Informal Creative Labour Practices: A Relational Work Perspective

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The informal nature of creative work is routinely acknowledged in the studies of creative labour. However, informality of creative work has been so far treated dualistically: firstly, as the informal governance of creative labour markets and secondly, as the ever-increasing informalization of creative workplaces. In contrast, this article argues for the importance of focusing on informal labour practices as infused in relational contexts so as to understand how creative workers uphold career sustainability and cope daily with contingent, insecure and underpaid work. Drawing on the relational work perspective from economic sociology, I contend that creative workers’ informal labour practices and economic activities are constituted by the meanings and quality workers attach to interpersonal relations. The more socially and spatially intimate and closer the interpersonal relationship, the less the economic benefit. The more socially and spatially distant the relationship, the greater the pecuniary motivation. The article maps relational work dynamics in: (1) informal paid labour practices, comprising work under-the-radar of state authorities, such as cash-in-hand work including online crowd-work, tips-based work, and paid favours and (2) informal unpaid labour practices, practices happening in webs of reciprocity that are not directly compensated with money, such as barter, favour-swapping and voluntary work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1563–1589
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Creative industries
  • Creative labour
  • Creative work
  • Economies of favour
  • Informality
  • Informal labour practices
  • Informal work
  • Post-socialist work
  • Precarity
  • Relational work

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