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Running a creative business during the Covid-19 outbreak

Abstract fine art image
Abstract fine art image
Close up of installation by Janet Waring Rago. MA Visual Arts: Fine Art Digital, Camberwell College of Arts.
Written by
Careers & Employability
Published date
27 March 2020

A few weeks ago, none of us could have anticipated the impact that the Covid-19 virus would have on all of our lives.

While it’s a tricky time for all of us, it might feel particularly daunting for those of you that are self-employed. Being your own boss - whether as a freelancer or business owner - can be challenging at any time, but particularly with all of this uncertainty now surrounding us.

Although we can’t say when everything will return to normal, we can assure you that there is some support out there for creative freelancers and entrepreneurs. We’ve pulled together a summary of guidance and support below:

Government support

The government has taken steps to help self-employed through the next 3 months, with potential for support to be extended. Here’s a summary of what’s currently available:

The Chancellor has announced that self-employed workers who have lost earnings due to the Covid-19 crisis will be able to apply for taxable grants worth up to 80% of their average monthly profits. These will start to be paid from the beginning of June (as a taxable lump sum covering March, April and May). Grants will be capped at £2,500 per month and not everyone will be able to claim them. Information on who is eligible and how you can apply is available online.

The government is also delaying the next self-assessment tax payment to January 2021 (instead of 31 July) to allow people more time to pay their tax bill. The money you had saved for tax could therefore be used to see you through until grant payments begin at the beginning of June. HMRC has launched a helpline for self-employed businesses concerned about paying their tax (telephone: 0800 0159 559).

If you’re on a low income or unemployed you could be entitled to claim universal credit and other benefits. From Monday 6 April, you could get a monthly standard allowance of up to £409.89 if you’re single or £594.04 if you’re in a couple (both new and existing claims).

Paying bills

Many energy firms, banks and mortgage providers are doing their bit to support customers through this difficult period. If you’re going to struggle to pay your energy bills, mortgage, credit card repayments etc. it’s worth calling your relevant provider now to explain your situation and discuss the options available.

Funding opportunities

The Arts Council has announced a £20 million package to support individuals working in the cultural sector, including artists, creative practitioners and freelancers. Grants of up to £2,500 are available. View the application criteria and apply.

The Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Entrepreneurs are pots of investment (£50,000 split across the winners), 12 months of business support and additional support. If you’re aged 18-30 with a business idea or already launched business you’d like to grow apply by 7 April 2020.

The Mayor’s Entrepreneur awards are open to students and recent graduates of London universities. There are 4 prizes of £20,000 up for grabs for business ideas that will make London cleaner and greener.

Free training

Even if work is slow, it’s good to continue to maintain a routine for your wellbeing. Consider using some of your extra time to upskill at home.

We’re running free online workshops and enterprise one-to-ones over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on our events and workshops page to see what's coming up.

The British Library’s Business and IP Centre runs regular webinars covering all areas of running a business - many of which are free.

General Assembly provides free introductory classes, tools and guides on coding, data, design and digital marketing.

The Design Trust has committed to providing free and heavily discounted online training for creative businesses and freelancers over the coming weeks.

Useful websites

Please note, this is a fast-changing situation. All information was correct on the date of publish: 27 March 2020.