Advice — A growing list of resources to help freelancers prepare for new challenges
As the creative industry prepares for potential shifts in the face of Covid-19, freelancers have been left particularly vulnerable to its impact. There are however beacons of hope and advice out there. To help cut through some of the confusion, we’ve compiled some of the most helpful resources we’ve come across to support freelancers who might be thinking about their next steps. This list is currently aimed at UK workers, and will be updated and expanded in the coming weeks – please do get in touch with your tips or recommendations.
First of all, it’s worth noting that policies and official guidance are being regularly updated, so for the most reliable and up-to-date information, it is best to check all the latest on Gov.uk. We also highly recommend advice shared by The Creative Industries Federation (CIF) and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE).
Many freelancers will likely already be a part of a number of WhatsApp groups or Slack channels, but this is an essential time to come together and connect. Having people to talk to about financial worries, client drama or a difficult creative lull can be reassuring. A good example is Leapers, a support community for freelancers that puts freelancers’ mental health first, through various means. There is also Freelancer Club, a platform that nurtures, supports and promotes the freelancer experience, as well as UnderPinned, a one-stop career management service for freelancers, which is offering free annual membership (usually £54) until September.
Access to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Since freelancers are unfortunately not eligible for Sick Statutory Pay (SSP), it’s important to know that if you feel unwell, are unable to complete commissions or have had future commissions cancelled, you might be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance.
This is available to those who have been employed or self-employed and paid National Insurance contributions, usually in the last two to three years. However, if that doesn’t apply to you, you may still be able to get an income-related ESA.
Under 25s can claim £57.90 a week and those over will receive £73.10, and this gets assessed after 13 weeks. Although this might not be much in comparison to regular daily or weekly earnings, it can offer assistance with covering the essentials. However, note that those with savings or investments worth over £16,000 are unlikely to be eligible. Find out more here, from discovering your eligibility to what you can get.
Universal tax credit
If things are feeling particularly tight, it might also be worth looking into Universal Tax Credit. The government has hit pause on a few of their requirements, like needing a note from your doctor, or having to provide a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income). You can learn more here.
Council Tax Reduction
If you’re experiencing a dip in your income, or have had your upcoming jobs suspended – your council tax bill could be reduced up to 100%. Please note, your council will take into consideration where you live, whether you have any dependants and any savings when exploring your eligibility. You can apply here.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
On 26 March the British government announced the new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme that will pay self-employed workers a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits. Those eligible will receive up to £2,500 per month for at least three months. Please note, according to the government, payments are estimated to begin in early June – however, the money you receive will be backdated from March. Here’s what you need to know:
• The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018–19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–19
• HMRC will use the average trading profits from tax returns in 2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–19 to determine the size of the grant
• Please note: if you are new to self-employment and did not complete a self-assessment form for the year 2018–19 you will not be eligible, and should look to Universal Credit support as an alternative
• HMRC have said that they will contact those who are eligible
• Before grant payments are made, the self-employed will still be able to access other available government support for those affected by coronavirus, i.e. Universal Credit
• Unlike the employee scheme, the self-employed can continue to work as they receive support
• The grants will be taxable, and will need to be declared on tax returns by January 2022
For more information and to check your eligibility, click here.
For Cancelled Work
Contract clauses and kill fees can protect you
There’s nothing worse than a project or commission being cancelled at the very last minute – but in light of coronavirus, it’s best to consider ways to protect yourself against this. An option that can help you prepare for this is to include a cancellation clause or fee in your future contracts. This can take the form of a line in your contract that outlines what will happen if either party decides to cancel the commission or project.
Doing this allows you to specify how much notice a client must give if they have to cancel work you’ve already started. It can be anything from a non-refundable booking fee or a percentage of the agreed rate.
Find out more about writing up your own contracts here.
Saving and Budgeting
Chase unpaid invoices earlier rather than later
Getting paid on time as a freelancer can be hit or miss at the best of times. However, it’s important to ensure you’ve done everything you can to have an invoice processed smoothly. For more advice on this, read Kate Hollowood’s article on how to get paid on time as a freelancer.
Setting up an emergency fund
This may sound obvious, but it’s a good idea to create some kind of financial fall-back if work is coming in slower than usual, and you find yourself in a position to do so. Apps like Monzo and Revolut can be great for setting up a pot and can also help you budget with more control.
Hearing a bit of expert advice can really help calm your concerns and clarify confusion. Gov.uk has set up the Tax Helpline to support businesses affected by coronavirus.
For more information click here, or call: 0800 0159 559.
Film and TV helpline
Plus, the Film and TV Charity have a helpline aimed at aiding with everything from debt and money worries, to career development questions. The charity also offers one-off support grants to help get those in a dire situation back on their feet.
Learn more here, or call the helpline on: 0800 054 0000.
Have your say
Petition: Temporary Income Protection Fund
The CIF and IPSE are pushing for the government to provide Temporary Income Protection Fund for the self-employed who are experiencing financial difficulties. The idea is that this fund will provide enough money to keep small businesses afloat by covering costs of rent and food. You can sign the petition here.
This article will be updated with relevant information as it becomes available, if you feel we have left something out or would like to suggest additions, please email [email protected]