What impact does the coronavirus have on freelancers?

By Marcia Veiga

Updated May 18, 2020 at 05:05 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

On Sunday afternoon, I departed from my home in search of fresh air. The streets were busy, yet quiet at the same time—a weird parallel, I thought. Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic and the sense of fear feels thick. The unknown gist of questioning the who, where and when are apparent, but for freelancers, there’s also a sense of emotional familiarity.

Last week, I received an email from a recruiter. During a frenzy of recurring fears, I applied for an array of jobs, hoping it would provide me with a sense of stability. Opening this email, I was both perplexed at the response and petrified. It read: “Following internal discussions and the uncertainty of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, we have decided to freeze hiring until a later date.” That is exactly how the coronavirus started impacting my career, but what about other freelancers?

My initial feeling of confusion rose from the fact that I couldn’t even remember what the role was—save the judgement, please, as I seem to recall that we are a nation that fights over toilet paper. The advertised role was for an editorial internship for both an in-house and remote position. Because journalism as a whole has changed; what was once an industry filled with affluent well-educated men is now pioneering into a world where everyone thinks their opinion needs to be heard.

As a fortunate being who knew early on their destined career, I’ve spent my life competing in contests, reading to stay ahead, and not to mention an insane amount of debt studying in order to become a multimedia journalist. The outcome has been an overwhelming amount of frustration about the difficulty of finding the perfect role. Fellow creatives can relate, I’m sure.

With the outburst of dooming news of coronavirus—otherwise known as COVID-19—I’ve had to adjust my profession expectations yet again, and so will other freelancers. At the beginning of the year, although the golden life of self-employment has previously been described as a lie, I accepted fate and turned to freelance in hopes of building my CV and exercising my skills, all the while searching for a permanent role within my field. Yet despite the fact that the mental pressures of freelancing are being thoroughly discussed, I doubt change will ever come. I recently saw a post advising people to reach out to their freelance friends, who, during this period are coping with the dread of financial uncertainty.

Typically, freelancers are glorified for having remote roles that offer them the luxury of working from home. While that may be true, and I have reaped the benefits of working from home, it’s important to remember the excessive brain work one musters on the daily to produce content. Imagine working, sleeping, socialising and eating all day in one place; it’s a huge demand. And now, with the governmental advisory to self-isolate for safety, the stress duplicates.

Self-isolation has become the butt of all jokes during this pandemic, and while I have chuckled at a few, it doesn’t dispose of the anxious thoughts for individuals in creative fields of what’s to come.

I fear for the future of journalism during this period. I managed my expectations by succumbing to the thought that I may not achieve my dream of landing a steady role that pays me to report and travel for a long time. But now I’m having to adjust them once more, as I’m heading towards a greater battle—one that may result in sparse commissions, financial burdens and creative strains.

It feels as though freelance content creators have slipped and slid down a ladder in this game, but in times of tribulation, I take great pleasure in being part of a community that advocates better mental well-being.

Right now, understandably, it all seems blue. But I advise everyone (including myself) to remember to seek coverage in your community. The best thing about freelancing is the element of independence, so while it seems difficult, use it. Writers, read more to pitch more as responses are rapid at the moment. Journalists, the news is being bombarded with talks of the outbreak, so use it to your advantage. And fellow creators who are stressing out about money, sell that coat you haven’t worn in years because sustainability is still the ultimate motive.

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