Coronavirus impact: PR freelancers face 'dire straits' as firms cut budgets

The PR industry is calling for urgent government intervention to support freelancers and self-employed workers as research reveals more than half have already lost at least 40 per cent of their regular income and the majority face financial ruin unless they receive help.

Four out of 10 freelancers have already lost more than 50 per cent of their income. (Photo: Getty Images)
Four out of 10 freelancers have already lost more than 50 per cent of their income. (Photo: Getty Images)

Freelance and self-employed comms professionals are facing economic ruin without urgent Government intervention, with some warning that they urgently need financial support due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce an emergency package for self-employed workers of up to 80 per cent of recent earnings to help contain the economic impact of the virus, echoing a similar safety net being provided to full-time employees.

Details about how this will be implemented and who it will apply to will be critical for thousands of PR professionals.

Although the pandemic is still at an early stage in the UK, many businesses –including PRWeek’s parent company, Haymarket – have begun freezing freelance support.

For the 8,500 freelance and self-employed workers in the UK, the situation is already dire.

A new study of 215 freelance and self-employed workers found that 41 per cent had already lost more than 50 per cent of their regular income.

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) have lost at least 30 per cent of their income. PRWeek has heard of cases where freelancers are losing 70-90 per cent of earnings (see case studies below).

When you consider that at least 60 per cent of PR freelancers are a household’s main breadwinner and carry out the majority of parenting, the social fallout of minor cuts can have a major impact on families (see infographic below).

Support urgently needed

PR industry bodies have been lobbying Westminster to provide urgent support for freelance and self-employed practitioners.

PRCA director-general Francis Ingham and CIPR chief executive Alastair McCapra issued the following joint statement:

“The coronavirus outbreak and the extraordinary measures brought in to protect public health have had an unprecedented impact on the public relations industry.

PR organisations across the UK have already lost staff, while up to 8,500 freelancers face the prospect of losing clients and being unable to support themselves or their families. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with communications professionals in all sectors and will do all in our power to protect the industry.

“We will continue to push for the Government to commit the resources PR professionals need. We are reassured by the Prime Minister’s assessment that we hope to defeat the virus in a matter of weeks. The Government has committed to protecting businesses, jobs and salaries – we now urgently need them to do more to protect our freelance community and home-based businesses."

PRWeek approached three self-employed PR professionals to see how much the coronavirus had affected their work and lives.

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