1 in 3 creative jobseekers may lose everything within 6 months

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Being one of the world’s largest creative communities, Creativepool is in a unique position to understand to what extent the creative industry is recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak.

We had the power to make a difference by asking about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses, employees and freelancers across the creative industries in the past year. We created two surveys and launched them as a follow-up to our first reportone for full-time employees and freelancers, one for business leaders from agencies, creative services, brands and creative companies. Both included a section for unemployed professionals.

This is one of a series of articles which will look at the impact of COVID-19 on the creative industries. This article will examine the effects of the lockdown on the unemployed in the creative industry. Here is what we found out.

Half of the currently unemployed have lost their job due to the pandemic

With nearly 300 responses to the unemployed section of the survey, the Creativepool community appears in serious financial distress when it comes to the current job seekers.

Nearly 50% of the respondents were employed in a full-time role before the pandemic, with an additional 22.8% working as freelancers for several clients [Graph 1]. Interestingly, 22.8% were also not employed before the pandemic, and we can safely assume that those will be going through the hardest times at the moment.


Graph 1 - Jobseekers Survey

However the rest of the data from the unemployed survey sounds far more alarming. Over half of the respondents believe they have lost their job due to the COVID-19 crisis [Graph 2]. This data is consistent and in line with what we discovered back in May, with the first edition of our community survey. This can likely mean that the situation in the community has remained steady, but it does not necessarily mean that the unemployed creative professionals from May have not found a new job since then. Rather, it is more likely that there has been a small turnaround in the amount of redundancies and new hires, counter-balancing each other and keeping the situation quite stable over time.


Graph 2 - Jobseekers Survey

Here are some stories from some of our respondents:

It was a bad experience. I was let go from a creative agency. My boss told me it was because he lost clients and the ones that remained, reduced the budget considerably. I had just bought an apartment and I started to pay my mortgage. Now I have nothing and risk losing my apartment and life income.
Senior Graphic Designer, Malta

I lost my job as soon as the lockdown was in place, putting me in a tough spot, given that I’m on visa. A work visa allows only 60 days to find a new job or leave the country once you’ve lost your current job. For me both the situations were nearly impossible to handle: one, the whole industry took a hit, so getting a new job in such times was not a possibility; second, international borders were closed, so travelling back home was not an option. Thankfully, I had found my love in this country last year so he proposed to me in marriage and we did a Zoom wedding in April. Now I’ve transferred to a dependent visa and am studying for UX design.
Senior Textile Designer, United States

Job seeking

Perhaps out of sheer necessity, the jobseekers in the industry have not lost their hope to find new employment. Just like back in May, over 80% of the respondents have applied for jobs in the 3 months during summer [Graph 3], while exactly 9 in 10 are still applying for roles right now [Graph 4]. The pandemic seems to be drying out financial resources all around the world, and the unemployed in the creative industry won’t be able to take it for much longer.


Graph 3 - Jobseekers Survey


Graph 4 - Jobseekers Survey

But the job market isn’t looking the best either. While only a quarter of the respondents believes there currently are not available opportunities for their skillset, 61.6% has seen less roles compared to before the pandemic and companies in the industry don’t seem to be looking for talent as much as they used to [Graph 5].


Graph 5 - Jobseekers Survey

As a result, most jobseekers are currently in the process of reinventing themselves or their skills. Over 82% of the respondents has tried to reinvent [Graph 6], by either enhancing their current skillset (61.5%), attending online courses (44.7%) or working on their personal branding (48.8%). At the same time, one in three (29.1%) has decided to go the freelance route and build their own business.


Graph 6

Here are some comments from our respondents:

As an unemployed with a master's who has been unable to find a job, it can be overwhelming, especially during a pandemic. There were moments when I didn't have the strength to get out of bed. However, I eventually found the strength and motivation to do it. I started learning a new language which I always wanted to learn, I am more positive and every day is a new day. As I said above, it might take some more time, but things will get better. You have to keep positive and believe in yourself.
Creative, United Kingdom

"I am a Graphic Designer. I was made redundant a few months before the end of 2019. I braved the slow remaining months. I brushed away the thought that the world forgot about me, and welcomed 2020 with much enthusiasm, hoping that the brighter future I was searching for was now dawning.

But, alas, 2020 brought something we all have not witnessed in our lives. COVID-19 changed the landscape of doing business in much of the known world. In fear, cities and countries closed their borders. This means looking for a job became more difficult for a lot of people, including me. Even salary packages being offered are considerably small compared to pre-pandemic era.

I survived, mainly because of online gigs coming from long-time clients. I will continue to do so, until one company decides to trust me again. As for now, I will enjoy being my own boss, handling my own time. I will keep pushing the creative envelope."
Senior Graphic Designer, United Arab Emirates

Finances and Survival

As was predictable, the financial situation of most unemployed is looking extremely bleak.

When asked if they had taken advantage of government help in the past year, only one in three said yes. A vast majority (45.9%, nearly half) stated there was no government help available to them [Graph 7]. These are unemployed professionals who have fallen through the cracks of financial support systems around the world, UK included. We have seen a similar development in the freelance industry, where the owners and founders of limited companies were not included in financial aids.


Graph 7 - Jobseekers Survey

All of the above adds up to a general sense of discomfort and uncertainty on the future. When asked about the future, almost half of the respondents stated they are not entirely sure about what 2021 has in store for their skillset [Graph 8]. And the new year is literally around the corner.

Such general feeling of uncertainty is likely reflected in the overall industry. With less clients for agencies and less work overall, the creative industry has been pushing through a considerable crisis since the first lockdown, and it is difficult to predict what will happen over the next few months, as the world faces a second wave.

Most, however, seem to be on the same page for one thing: that their finances will struggle for a while longer [Graph 9].


Graph 8


Graph 9 - Jobseekers Survey

But just like earlier in the year, most creative professionals in the industry are choosing to keep hopeful. Over half (56%) of the unemployed respondents stated the industry will “gradually improve,” though there was a considerable segment (26.5%) stating that the industry will instead get worse [Graph 10].

Sadly, this is yet another segment of data confirming the overall climate of uncertainty that surrounds the industry and its professionals alike.


Graph 10 - Jobseekers Survey

Here are some comments from our respondents:

I usually have a word going into a new year and my word for this year was 'Pivot.’ however little did I know how this word would take new meaning. I was in a different position as I had a considerable amount of savings, however this was meant to be my deposit for a new home. The day after the lockdown I had to join other home renters for the first time something I did not expect and consequently have been living on savings. Freelancing within Advertising as a black female has constantly come with its challenges and this is still the case, however this time has really allowed me to gain perspective in how I navigate these challenges.
Consultant/Strategist, United Kingdom

I worked in London, earning enough to save for my future plans. My dream is to live in Oslo and work on projects related to sustainability. In December I made a bold decision, handed my notice in and prepared to leave my London life behind to follow my dreams to Norway. I wanted a short break before that. Just before the pandemic I came back home to Hungary to see my friends and family. That's how I got stuck here. Jobless, homeless (living with my parents) and in the country I don't want to set up my future in. Looking for jobs in Oslo is almost pointless, because they much prefer people who already have everything sorted over there (bank account, right to work, address...). Not being able to fly there, I had no chance. I've never done freelance design work and mentally I'm finding it extremely hard to reinvent myself. I'm reading a lot, helping out friends with design stuff and hoping to be able to move at the end of summer to Oslo, and do my best to find a job there as soon as possible.
Creative Designer, Hungary

Creativepool Coronavirus Survey Report – Part 2

Header image: ENGINE


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