Everyone’s work is likely to be affected by coronavirus during 2020. Although it’s obviously a challenging time, for many, it gives the opportunity and impetus to try new things. On this page we've got:
- a range of suggestions for protecting your income and considering new career strands
- a list of resources if you are facing hardship or need other advice.
The best advice for freelances to guard against any drop in income is to diversify your income streams; in other words, have a range of different ways of generating income.
The first suggestion from many sources is to get in touch with your existing business clients. They will mostly be thinking the same thing: how are they going to operate over the coming months? And how can they deliver more of their services remotely? So anything you can offer to help them with that is likely to be welcome.
Photographers are what you might call “visual content providers” and this is going to be a key factor for organisations operating remotely. Photographers are usually technically proficient and might help with things such as high quality video and sound services for live-streaming or webinars. You might also have under-used photo libraries and archives that could see a new lease of life, or imaging and retouching skills that will spruce up a company’s appearance. You might contribute to organisations’ need for more and better web content and social media streams.
If you work with the public, perhaps as a family, portrait, wedding or event photographer, then a lot of your work will already have been postponed. It’s possible that some people will want to go ahead with a much reduced version of their event where photography and video might be a particularly important component - or perhaps you can persuade people to commission work that might help to boost morale and cheer families up. We also heard about freelance businesses selling vouchers for services in the future, which might help with cash flow problems.
Arts Council England has announced that it will be refocusing some grant programmes to help compensate individual artists and freelancers for lost earnings. They expect to provide further details of this in late March.
Ideas for working during isolation
If you do have some money saved, and find yourself isolated or at home, it’s actually a good opportunity to step back and consider what changes you might want to make to your career; or tackle some of the things you’ve been meaning to for ages.
Hardly any photographers have their libraries and archives sorted out properly. What of your work do you want to leave to posterity? It’s a subject that our colleagues at the Photo Collections Network, and The Photo Legacy Project, consider in detail. The first job is to create a single audit of what you have, and what you regard as your best or most important work - you know it in your head but does anyone else?
With so much in the way of skills development and training available online, it could be a perfect time to learn something new. Of course the sky’s the limit, but some of the main skills that photographers tell us that they would like to develop further are: marketing, social media, public speaking, general digital skills, sound and video editing, writing, project management, finance and budgeting. There’s likely to be a even more online training and learning material available online over the next few weeks, including Redeye’s own programme.
Could you do with really thinking about or re-planning your own career, and whether there are things you can do that better reflect your own values? There’s a few things we recommend:
- Some talks on offbeat careers to get you thinking.
- We like business modelling as a methodology - it can be a simple way to turn ideas into a plan, or to picture your own business and how it might be improved. See businessmodelyou.com for example.
- The excellent www.work-show-grow.com is already starting to offer online workshops and support for contemporary photographers.
Hardship and support for freelance photographers
Most photographers are self-employed freelancers, and many are already reporting that work is drying up, as events and launches are cancelled.
If you expect to, or already, face hardship due to loss of income, as a self-employed person you might be able to claim Universal Credit in the UK. Universal Credit is gradually replacing a number of other benefits. If your savings are above £16,000, you won’t receive any benefit, and if savings are between £6000 to £16,000 you will receive less than the full amount. The advice is to apply as soon as you can, as it takes some time to receive benefit. If you already receive Working Tax Credit then things will be different.
- Benefits advice on citizensadvice.org.uk and you apply at www.gov.uk/universal-credit.
- Many banks and building societies are open to discussion and possible support if you feel you are likely not to be able to meet payments.
- If you need a personal loan, credit unions, which are ethical and co-operative financial institutions, are vastly preferable to the commercial payday loan companies.
- The UK government has announced loans and grants for affected small businesses.
- Several financial provisions for coronavirus were announced at the recent government Budget including some support for the self-employed.
- Collated advice and links from Creative Industries Federation via It's Nice That.
- A private group on Facebook, “Anti-viral work for freelancers and small businesses” is collating advice and information. You need to answer a few questions to join.
- There's also a new Facebook group specifically for photographers set up by The BJP.
- IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, offers a lot of support and advice on this subject.
- Photographers’ trade associations are offering support to their members. Here are links to more info from The AOP and The NUJ.
- The Business Growth Hubs provide support for all businesses including creative ones, and have started to offer online support for any businesses affected.
- Redeye is planning a webinar as part of our “Come and Chat” series specifically looking at support and ideas for photographers working during the pandemic.
Image: The studio of WW Winter in Derby, one of the world's longest-lasting photography businesses. Photo: Paul Herrmann