Creative Freelancer Business Models and Place-based Growth


NESTA Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

Coventry City of Culture Trust

Waltham Forest Borough Council

Coventry University Team:

Prof Nick Henry, Prof Paul Sissons, Dr Tim Angus, Dr Kevin Broughton, Dr Victoria Barker


1st Mar 2020 to 31st May 2021

Value to Coventry University:


Total Value:



University of Warwick

Creative United

Northumberland County Council

Project Overview

The project is designed to address an important evidence gap around the contribution of freelancers to the economic and place-based impacts of the creative industries. This responds to a national call for greater understanding of creative freelancer models, and calls at the city and regional level for ‘inclusive growth’ and a sustainable and resilient sector. The project focus is interviewing of creative freelancers int three places – Coventry, Northumberland and Waltham Forest.

Designed to produce ‘deep dive’ qualitative evidence on creative freelancers, this research will increase understanding of the economic relationships, dynamics and business personas of freelancer models in order to directly support locally-based investment and policy responses.

Project Objectives

The project will generate new insights into the business models of creative freelancers and their relationship to (local) labour markets, creative networks and supply chains, and innovation ecosystems – as well as identifying the challenges that they face.

The first phase of work will develop a deeper understanding of the patterns of work across the creative industries by conducting a focused literature review to create a typology of creative freelancer working.

The project will then use this typology to investigate the possibilities, extent and nature of place-based creative freelancer working business models, through a series of qualitative interviews across three places of strategic investment in culture and creativity: Coventry City of Culture, rural Northumberland and London Borough of Culture, Waltham Forest. The objective of this stage of work is to test the literature-based framework (or typology) and to illustrate this with examples of the realities of living and working as a creative freelancer.

Overall the project aims to help policymakers and business support organisations to understand the breadth of creative freelancer business models, and the support needed to help creative freelancers thrive.

Impact Statement

Policy impacts: The project outcomes and outputs will support understanding of, and generate policy responses to maximise, the contribution of creative freelancers to the dynamism, diversity and competitive advantage of the UK’s creative industries.

At national level this will be channeled through the work of NESTA PEC and Creative United, an Arts Council England-funded Sector Support Organisation. At regional level the work will feed into the West Midlands Combined Authority. At local level, Policy Workshops will be hled in each locality to support learning and policy recommendations.


Literature Review

Typology of freelancer business models and approaches

Blogposts and Newsletter Articles

Three Policy Workshops and Briefing; PEC Discussion Paper; Academic Seminar

Journal Paper; Conference Presentation; Media Imprints

On 30th November 2020, Professor Nick Henry and Dr Paul Sissons from the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) chaired and presented a national Webinar and Panel to an invited audience on “Building Back Better? Creative Freelancers and Learning from the Covid-19 Experience”. Read the event summary report.

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2020
Coventry City of Culture 2021