The freelancer’s biggest fear has been realized: To be unable to commit to projects due to an unpredictable sickness. Except with COVID-19, this fear has escalated to an industry-wide scale. For freelance creatives, financial security has never been more compromised. Canceled events, rapidly fluctuating deliverables, no benefits and, worst of all, moved payroll. This is now the freelance creative’s reality.
So far I’ve lost nearly 1k in earnings due to #COVID19 canceled events. I can weather these because I also have a teaching job.
Many people in the gig economy, or those that require in-person events for sales (ex: artists) may not be able to. What will be done to support them?
— Kaeli Swift, Ph.D. (@corvidresearch) March 11, 2020
In a pandemic, there is no corporate structure extending healthcare or regular payment to a freelancer. With work opportunities dwindling for creative gig workers, content creators and other project-based artists, a freelancer’s career has just gone from exciting spontaneity to worrying uncertainty. There is no assurance as to when it will be safe to produce gigs, shows or events again. All of the people working from the top down will have lost their income: event organizers, graphic designers, performers, photographers—everyone. For every canceled or postponed program, there are hundreds if not thousands of paychecks that were expected but, in the end, won’t be received.
For every canceled or postponed program, there are hundreds if not thousands of paychecks that were expected but, in the end, won’t be received.
Everything freezes, except for the amount of supplies and savings which will slowly dwindle down. Art foundations, cultural agencies and other creative industry labor unions can play a huge part in coming up with ways to make sure our freelancers—who work tirelessly to enable these institutions—survive this outbreak.
For now, at least there have been efforts on the side of utility providers and certain services to move their payment deadlines and save everyone some time to regain their lost income. Saving can be a tricky business for freelancers (as there is no controlled amount of income earned on a monthly basis), but if we all do our part to avoid further contamination, everyone—not just creatives—will be able to get back to their livelihoods.
Art by Zaila Mae Urmeneta