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COVID-19: stories from freelancers who are ‘terrified about the future’ and need financial support

Bectu freelance members · 25 March 2020

Here are some of the responses we got to a tweet at the weekend, which asked freelancers for their stories about how they’ve been affected by Covid-19.

Over 100 people got back to us and there were a multitude of heartbreaking stories. The stories on this page are far from unique. There are millions of people across the country with a similar tale to tell.

It is these stories which demonstrate why freelancers urgently need an adequate support package from government:

Amy

I was producing a film which was pulled immediately by the broadcaster and my production company as it’s not safe to continue filming.

I am now without work and supporting three kids under eight while my husband is trying to keep his business afloat.


Martin

As a lighting designer working in theatre, live music and corporate markets my livelihood has disappeared overnight. I had a full diary spanning March, April and May and within the space of three days all of the work has been cancelled.

I now have no income and because I am a sole-trader with no business premises I am unable to get any grants or support from the government, apart from means-tested Universal Credit which falls massively below a living or even minimum wage, meaning I am unable to support myself.

Because my savings include my tax and VAT offset, bills which I still need to pay at a later date, I sit above the personal savings threshold and cannot get any support at all.


Jo

I have a mortgage and bills to pay, I have very little in savings and so I am now terrified about the future.

Even if I get my mortgage holiday I will still have to pay my bills and buy food.

If the chancellor is prepared to pay 80% of employed people’s wages why can he not do the same for the self-employed and freelance work force?

Why must I now sign up to Universal Credit and try to live on £94 a week when others are entitled to up to £2,500 a month?

I and the 5 million or so self employed and freelance workers have been left with a frightening prospect of using all of our life savings up and possibly losing our homes through no fault of our own.

I implore the government to do more to help us. We have contributed our money to the tax system and the economy,  please support us now financially.

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Laura

I’m a self-employed hair and make-up designer.

Prior to everything coming to a grinding halt I was looking at continual work into next year on a few different projects.

I’m a single mum and I receive no financial support from my daughter’s father, so I work really hard to ensure I can keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

Luckily I love my job! I was just about to start a brilliant project – we got one day of filming in and then had to shut down. I hadn’t been there that day because I was self-isolating after coming down with cold and flu-like symptoms and with a pregnant cast member, I didn’t want to risk it being COVID-19.

The sudden loss of income and future uncertainty is frightening. I value the unexpected freedom and time to be at home with my daughter but our future now hangs in the balance. Despite earning a decent wage, I don’t have any savings.

I only bought my house last year and lost the minimal financial support from my daughter’s father, so I was already struggling and having to pay some of my previous year’s tax bill off in instalments arranged through HMRC (my instalments are £1,000 a month – I haven’t been able to get through to them to put a halt on these yet, but I’m going to need to).

I’ve applied to take a payment holiday on my mortgage and for Universal Credit, but this will go nowhere near covering my outgoings. If we were guaranteed 80% of our earnings, I would be able to keep my mortgage payments going…

I feel like the self-employed community is being forced into an inadequate and broken welfare system. This is so unfair and not on par with the support being given to the rest of the country’s work force. I’m really frightened this could mean I’ll end up losing my home that me and my daughter have waited so long for.


Rebecca

All my remaining money is owed in tax debt. I have not be able to work out what I can claim yet. I have frozen my mortgage. I haven’t claimed for years even in hard times and am not keen to do so for future remortgage problems.

Despite the calls to stay home and I want to, I have been applying for delivery jobs.

Simon

I’m mentally and emotionally drained over the whole process, the career I have been in for over 10 years just disappeared. Being someone with underlying health concerns I have been told to not go outside, I feel trapped and disregarded as someone who is self-employed and a freelancer.

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Stacey

I feel utterly lost and helpless as it seems that I sit in some strange no man’s land. Given the current government’s record on benefits I am resigned to having to sell my home and move hundreds of miles away just so I can survive whatever is coming next.

I am 56 in June and if I’m frank I see little hope of getting much work once this is all over.


Cher

I am pregnant. I have always been PAYE so I don’t have a large amount of savings in a tax account, and the small amount of savings I do have were supposed to help us when the baby comes and I cannot work. Now I will need to use those savings to help us live over the next few months, and when the baby comes we will have nothing extra to help us.

I am nervous that the government will introduce new measures and I will fall through the cracks because I am not technically ‘self-employed’ due to remaining PAYE. The whole situation makes me want to give up my career in TV, even after 10 years of hard work, because when it matters the absolute most I am completely unprotected.


Jen

One subject which I haven’t seen covered is the effect that this virus is going to have on the regional sector.

I know many indies in the south west who are struggling (as we all are) but without a load of repeats or international sales to fall back on.

I’d love to know how the broadcasters are supporting these companies and if they are still sticking to quotas in desperate times. It’s been a tough six months in the regions already and this could wipe out lots of young companies.

For freelancers in the regions, they not only face a period of no income, but then they also face coming back to an industry with half of jobs wiped out completely, as the indies they work for regularly become no longer existent.


Simon

After an expected difficult and quiet winter period the daily work had started to pick up a bit and the work started flowing. I had two and a half weeks’ worth of work booked and pencilled to be doing more until the middle of April, had I not found a longer term contract in the meantime, something I had been in discussions with a few people about.

Given the way the work was flowing and the savings that I had behind me, my girlfriend and I started the process of buying our first home. It hasn’t completed as yet but due to in April. She is a make-up artist who also had weeks cancelled and we are now worried we may not be able to proceed with the purchase incurring more costs on fees already paid.

This would be a crushing blow given everything that we have worked towards and will no doubt make people question their involvement in the industry.

We are the lucky ones with no mouths to feed or majorly bills to pay until the purchase of our property but for some I can’t imagine the pressure ,stress and impact it is going to have on them.


Chris

I work freelance as a standby prop man. I, like many others, have had my current contract terminated with no work on the horizon.

I have three young children to support and a mortgage to pay and I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to do this.

I suffered mental health issues last year due to being exhausted after working back to back jobs in this industry for seven years. This culminated in me attempting suicide.

I am since being treated with medication which has helped, but this current situation has me feeling helpless again. For the first time since I came into the industry I am thinking of leaving this career I love and have worked very hard to forge and getting a job with more security where I would feel valued by my employer and my industry.


Kirsty

I’m one of four who have bootstrapped a new tiny specialist production company. We are surviving month to month whilst in the middle of a finance raise.

We have lost our next two jobs and all work of the foreseeable future.We all have mortgages and the usual bills to pay. I am the only person in my household so have no other source of income to rely on.

I’ve worked in the TV world for 15 years but have run my savings down to support myself launching a new company and helping care for a dad with dementia. We need government support.


Kevin

I now have zero income – just one invoice due on 25 March then that’s it. With not knowing how long this is going to go on, and people hoarding in supermarkets, I’m severely worried about how:

  1. I’m going to eat and
  2. Keep a roof over my head, never mind pay phone/internet bills etc .

Genuinely worried and nearly panicking about what is going to happen next for me and many others like me.

Tell your MP: freelancers need support

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