A freelancer's guide to the coronavirus downturn: jobs, resources and support networks

The Drum 23 Mar 2020 11:50
Freelance work in the industry is drying up as ad campaigns are paused

The Drum has pulled together an evolving resource for freelancers looking for jobs, support, training and information as the coronavirus cuts into projects.

‘Last in, first out’ the adage sadly goes, and never was it truer than for the modern creative freelancer in times when budgets are cut.

This week, the coronavirus pandemic has seen a swathe of marketing campaigns paused or axed entirely, and the trend is likely to continue as more and more clients in retail, entertainment and hospitality stop trading. In advertising, 65% of execs expect the crisis to lead to layoffs in their company, according to research from Fishbowl.

This adds multiple layers of uncertainty to freelancers’ weekly forecasts: will there be work? When will there be work? How can I plan for the financial year when no-one else can? Will my client’s business fold before they can pay me before last month?

If you’re a freelancer who’s found themselves sitting on a cancelled project, Van Brunt advises updating your portfolios and social profiles “to highlight how you can help clients through this time with your specific skill sets and experience” before reaching out to past clients with ideas.

Who’s hiring?

VidMob, the creative technology company backed by You & Mr Jones, is hiring creative directors, video editors, motion graphics designers, 3D modelers and animators to develop digital/social ads for leading brands. The company offers clients a ‘virtual creative workforce’ that is encouraged to work from home all year round. Send a message to this email if interested.

Indie digital studio TheSoul Publishing is hiring for a variety of positions across a number of markets, including a creative writer and a senior account executive slated to work on brand partnerships. Its stable includes brands such as Bright Side, Frankenfood and Slick Slime Sam. Head to its LinkedIn page to apply..

Grey is still directing candidates to apply for open positions on its LinkedIn page. Freelance support is still on its roadmap, however those that get the call-up will likely have worked with staff executive creative directors before. A spokesperson said the agency is unlikely to hire new freelance staff until its building reopens.

AnalogFolk is still hiring for both permanent and freelance roles, particularly in tech, UX and UI Design. Its job board is here, and anyone interested in temporary work should message Peter Davenport.

Blend Media, a marketplace for immersive tech creators, has a number of live projects open on its platform. It's primarily after freelancers working in the immersive tech space, such as AR and VR creators and developers. The company will also be waiving all platform fees over the coming months to support developers.

Assemble, which runs a similar networked model rooted in video production, is also encouraging new creatives to join – and promises new client work is still rolling in. Wethos, a freelance platform that connects nonprofits with skilled professionals, is open for new talent too.

Mt Freelance is an online, four-level video course created by Andrew Dickson and Aaron James, two former Wieden+Kennedy creatives now working as successful freelancers. This week, they’ve made their first level free to all who are new to freelancing or want to audit their approach. It’s a 50-minute introduction of nine videos worth $257.

Zwolf Strategy founder Heidi Hackemer has launched the Strategy Supper Club – a series of intimate online classes. The idea stemmed from her belief that “so much [brand strategy] training has gone out the window or is reductive”. The sessions are free but she’s collecting donations for local food banks as part of the program. More information can be found here.

Members of mentorship app Fellow are taking advantage of social quarantine by organizing an online junior creative book review via Google Sheets. Nearly 300 portfolios have been posted so far, but many are still in need of review.

Format is an online portfolio platform that’s launched a $25,000 fund for freelance photographers and visual artists who have lost work off the back of the pandemic and are likely to struggle financially. It’s offering assistance of up to $500 per person but is looking to partner with other companies to increase the total amount. You can find the application form here.

Created by former MTV marketer Pip Jamieson, The Dots has been a destination for a diverse crowd of working creatives since 2014. Its job board currently lists more than 100 freelance gigs based primarily in Europe. It’s also started new chat thread called ‘Coronavirus support’, which is filled with advice and moral support for those who have lost jobs or work.

In the US, the Freelancers Union has produced a raft of useful guides on everything from health insurance to non-payment (you just need to register). Rafael Espinal, the president and executive director of Freelancers Union, has also published the letter he sent to New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio demanding that “any and all financial safety nets that are implemented in this moment of economic crisis must include freelancers”.

Work Notes is doing a similar open call for freelancer pitches on this Twitter thread.

A collective of freelance artists has created an aggregated list of free resources, opportunities and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines across the US. It’s a mix of official advice, guidance and topical articles that will resonate with freelance commercial creatives too.

Facebook’s push into Groups is coming to the fore with a raft of communities set up to offer support, tips and job leads. One is ‘Anti-viral work for freelancers and small businesses, which has grown to more than 11,000 members in the space of the week.

The Professional Freelancer, Anna Codrea-Rado’s weekly newsletter, may be angled at freelance journalists, but it still features lots of useful advice and opinions on the world of contracted work. Similarly, Sian Meades-Williams’ Freelance Writing Jobs newsletter regularly includes copywriting and branded content work, and the jobs featured are often exclusive to subscribers, too.

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