One year later: How the pandemic has impacted the creative industry

Freelance work is on the rise and production costs are growing according to a new survey by Genero.

The pandemic changed nearly every aspect of people’s personal and work lives — in many ways, permanently. 

For the creative industry, which is typically fueled by in-person collaboration and brainstorming, the shift to working from home has been especially jarring. 

In late 2020, global creative platform Genero took a deep dive into how the pandemic has affected the industry across 61 countries, surveying 430 creatives including creative directors, producers, directors, production companies, agencies and animators. 

The pandemic has made a lasting impact that could change the way the creative industry works forever, according to Mick Entwisle, CEO and co-founder of Genero.

It also transformed the work being produced, as live-action creative was replaced with more animation, motion design and stock footage.

“We saw countries were limited in their ability to go out and shoot and have a crew and talent,” Entwisle said. “So, they really reverted to ways of working from home, without having to go around people.”

Loss of income

One of the most alarming global trends was the massive loss of income among creatives.  

Eighty-one percent of participants said that their income had been reduced between March and September 2020, with 40% seeing pay reductions of over 50%. The income loss caused 72% of respondents to seek alternative employment, either temporarily or permanently. 

Freelance surge

Creatives laid off from agencies are opting for freelance work, which allows them to be more independent and flexible — and they’re learning that they prefer it.  

Almost half (47%) of respondents said they would like to continue to freelance, while 35% would like to work as a partner in an independent creative business. Only 12% of respondents would prefer to work full-time in the future.

Production shifts  

The cost and time for in-person production has increased, as COVID-19 safety protocols introduced a new step in the equation.  

Forty percent of respondents said that production costs have grown, with 28% seeing a cost increase of up to 30%. Almost half (46%) of production companies, agencies and studios also noted that costs have increased. New expenses include insurance fees, tech requirements and hiring health and safety officers. However, 76% said client budgets haven’t been adjusted to account for these new expenses.

“The most important factor is to understand the need for increased budgets in order to cover additional costs connected with COVID,” a freelance filmmaker said in the study. “Providing good masks for the entire crew, testing and sanitizing stations add a lot of cost very quickly (not to mention the increase in insurance fees). Many budgets do not take this into consideration, hence, there’s a substantial reduction in filmmakers’ take-home rates.”

What this means for brands

Brands should be adapting along with creatives as they move from full-time to freelance.

But that’s not always an easy change, Entwisle notes.

“This shows that there's quite a lot of fragmentation on the creative side with people leaving big agencies and companies, and moving to independent freelance work,” Entwisle said. “Brands need to adapt to this way of working to enable them to work with a bigger pool of people. 

“They're missing out on a very large talent pool that's shifting and growing outside the mainstream, full-time climate. “But, there are challenges around working with a lot of independent creatives. It can be very time consuming and costly under the current model, so new ways of working are needed.


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