Coronavirus impact: half of freelancers consider quitting and have lost at least 60 per cent of income

About half of freelancers would give up being self-employed, and a similar proportion have lost at least 60 per cent of their income, due to a downturn in work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an alarming new study has found.

The impact of the coronavirus is placing unprecedented strain on freelance workers (Photo: Getty Images)
The impact of the coronavirus is placing unprecedented strain on freelance workers (Photo: Getty Images)

Freelance workers in communications are struggling to make ends meet, with about half considering changing job and the majority unable to claim the government’s coronavirus package to help the self-employed. 

A new study of 243 freelance workers in comms paints a grim snapshot of how self-employed professionals feel they are being left behind.

In the weeks since the Government put the UK into lockdown, 50 per cent of freelancers polled have lost at least 60 per cent of their income, with a staggering 33 per cent reporting that their income has been slashed by 80 per cent or more.

Two-thirds of respondents reported losses of at least 40 per cent as businesses and agencies slash freelance budgets to curtail discretionary spend. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to support freelancers adversely affected by the crisis who earn £50,000 or less in average annual profits with up to £2,500 a month, or a maximum of 80 per cent of earnings.

The initial announcement was cautiously welcomed, but freelance workers raised concerns about a delay until June to access funding.

This research, by freelancer matchmaker service The PR Cavalry and market researchers Intuit Research, suggests that even if the funding was fast-tracked, it would still remain out of reach to a majority of self-employed comms workers.

More than two-thirds (67 per cent) said they do not qualify for the Chancellor’s emergency package as they are either directors of their own limited company or have been operating as self-employed for less than a year.

In fact, nearly three-quarters of those polled said they would be seeking alternative forms of financial assistance to help them get by.

Interestingly, seven out of 10 (72 per cent) admitted to being confused about the Chancellor’s announcement and how it applies to their own circumstances, which suggests it has not been communicated clearly enough – despite industry experts lauding Sunak’s delivery.

“[This] research provides a worrying snapshot of hard-working professionals fearing for their livelihoods and without the financial support the Chancellor committed to in his budget, when he promised he would do ‘whatever it takes’,” said Dominic Ridley-Moy, co-chair of the CIPR’s Independent Practitioners Network.

“Too many are falling between the gaps in the package of support that has been announced. We wrote to the Chancellor last week with these concerns and we will continue to lobby on behalf of our freelance community with this research.”

Industry support for freelancers

PRWeek is aware of a few initiatives to provide support to freelancers.

  • Freelancer platform YunoJuno has extended its service to UK-wide agencies and said it has managed more than 2,000 new freelance bookings in March. YunoJuno says the move will help UK agencies access quality talent, while also supporting the freelance PR community during the economic downturn. 
  • A PR professional has set up a not-for-profit venture, called Look After, to help out-of-work PR practitioners provide support to businesses and charities that are struggling through the coronavirus crisis. Read more.
  • Self-employed and PR professionals made redundant because of COVID-19 can claim six months' free membership to the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA). Read more.
  • The CIPR has produced new guidance for members about the coronavirus, including details of how practitioners can request a three-month membership payment break. Read more.
  • Any client with a '.nhs' email address can hire a freelancer via The PR Cavalry platform for free. Freelancers will not pay commission for any invoices raised up to and including 30 June.

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