The UK’s creative industries are mired in gloom and feeling the pinch amid economic uncertainty. That unremittingly downbeat message emerges from the results of the third annual Design Industry Voices survey.

The online survey involved nearly 500 respondents, all of whom were involved with the London recruitment agency Gabriele Skelton, either as clients or as job applicants.

Among the survey’s main conclusions is that creative agencies’ clients are expecting more work for less. “Agencies are giving more intellectual property away for free in pitches and by over-delivering to their clients,” the survey report says.

“Budgets are killing us,” noted one freelancer. “Everyone wants something for nothing, and without good reason. If you don’t agree they all go elsewhere.” More than half the respondents felt that the pitching process had got longer, too.

Interestingly, nearly 60 per cent of respondents said they were intending to change jobs in the next 12 months, despite the insecurity of doing so in the uncertain economic climate. “That doesn’t mean they want to. It may be a necessary response to the changes in the labour market,” says Rachel Fairley of branding agency Fairley & Associates (below right), and the lead author of the report. The study found that agencies are employing fewer permanent staff and more freelancers and interns.

All this can affect not only agencies’ bottom line but also the quality of work, since less experienced creatives may have to step into the shoes of permanent staff who have left. Nearly a third of respondents felt they were producing work of a lower standard.

Are there any positive conclusions to be drawn? “The model which worked so well when there was a budgetary abundance is inappropriate for the future,” says report co-author Stef Brown of On Pointe Marketing. “Design and digital agencies think creatively for a living, so I have no doubt that a fresh approach will be conceived.”