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Assistance for Freelancers and Gig Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

A guide of resources for artists, musicians, freelancers, and other gig workers who may be struggling or out of work due to the coronavirus crisis

March 24, 2020

Tricolor illustration of three hands, each holding one letter, spelling out "SOS."

The coronavirus pandemic has put unprecedented strain on the global economy, with some sectors hit harder than others. For creators — artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers — and professionals in production (many of whom are gig workers), as well as freelancers for creative industries such as advertising or the small businesses that serve them, the situation can be particularly challenging, if not dire. They may not qualify for unemployment benefits, or they lack health insurance. They may be sacrificing nest eggs to pay their small staff; they may close shop altogether.

To assist this community, we’ve compiled a list of resources we hope will ease the strain. Because circumstances continue to evolve at a rapid pace, we realize some of what we’ve included may be out of date or more resources may become available. We’ll do our best to update the list so that it remains current, but if you have suggestions you don’t see here, please email us directly at thecutaway@shift.io or @ us on social media. We’re @madewithSHIFT across all platforms.

Resources for artists

With galleries and museums closed and art events cancelled, artists have been hit hard by the pandemic. Below are resources and funding options they can access.

  • COVID-19 and Freelance Artists offers an aggregated list of free resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines. It ranges from general preparedness and health updates, legal and advocacy information, job and funding opportunities, online teaching resources (for artists who teach), events, and more. There’s a role here too for those interested in supporting the independent artist community. If you’re in a position to, you can donate money to some of the funds (like Americans for the Arts) or purchase items that’ll help replenish the funds. See the CERF+ store, for example.
  • The Freelance Co-op has set up an emergency fund for creative freelancers. It’s made up of donations from other freelancers and creative agencies.
  • Americans for the Arts has a growing list of resources and links to funding for those in the arts, while P0STB1NARY started the @pb.directory and a Google Sheet to list independent artists who are available to work.
  • There are a few organizations that have emergency funding available. The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation recently announced Emergency Grants allowing artists to apply for one-time grants of up to $5,000 for unexpected medical emergencies during this crisis. CERF+ provides Emergency Assistance grants for artists experiencing a “career-threatening emergency.” The Foundation for Contemporary Arts also has Emergency Grants for visual and performing artists.
  • The Haven Foundation is a year-round fund set up to help artists and other freelancers who need financial assistance during times of crises, including the current pandemic.
  • freeDimensional has a Creative Resistance Fund to support individuals using creativity to fight injustice.

Resources for film, television, and radio workers

Tens of thousands of people in the entertainment industry are working from one gig or contract to the next. Here are resources for them now that so many productions have come to a halt:

Color illustration of three hands: one holds a paintbrush, another holds headphones, and the third holds a book

Resources for other creative professionals

For authors, dramatists, musicians, and freelancers put out of work by the pandemic, there are these resources:

Unemployment and small business resources

Since each state has different employment laws and assistance that are currently in flux, it’s best to check with your state’s employment department for specifics. With many professionals in production based on the coasts, two that may help include: California’s Employment Development Department (offering expedited unemployment benefits during the crisis) and New York State’s Department of Labor (currently waiving the seven-day wait for unemployment benefits). The U.S. Small Business Alliance offers access to loans and links to other financial resources during the COVID-19 crisis.

For the parents among us

For freelancers whose kids are home from school, there’s a fantastic, constantly updating list of educational resources at Amazing Educational Resources; books and videos from Scholastic; #OperationStorytime where beloved kids’ book writers and illustrators read their books on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook; daily Lunch Doodles on YouTube with Mo Willems and #QuarantineArtClub on Instagram with Carson Ellis; and virtual tours at zoos and aquariums nationwide.

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Other resources for freelancers

Creative Capital, U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, I Care if You Listen, 3Arts (Chicago and beyond), Artist Trust (Seattle and beyond), Springboard for the Arts (Minnesota and beyond), and New York Foundation for the Arts (New York and beyond) have running lists of emergency funding and resources.

In addition, HowlRound recently gathered a virtual panel of artists, arts administrators, and others from around the country to discuss how the pandemic is impacting freelance artists from all disciplines and where artists can look for support. A recording of that panel can be found here.

Avid is also providing free ninety-day licenses to their software for users who must work remotely because their facility has been closed (ProTools, Media Composer, and more).

Keeping busy during the shutdown

Maybe you have cabin fever; maybe you just need a break from worrying. These options may do the trick. Mt. Freelance, a course and community designed to help creative freelancers, is offering their first level for free during the crisis — co-founder Andrew Dickson writes for The Cutaway regularly and has plenty of articles that include sharp insights — and groups like Corona Classifieds are popping up on Facebook to offer real-time updated work leads and other resources.

Learn and get inspired by these free-to-watch documentaries from the IDFA. Have a virtual movie date or TV-watching party with friends with Netflix Party, OVEE from PBS, or via Facebook Watch Party. Enjoy live streams of amazing music, art, comedy, and more at the Social Distancing Festival. Virtually tour some of the world’s best museums via Google Arts and Culture or check out drive-in concerts and livestream raves so you can get your “live” music fix.

And because we could all use a chuckle right now, check out these Freelance Achievement Stickers from The New Yorker.

Lisa Reeve is a freelance writer and editor with a background in publishing, marketing, and print and digital production. Born and raised in New England, she now lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with her film/video-making husband and her sweet and tireless young son.
Read more by Lisa Reeve