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Gig Cancellations due to Coronavirus: Survival Tips for Freelancers

Gig Cancellations
By Melissa Bondar

A few days ago, I came across this tweet and thought, “we are all pretty screwed if the freelancers who never mention money are now worrying about money”:

gig cancellations
I also enjoyed the full blown denial folks who are un-following the tweets of one of the largest free job boards for technical jobs in the U.S.

Of course, I think about money all the time, so no surprise there. The number of events starting to get cancelled or moved to an undetermined date is growing by the day. I saw this list by Vulture the other day and messages about SXSW being cancelled have also been all over my social media feeds.

gig cancellations

Then it hit even closer to home with an old friend posting on Facebook that her gigs are starting to get cancelled too.

I’ve seen an awful lot of “bet you wish you had an emergency fund now, huh?” posts that boggle my mind a little. Who are we helping with this statement at this point?

I mean, if you’re a freelancer without an emergency fund and you get through the next few months OK, and then recover from the likely credit card damage you’re about to do, yeah, then is the time to think about starting an emergency fund for the next plague.

But today, we are where we are.

If you do have an emergency fund, good for you. Now is the time to do what you can to shore it up.

I also think being prepared and having a small stockpile of items is useful, but don’t go all Battlefield Earth, end of the world.

I do think if you either A. get the sickness or B. the sickness hits your community hard but you don’t get it, you will be happy you have a week of soup and some extra Robitussin – especially if you are in the age and immune system category that makes this likely to just be a regular, nasty flu for you.

Quarantine yourself, watch some Netflix, and hack it out without infecting the rest of the population.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, assess your options and start thinking about contingency plans.

If you don’t have a budget, figure out what your expenses are.

Do you have anything saved? How long will it last you?

If the answer to that is not a penny, then it’s time for some damage minimization plans.

Do you have the lowest possible interest rates on your credit cards? If you’ve been paying them regularly, call the credit card company and ask them if there’s any way they can lower it.

If you’ve been using rewards cards, they all have astronomical interest rates. It is a terrible idea to carry a balance on any of them. Look online for a new card with a low interest rate to use for the next few months as you get through this.

If you’re making student loan payments, give the company a call to find out how deferrals would work if you can’t make payments due to cancelled gigs during the coronavirus.

If you’ve already been struggling and this is going to push you over the edge, consult with a bankruptcy lawyer. They can usually intercede on your behalf to keep you from being immediately evicted and will help you make sense of your financial situation.

What can you do to lessen the damage from home?

There are some work from home side hustles you can start looking into. They will not pay at all like decent stagehand work, but if you’re just going to be stuck at home anyway, you can lessen some of the financial damage.

There are transcription companies online like Rev that will have you transcribing the same day if you pass their entry test. The pay will be low, but I used it once when a gig fell through at the last minute and I was able to clear about $250 a week working on the transcriptions for about 25-30 hours weekly.

A good wage? No. 100% no. $8.33 is less than minimum wage in every state except Louisiana, but for a lot of folks, $1,000 a month might cover most, if not all of their rent, and maybe even some utilities.

And while a part of me laughs hysterically to think of some of the totally awesome stagehands I know doing this, you can absolutely teach English online as long as you have a Bachelor’s degree in something through companies like VIPKid. The hours are flexible and the pay is better than transcription, but the application process will take a little longer and you have to teach a mock lesson as part of it.

For my stage managers (or any other organized folks out there), you might want to look into Virtual Assistant work (also a phenomenal side hustle for when we’re not in a quarantine lock down).

As a matter of fact, Remote.co is full of jobs that you can do from anywhere.

If you haven’t been hit by any gig cancellations yet, know they could be coming. This is a good time to take as many calls as possible and save as much from each of those paychecks as you possibly can.

And do some research on assistance that may be available near you. The Actors Fund has offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and they offer a variety of social services and financial assistance.

If you’re a union member like Actors’ Equity, AGMA or IATSE, your union might have financial assistance programs available and you should reach out to them.

Also, double check your contracts. With a last minute cancellation, you may be entitled to a payout of some or maybe even all of your contracted amount. Of course, this varies contract by contract.

And if things continue to progress for a few months, keep an eye out for updates. The levels of public assistance through the groups mentioned above and even the federal government may increase as the impact of the virus spreads.

Have you taken any steps to plan for a few weeks or months of unemployment/underemployment due to Coronavirus? What are they?

Published in Collaboration with brokeGIRLrich

brokegirlrich TheatreArtLife

Also on by Melissa Bondar:

Moving House: Where Did All My Money Go?

The Financial Benefits of Touring in Entertainment

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