The stark reality between the employed and self-employed is all too apparent as we all find ourselves living in the unknown. The only thing scarier than this pandemic is not knowing how you’re going to provide for yourself over the next week, let alone the next few months.
We’re now seeing the detrimental effects of what COVID-19 means for our global economy and how most of all it’s impacting a very vulnerable part of our population — freelancers.
In 2019, Fast Company reported that 57 million people in the U.S. worked as freelancers, making up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Freelancers all take a risk in their respective line of work and there’s always a gamble with having an unstable income and no employee benefits.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve seen the coronavirus pandemic grow at an alarming rate, so much so that the entire world is seemingly shutting down. It started with large-scale events across all industries and quickly trickled down to closing all non-essential businesses.
Many of us have been forced to self-quarantine, but more importantly, freelancers have been forced to forfeit projects and gigs leaving them without a solid game plan.
I had a chance to get some insight into what some freelancers are going through straight from the source.
Kai Davis — a poet and a full-time freelancer — shared that she lost over $19,000 in paid college performances, making up almost half of her yearly income.
“I don’t know how long this is going to last,” Davis said. “Everyone’s losing money, it’s a very uncertain time.”
People have shown their support for her and others by donating to GoFundMe pages.
We’re existing in a new space where we can’t anticipate what tomorrow may bring. This level of uncertainty has put a strain on those who are trying to be strategic in how they go about looking for work.
My income will be drastically and devastatingly impacted if I don’t bring in new work to cover the work I have lost.
I know people are working right now but the idea of sending someone a pitch or requesting a chat about a new contract feels ABSURD to me.
— Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) March 26, 2020
We’re all navigating this new norm, but the position many Americans are in right now speaks volumes about the unstable conditions freelancing presents to some.
This pandemic is making the gig , entrepreneurial and creative economies suffer and the whole millennial mindset (being your own boss) is shifting. Now we’re being shown in real time the cons of not having a salary job… only the strong will survive
— QUANNA MAC (@QUANNAMC) March 16, 2020
While this crisis has heavily impacted many freelancers still searching for their next gigs, some are finding peace amidst all the chaos.
“I’ve already been living in this place,” director and producer, John Blaze, said in relation to self-quarantining. “Everything I’ve been doing has already well-equipped me for this time.”
Content creator, Jourdan Guyton shared that freelancers and creatives are feeling this extra pressure to take advantage of this time to constantly create.
“Freelancers are always on the go and now we’ve kind of been forced to slow down,” Guyton said.
Working contract to contract in the entertainment industry, Guyton finds comfort in the break she has with social distancing.
During a time like this, we have to be considerate of the position freelancers are in. With the entire country shutting down, work is scarce and freelancers are trying to keep their heads above water.
On top of the health concerns we all share, freelancers have the added stress of going into survival mode. Even as we remain hopeful that we will survive this, our culture is shifting before our very eyes.
Now that the flaws in our system have been exposed, we need a more efficient way to better accommodate the livelihoods of freelancers now more than ever.