The Creative Guide to Surviving Lockdown. Part One: Money

As freelancers in the creative World we stand to be greatly affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are we dealing with having our immediate work cancelled, there is also a real danger that our income will be affected even after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. The long term impact is yet to be seen but there are at least some things you can do in the meantime to protect yourself.

Get everything you are entitled to

  • If you have any invoices outstanding get them in immediately before you do anything else. If your client is also having financial difficulties they may refuse to pay or may defer payment but you should make sure you are up to date anyway.
  • If you are a freelance employee or have a fixed contract with an employer you may be entitled to support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. You may also qualify for Statutory Sick Pay. Find more information here.
  • Government help is available to the self-employed. At the moment it is unclear when the government Self-employment Income Support Scheme will come into effect and who will qualify. 
  • You can apply for universal credit if you are out of work due to COVID-19 and you have less than £16,000 of savings. More information can be found here. Please remember to only use official websites when applying for support. Don’t give any personal details unless you are sure it is a genuine site. Any other company that contacts you offering advice should be treated with caution. 
  • If you work on public arts projects you may qualify for a grant through the Arts Council. They are making £20 million available to individuals working in the cultural sector. Details of criteria and the application process can be found here.

 Cut costs where possible

  • Now is a good time to have a thorough audit of your business expenses to see where you can make savings. Check on any old subscriptions you no longer need. Consider cancelling some services such as stock libraries or social media scheduling apps. Most do not require notice to cancel and you can reactivate once you are up and running again. This could potentially save hundreds per month.
  • If you rent a studio or desk space you should be able to ask for a rent holiday. Even if you are still able to access the space, some landlords may make an exception.
  • Speak to your bank or credit card company to see how they are helping customers. Most high street banks are offering interest free overdrafts as well as payment holidays for mortgages. Use these services with caution as they are likely to be only temporary offerings and you could end up paying more in the long term.

Use savings but only if necessary

Getting income support and cutting costs should be your main priorities right now. If you are still falling short and have some savings it is sensible to use them for a short period of time.

  • If you have put aside money for your tax return you may be able to spend some of this. It’s likely that the loss of earnings will result in a lower tax bill for 2019-2020. Likewise your 2020-2021 earnings will be reduced so you don’t need to save as much. This will require a bit of calculation on your part. Use caution and only spend if totally necessary.
  • Cash in reward or loyalty cards. You may be surprised at how much you have saved up on your supermarket loyalty card. Now is a perfect time to take advantage of these reward points and save money on your weekly shop.

Be aware of increased stress and anxiety

  • Loss of income can be a major factor in anxiety and stress. Try to remember that this is a temporary situation and things will get better. Even if you have no work at present try to stay active and keep your creative juices flowing. If you do feel overwhelmed and need support you can find it here.