10 October 2023

The State of The Market 2023




It’s fair to say 2023 has been one of the most turbulent years for business globally post pandemic since 2012.  Just when the business world through they were through the Covid disruption and back on their feet.  We asked The Creative Store consultants in New Zealand, Australia and the UK what they kind of year it has been for their clients and candidates.


At The Creative Store in any given year, we get lots of clients and candidates asking us “what’s the state of the market”. Fair to say 2023 has been a bit of a shocker for some and buoyant for others. It’s been pretty turbulent, with the slow down starting to show around October last year.


For candidates, within certain sectors, 2021 and first half of 2022 were good years, with the majority asking for considerable salary increases and asking to have their freelance rates increased above their perceived worth in the market.  This was generally within the UX UI, Product space. This year, 2023 has turned this right around.  Clients have lowered the salaries to pre Covid level plus an inflationary increase, and candidates are now more measured in their expectations and dropping their rates if they had overinflated them in the past 2 years.


We have seen quite an increase in redundancies throughout 2023, starting from the beginning of the year, and now the last quarter being the most prevalent.  Tech, start up and advertising agencies were the majority shedding staff earlier in the year, and the later part of the year has seen more client side / corporate layoffs.


In New Zealand many businesses bandy around the old quote of “it’s an election year”.  Which in the past election years, there was credibility to this - governments reducing their spending with agencies did have a flow on effect.  Will there be a post-election revive? We will need to wait and see. Our New Zealand consultant across the Digital Marketing and Client Services noted that she has seen more redundancies at senior levels this year, along with less growth at the senior level, which means there are more great senior candidates in the market.  At an intermediate and junior level, we have seen the exodus overseas as candidates finally take their OE’s. Roles at this level have been tougher to fill in 2023, with less quality candidates in the market.  More technical roles, including the technical side of digital marketing, are still lacking the level of candidates needed in the market, and obtaining salaries at the higher end of market rate. Our New Zealand consultant across Designers and Creatives added that on a positive note, we have seen more senior roles in the Graphic Design sector this year and the majority in agency; we have placed some great people in some solid roles.


In the UK, our candidates, both permanent and freelance are having a much quieter year, many not finding the quantity of roles to apply for, and our freelancers are saying that it has been the quietest year for them. We have seen a lot of our clients take their time with recruiting, and just not in a rush to replace.  Our London consultant said she is seeing a lot of really strong talent out there and receiving 100+ applicants within the first day of a job being posted.   For our freelance candidates, Jade said it pays to be flexible with your rates at the moment, as clients are coming through with much lower budgets, and those willing to come down on their expectations are often the ones getting those assignments. Freelancers who have enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of freelancing have increasingly had to start considering moving into permanent work due to the unpredictability of the market in 2023.


Australia is certainly seeing the effects of the slow year, with redundancies increasing in this last quarter and the major global agencies halting permanent recruitment. Our Sydney based consultant across Designers and Creatives added that the job market has experienced a significant degree of uncertainty and caution, primarily due to economic uncertainties, prompting businesses to adopt a more careful approach to their hiring decisions, particularly in senior roles like Art Directors and Creative Directors. Additionally, there has been a noticeable shift towards freelancing and contract work among creative professionals in the Australian market, mirroring global trends, as a response to the pervasive job market uncertainty. Alongside this, there has been a notable increase in redundancies within the Australian creative industry, particularly in the digital sector, driven by cost-cutting measures. On a more positive note, there has been a drive for good content marketing especially in Retail and Ecommerce. Content marketing continued to be a significant driver for businesses, requiring content creators, copywriters, and social media managers to create engaging content.


With clients pushing for staff to be working inhouse, James said there has been a noticeable push from both his candidates and clients to return to in-person work, with junior professionals actively seeking more in-office face time. After extended periods of remote or hybrid work, individuals have come to appreciate the value of in-person collaboration, real-time learning, and the immediacy of addressing issues, which was particularly evident when I encountered candidates hesitant to proceed with fully remote roles due to the remote work arrangement. They Hybrid model is still the most favourable with a preference for a few days from home whilst getting that office face time.


Our Australian consultants are seeing large numbers of applicants come through, particularly since mid year, but are finding the overall quantity of quality candidates is still a challenge. There is a demand for experienced midweight candidates, particularly with the area of social media – and quality candidates are often getting multiple offers or coming on and off the marketing within a week.


There has been a levelling out of salary expectations beyond the bubble of Covid, however in Australia we have seen a slight increase (of 5-10%) of salary expectations from candidates, compared to pre-covid salaries.  We have noted an increase in candidates that have multifaceted social and content skills compared to previous years, as such they execute paid social and social media management (strategy/ execution etc) as well as being proficient with content creation including copywriting, video, design and photography. This upskilling could be in response to the huge demand for such profiles during the pandemic.  In Sydney there has been a distinct lack of senior level role opportunities in 2023, with many experienced and talented candidates feeling frustrated by the lack of career opportunities – as such there is an abundance of quality candidates at a more senior level across agency and client side roles, with some compromise on salary expectations from candidates.


On the whole, globally the freelance market is not as buoyant as the past several years.  Usually with the slowdown in markets and economy, in lieu of the redundancies, you would see freelance picking up, however this year is an anomaly to previous years, and the tightening of the belt is very much being seen across the board.  Our freelancer consultant in Australia commented that this tightening is especially evident for senior creatives, with many clients unprepared to spend higher rates for experience and are instead opting for junior to intermediate freelancers - suggesting a far more cost-conscious approach among businesses. Remote working options have also substantially increased the available pool of freelancers in the market for each state, creating increased competition while freelancers’ juggle cost considerations with highlighting their unique skills and experience and in New Zealand our freelancer consultant said that they have seen a lot more freelance briefs that are short one to two day stints this year rather than the longer weekly, or monthly briefs seen in previous years with tighter and lower budgets. However, both rates and length of assignments have slowly increased towards this last quarter of the year across agency and client side.


The end of 2023 is seeing a global pickup of the pace – freelance is bouncing back, there are lots of new permanent jobs coming in - if you are a client looking to hire top senior talent – now is the time.