If you’re a self-employed freelancer or contractor, you don’t need us to tell you how devastating the coronavirus pandemic has been. Even in the best of times, getting paid by clients regularly and in full can seem like mission impossible. Right now, though, whilst many companies are actively furloughing staff and scraping together this month’s payroll, settling outstanding service provider invoices might just be at the back of clients’ minds altogether.
For all of us, losing out on reliable income is terrifying. If you’re a freelancer, work on commission, on a zero-hours contract, or simply don’t work the same number of hours from week to week, your paychecks are already less predictable. Add in the current global pandemic and a nation-wide lock-in and it’s safe to say that your current book of work has taken a hit for the foreseeable future.
We know this crisis will end – but predicting exactly when is less clear, which is precisely what makes the current scenario so stressful, especially for the self-employed who regularly find themselves outside the safety net. Here are seven money moves to help you feel more in control during troubled times.
As of last week, the government unveiled the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, extending an initial package of grants and benefits to include self-employed workers who have suffered income losses due to coronavirus. Check your eligibility and the application details on the HMRC website.
Clients not paying? Weigh up money due to you and take action. Businesses are busy putting into place continuity plans and reacting to evolving coronavirus circumstances. But your business (ie: you!) is also a priority. Chase your clients again. And don’t forget that you can claim interest and debt recovery if a business is late in paying.
Whilst your ‘to do’ list might seem long right now, there is one item you can tick off for the time being – taxes. The government has delayed self-assessment VAT payments to a later date. You still need to submit VAT returns on HMRC on time, however. More details on VAT deferral due to coronavirus here.
This crisis is stressful. There is no other way to put it. For freelancers and other self-employed workers financially impacted by the sudden drop in business activity, staying on top of physical (and mental) health is crucial. When the economy bounces back, make sure you’re in a position to start booking work straight away.
Now is the time to plan for the next crisis. Strengthen cancellation and rescheduling policies to help lessen financial loss due to cancellation. Update your legal, insurance, and government paperwork. This is never fun but needs to be done! Consider tightening up your approach to retainer fees and payments (eg: can you ask for retainer fees up front instead of after delivery?).
This month you’ll likely be earning anywhere from a bit to significantly less than last month. It’s a good idea to map out a spending plan based on your new projected income. Working for yourself means managing a series of ups and downs but when it comes to budgeting an unsteady monthly income, freelancers and self-employed workers tend to have experience under the belt.
Navigating coronavirus is hard. Having to manage kids during a lock-down is really hard. Facing reduced income is terrifying. Funnily, it’s usually the time when we need to most look after ourselves that we fail to do so. The interwebs are awash with various self-care techniques and advice. Find your flavour and remember to be kind to yourself during this time of stress.