creative businesses, organizations, freelancers, and creators generated a turnover of €643 billion, which equals 4,4 % of the European Economy. 

It is safe to say that on an economic level, the CCI’s contribute greatly to the prosperity of our society. But we can all agree that the true value of Culture and Art is not measured by dollars or euros. 

The cultural sectors also generate an enormous amount of non-monetary value that contributes significantly to social, innovative, inclusive, and sustainable development. Artists are often visionaries and are able to look at the world from a different perspective. We believe that there needs to be more space for creativity inside the public debate on pressing issues like global warming, housing, and migration.

How many people work in the Cultural and Creative Industries?

Worldwide, the CCI’s provide work to approximately 30 million people, as mentioned in the ‘Cultural Times’ by UNESCO and EY in 2015. You can imagine that number to have grown significantly over the past years. 30 million can be translated to around 1% of the global workforce. That is a huge number if you consider that the global car industry gives home to 25 million people. 

In Europe, 7.6 million people work in the core activities of the CCI’s as of 2019. But when you add other creative sectors such as Fashion, Industrial Design, and High-end luxury goods and services, that number increases to a stunning 12 million people.  

Why are there so many independent workers in the CCI’s? 

Research shows that 33% of the CCI’s workforce are independent workers, or as we like to call them, freelancers. Assuming that number is correct, we can estimate that there are around 10+ million creative freelancers around the world. 

In Europe alone, it’s estimated that 2.5 million people working in the CCI are independent workers. However, in certain sub-sectors, like the Performing Arts, freelancers make up for almost 60% to 70% of the total workforce, easily outperforming any other sector in any other industry. Due to the sector’s dependency on subsidies and the lack of full-time jobs, freelancing in most of these sub-sectors is often a must. 

But on the flip side, freelancing has also been a way for people to take charge of their own lives. Freelancing means flexibility and being your own boss. Believe it or not, many freelancers wouldn’t want to go back to being employed. Freelancing is especially popular amongst the younger generations (Millennials & Gen Z). 53% of all Gen Z workers choose the freelance lifestyle. And that is exactly what freelancing is: a lifestyle. 

Here are some statistics to back that statement up:

  • 84% of freelancers say work lets them live the lifestyle they want
  • 46% of freelancers choose freelancing because of the flexibility
  • 64% of freelancers said their overall health has improved

The Future of the Creative Freelancer

Whether professional creatives choose to become a freelancer or are forced to, there is an abundance of freelance work in the Cultural and Creative Industries. However, freelancing includes much more than just doing the job creatives were educated for. Freelancers are responsible for all aspects of their businesses, whether that’s marketing their services, negotiating the terms of their contracts, or organizing their finances.

It is time to re-evaluate what freelancing means in certain creative sectors. Especially in the Arts where the market position of the freelancer is weakened by unfair practices and lack of education. As the stigma surrounding freelancing has disappeared and younger generations long for the freelance lifestyle, we must change the way creatives are being educated. Besides fine-tuning creative skills, teaching entrepreneurship should be the main focus of these educations.

The Cultural and Creative Industries are severely misconceived and undervalued heavyweights amongst the global economy, and freelancers are the driving force behind them. To strengthen the position of the creative freelancer, we must do the following things:

  1. Consider entrepreneurship as a leading concept within creative educations
  2. Educate freelancers to perform work under their own terms
  3. Develop a universal code for fair practises within the Cultural and Creative Industries
  4. Re-evaluate the expenditure of subsidies to large Cultural Institutions 
  5. Increase and propagate subsidies and investments of the CCI’s to the ‘free-scene’

Our mission at Freelancer Talk is to strengthen the position of the Creative Freelancer through education and connection. We believe that a strong united network of creative freelancers will increase their undervalued position.

At the end of the day, there are about 10+ million of you in the world. You hold all the power to create a better market position for yourself and the next generations to come.

Join our Freelancer Talk network today and expand your network!


  1. Cultural Times (2015), UNESCO and EY
  2. Creative Workers: Market Size & Analysis (2021),
  3. Rebuilding Europe: the cultural and creative economy before and after the COVID-19 crisis (2021), EY
  4. Creative & Cultural Cities Report (2021), UNESCO 
  5. Freelance Statistics (2021), DDIY

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