Fairley & Associates Gabriele Skelton On Pointe


2013 has been a good or better year for many of the UK’s digital and design agencies. It seems that  creative agencies are on fire, hitting the headlines, breaking the mould, innovating, driving new initiatives, and developing brands and strategies that engage with their clients’ audiences.

So let the good times roll? It’s definitely pause for thought. The happy news is that money is being made! There’s a much brighter light at the end of the tunnel, but things are not the same as they were pre-2008 – and they never will be.

The Design Industry Voices Report shows 63% of UK digital and design staff received a pay rise in the last two years. Pay rises are outstripping inflation. In 2013 alone, 73% of those that had a pay rise reported that it was over 3% of their salary, and 10% received more than a 10% rise. This indicates a clear message – we are beginning the road to recovery. This is a great feeling, but it can’t be denied that everyone is working even harder for their clients.

When comparing to 2007, before the economic crisis, 73% of respondents agreed that clients expect more work in pitches for free, and 49% said that they’re having to make more free pitches for prospective clients than they did in 2007. And to really thump this message home, 36% said the number of free pitches made for existing clients has risen.

With the uncertainty of where and when the next work is coming from, agencies are unable to have reliable medium term forecasts. Agencies cannot take the risk of hiring someone permanently without firm financial commitments from their clients. They have no choice but to continue the trend of using expensive freelance staff on short to extendable contracts. This is a big cost.

It’s a shame, because a lot of creative excellence is being lost between agencies and clients, as freelancers move from one project and agency to the next, taking valuable knowledge and ideas with them. Food for thought.

The future is definitely brighter, the digital and design industry in the UK is going from strength to strength, with global recognition in many instances. There is much to celebrate, and despite the changes the industry has had to embrace over the last five years, 2014 is looking decidedly rosier.

For the full report please download here

Karina Beasley
Co-author of Design Industry Voices and MD, Gabriele Skelton