First things first: Take a big, deep breath. It’s a difficult time for many — if not all — industries right now. If your once-thriving freelance business is experiencing a financial downswing in the wake of COVID-19, remember, you aren’t alone.
As many brands reexamine their budgets, their ability to hire outside vendors is being analyzed and questioned. As with any dramatic economic shift, your monthly income could be impacted for the next few months. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And many resources to help fuel your business as we await the next steps. The pandemic has encouraged many non-profits, unions, and other do-gooders to create freelance relief.
Below, you’ll find a plethora of options you or your business could be eligible to receive. From applying for small business loans to filing for unemployment and more, consider this your COVID-19 resource guide.
9 important COVID-19 resources for freelancers:
1. PEN Writers Emergency Fund
In 1992, a group of writers created PEN America in honor of the freedom of expression and speech in the United States. They not only fight for this fundamental right, but they celebrate it through workshops, articles, and more. As the pandemic has caused many publications to cut staff and pull back on their assignments, they’ve created the PEN Writers Emergency Fund to assist wordsmiths.
It’s a one-time grand of either $500 or $1,000. They will accept applications until all shutdowns are lifted, and will respond to all inquiries within two weeks. You’re eligible if you’re a United States citizen, you can demonstrate your need, and you can prove you’re a professional writer.
According to their site, credentials include:
- Publication of one or more books.
- Multiple essays, short stories, or poems in literary anthologies or literary journals (either online or in print) in the last two years.
- A full-length play, performed in a theater of more than 250 seats by a professional theater company. Productions in academic settings qualify if not a student at the time of the production.
- Production of a motion picture project or a segment of television.
- Employment as a full-time professional journalist, columnist, or critic or a record of consistent publication on a freelance basis in a range of outlets during the last two years.
- Contracted forthcoming books, essays, short stories, poems, or articles for which the name of the publisher can be provided.
2. Freelancers Relief Fund
If you have been a solopreneur for a while, you may be a member of the Freelancers Union. However, even if you’re not, you can still apply to benefit from the Freelancers Relief Fund, created in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Those who apply are eligible to receive up to $1,000 per household.
The hope is to cover lost income or essential expenses (think: grocery shopping, utility bills, rent, and more) that aren’t covered by government relief programs. If you have the means to donate yourself to help a fellow freelancer, it’s comforting to know 100 percent of all donations go directly to those in need. To see if you’re eligible and to apply, check this out.
3. SBA Paycheck Protection Program
If you’ve scaled your business to include an assistant or an employee who is listed on payroll, you may be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program through the United States Small Business Association. Through this 100-percent federally guaranteed program, anyone who is considered a company (LLC, Scorp, and so on) and has suffered economically because of the pandemic, can apply for these forgivable loans.
The funds are up to $10 million, with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of .5 percent. How much can you apply for personally? According to the official government website, it’s your average monthly payroll based on eight weeks, multiplied by 2.5 percent. Learn more.
4. Field of Vision Relief Fund
The pandemic has gravely impacted many creatives since their work requires them to be in-person. Just think of the photographers, videographers, producers, and so on, who are struggling to figure out their next paycheck.
In response, the Field of Vision and Topic Studios have created a $250,000 fund to provide grants for these freelancers. They will be awarded in various sums up to $2,000 per household. You will need to prove the financial burden, as well as your work within the professions below. Learn more.
- Producers (This includes associate producers)
- Sound recordists/designers
- Critics and writers who have covered documentaries
5. Economic Injury Disaster Loan
Since the pandemic is considered a ‘disaster’ in terms of financial impact, you can apply for the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). As Ellevest explains, though, ‘loan’ is sort of misleading, since it doesn’t have to be repaid.
Instead, it acts more like a grant, and those who apply are eligible to receive an advance up to $10,000. You can use this to pay off credit cards, go toward your mortgage, or other expenses that you can’t currently cover due to lack of work. Learn more.
6. Families First Coronavirus Response Act
If you contracted COVID-19 and recovered, but had to take time off to heal, you may be eligible for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Though it’s a big bummer that independent contractors are qualified to receive sick or family leave if they are diagnosed, there is a work-around that could be beneficial.
How so? You could receive a refundable tax credit if you were sick yourself, had to take care of someone who was ill, or if stay-at-home orders prevented you from working. When you file your 2020 taxes, you’ll see an option to be rebated. Learn more.
7. ASJA Writers Emergency Assistance Fund
The American Association of Journalists and Authors has created a writer’s emergency fund that acts sort of like a caregiving grant.
As of right now, you’re eligible to apply if:
- You cannot work because you are currently ill with COVID-19.
- You cannot work because you are caring for someone with COVID-19.
Unfortunately, those writers who have lost work because their clients aren’t assigning during the pandemic can’t apply. If you were or are suffering, or you’re providing care for someone else, you could receive a sum of money to help lighten your financial load. You don’t need to be a member of ASJA to be eligible, but you will need to prove you are a working writer by sharing five published articles or one published book by a major publishing house. Learn more.
8. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Considering the freelance market makes up one-third of the American workforce, it was a no-brainer to include them as part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Up until COVID-19, those considered self-employed couldn’t apply for unemployment. Though this is a huge move in the right direction for the United States, there is a bit of red tape to get around.
First and foremost, it’s a state-guided process, so your zip code matters. While Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Washington are accepting applications, many others are still working to figure out the kinks, like Ohio. To get started, Vox suggests checking out the status in your state. If you can, give yourself an hour to go through the lengthy process to apply. It could take a month, six weeks or more, to see funds. Learn more.
9. FORMAT Photographer Fund
Since taking photos is an in-person activity, photographers are suffering big-time in the wake of the pandemic. Especially those who typically shoot events, it can be a trying time to figure out when work will pick up again.
That’s why FORMAT created the pandemic fund to help self-employed photographers facing financial hardships. They will award up to $500 per person who is selected. Learn more.