The creation of this document was facilitated by March for the Arts (MFTA), as part of an Arts Council England (ACE) funded project for the Liverpool City Region. The project’s working title was Freelance Working Agreement and Directory.
The document in its current form is now called Working Guidance for Arts Freelancers and Organisations. It is a piece of guidance that will grow and change over the coming months and years.
As part of this project, MFTA will also launch artsfreelancers.com, a no pay-wall website hosting the profiles of creative freelancers, in the hope of supporting better collaboration between freelancers and organisations as our sector deals with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Writing the Document
The Working Guidance for Arts Freelancers and Organisations was created in collaboration with freelancers and organisations.
In early 2021, MFTA put together a committee, who met every week for 9 weeks. They discussed issues with freelance work and workshoped solutions. The MFTA team collated the results of these discussions, along with information gathered from outreach to the wider arts community.
By the time the document reaches you it will have been redrafted by the committee, passed through a public consultation process and then redrafted once again. It will not be finished. Our work is ever changing and we need to keep this guidance in constant review.
How to Use this Document
Organisations, freelancers and anyone employing a worker on a freelance basis can use this document and should try their best to follow its clauses as far as they can. There are also links to useful information and helpful templates running through the guidance.
We expect organisations to use it as a hand book, with examples of best practice to aspire to, when working with freelancers in the arts.
We expect freelancers to use it to empower themselves in the knowledge that their community has accepted these principles - and that they should accept no less.
We hope it will also be used as a badge of honour. See who has signed up to use this document.
If you decide to officially sign up, saying you will use and follow this guidance, you are telling the creative community and the public that you agree with its principles and that you will try your best to follow what it suggests.
Why Sign up to Use this Guidance?
We would ask employers to take responsibility for fostering good working practice and to educate themselves about the problems faced by the freelancers who work for them. We ask them to recognise how far they depend on the work of freelancers and to value them accordingly; as colleagues and collaborators.
We would ask everyone in our community to read and sign up to the Working Guidance in order to support freelancers, who navigate a plethora of procedures, contract types and working conditions on a daily basis.
What will Signing up to the Guidance Mean?
The Working Guidance is not a legally binding document, and signing up to agree with its principles won’t tie anyone to them by law. However, we will hold subscribers to account through community, by calling for feedback and by revisiting this document and its effects regularly.
This guidance can’t replace the collective bargaining power of union membership. There are a number of different unions who can provide freelancers with support, advice and backing.
How will this Guidance Help?
The main purpose of the Working Guidance for Arts Freelancers and Organisations is to educate and then to spark consideration, communication and forethought.
As arts freelancers and organisations, we hope that the opening up of communication about working practice will become embedded, so that we are no longer blocked from understanding and controlling our own working world.
This document will help with consistency, but it can’t change the specific structures and processes of an entire sector.
It is important for freelancers and organisations to communicate their ways of working to one another and to recognise that their way of doing things is not necessarily ‘the norm’ - for freelance work there is no normal.
We have seen a temptation to fall back on ‘that’s just the way it is done’ reasoning. The way things have ‘always been done’ is not necessarily the best way, nor has it always been ethical or legal practice.
The point of this guidance is to work together, to educate each other and to develop ways of doing better.
We hope it will help everyone do their best work.
What does the Guidance Cover?
While the current iteration of this document does not cover the entire working experience, the sections included tackle the areas that our committee felt were most lacking in good practice.
Our committee comes from a range of backgrounds and sectors; and from organisations both large and small. They understand that the size and scope of teams and their projects can differ hugely. They understand the complexity of the creative industries. For this reason clauses are written with flexibility, practicality and realism.
We hope that organisations and freelancers will follow the guidance as far as possible.
As far as possible is a common phrase in the document that follows, but it shouldn’t be an excuse. It is not a ‘get out clause’. It is there to accommodate the broad range of makers and commissioners in our sector including large independent organisations and charities; public sector organisations; small companies; fringe artists; brand new organisations; and individuals.
The high bar set by these standards reflects our faith in a sector that is varied and vast and always ambitious.