If you work in the arts (especially physical and people contact heavy ones like dance and drama) it will have become inescapable on all your social media feeds by now. Everyone is having work cancelled because of the coronavirus and it shows no sign of calming down.
It’s most terrifying for us self employed folks who are frequently delicately balanced in terms of finances. It takes a very long time to get to a point where you feel something resembling stable. You’ll have your bigger gigs, say two or three a month. Then there’s the smaller ones, maybe one a week, perhaps more if you’re lucky. Then, there’s the private lessons, which for a lot of creative arts professionals are really the bread and butter for us. We’ll try and not have all our eggs in one basket but some months it’s inevitable.
All it takes is for 50% of our big gigs to be cancelled and we’re on the line. Or juuuuuuust under it, but if we hustle we can get by. Like in London, hustling is spending £1.50 and 95 mins getting to somewhere by bus instead of £4.50 and 25 mins by tube or train. If we have the time flexibility to do it, that is. Don’t forget there’s the return trip to think of so those costs are actually doubled. Yes, self employed people can claim travel against their tax returns but that’s assuming you have the money to spend it.
So… what if both big gigs get cancelled, and your weekly ones (which may be tied to attending numbers) dwindle to where you barely get your travel costs back, never mind getting paid for the time spent actually doing it and publicising it? Or they just get outright cancelled for however long? And then your private students start postponing and cancelling… Self employed people and micro businesses are very tense right now. This is why.
The government has announced plans to help those self employed and small businesses who are either ill with the virus or self isolating, and enabling them to claim benefits from day 1 of sickness rather than day 8…. yet how about those of us who are losing work left right and centre but have the privilege of our health?
You may be socially distancing but you can be SOCIALLY SUPPORTING your friends. And here’s some ideas for how:
- Your dance/yoga/music teacher friends Can you book them for some sort of lesson via Skype? Perhaps book one for a friend who’s been meaning to try- now everyone has so much more spare time, they’ve got no excuse!! Could your company pay them to write a guest blog for their site? Or for them to do a social media takeover? Have a think about what your business does. Take advantage of their keenness to be doing something good for the community and channel it towards your network who need you.
- Your visual artist friends: Maybe you know an office manager who has budget for interior design/decoration, and can invest in some original art? Don’t you need something lovely for Mothers Day? What about if they give you a lesson in how to draw something a little more impressive than stickmen? How about your photographer friend to go over your fledgling portfolio?
- Your musician friends: Can you pay them to perform a few of your favourite tunes over Skype/Facetime/Your chosen platform? Even better, buying their music from places like Bandcamp, if they have some available, helps the algorithms monitoring their popularity on those sites.
- Your event organiser friends. Can you throw them some cash to help you efficiently plan your next party? Or link them up with someone at work who’s department it is? Can your business hire them to plan and run a team development day for your team?
- If you don’t want any of these, how about sending a bit of cash via Monzo, Paypal, Cashapp, Venmo or whatever you choose. Whether it’s enough to cover their coffee addiction for the day or more, it’s entirely up to you.
- If you don’t have any spare income to throw their way, try sharing their online content on your page. Regram, retweet, hit that share button like it’s your new favourite thing- it all helps.
Now, go wash your hands.
(FYI since writing the above paragraphs I have had my 2nd gig in 24hrs cancelled. I’m a Lindy hop teacher, event organiser and swing jazz DJ. I also write opinion pieces, create content both visual and text based, and am an ideas person. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to hire me!)