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Support your local designer - petrostudio LLC
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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is impacting people everywhere. Some are out of jobs, others furloughed or reduced in hours. Thank goodness for people working in healthcare, public service, delivery and grocery at this time. But hit, and hit hard, is a group of folks we don’t hear much about – freelance artists.

Depending on the source and day, current US unemployment seems to be anywhere from 13 – 18%, and likely rising. But here’s a more shocking number: reported at Fast Company from a survey conducted by the Freelancers’ Union, 85% of freelancers at the time of writing were getting work cancellations, and 91% expected a reduction in income.

Now, work cancellation doesn’t necessarily mean ALL work is cancelled, but many freelancers are contracted almost entirely by single companies, or a few companies in an industry. When that industry shuts down, so does all that work. The events industry, from which most of my work derives, is decimated at this time. I know personally of at least two large event companies that are expecting a massive percentage of their income to go away, and therefore have furloughed hundreds if not thousands of people – some of which I have known to be at their respective companies for 20+ years.

And the freelancers that these companies normally hire per project? They are the first to go.

Now, some good news… unfortunately bookended by some bad – the CARES act, and other stimulus plans in the works, for the first time help self-employed people more easily file for unemployment. That’s great, and a big help for a lot of people. Unfortunately, many states don’t have the infrastructure in place to support those filings as of yet. I know personally, in Arkansas, you simply get put on a mailing list, and they will inform you when they are ready for you to file. And who knows, at that time, how the filing process will work. I know a few folks who either had a great deal of trouble trying to file in their states, or did so weeks ago and still haven’t seen anything.

There’s an increasing call on social media and in local news to support local businesses. Order food, buy goods, etc., from those small businesses in your area that are impacted by the shutdowns. That’s a great idea. Supporting folks in your communities will help build trust, a support network and often allow you to get to know new people in your towns and cities you would not otherwise.

But freelance artists are also local businesses. You just may not know about them.

See, freelancers take the work where they can get it and, often, that’s not from around the corner. The freelance world is largely word-of-mouth, and since we can work from “anywhere,” we often get work from everywhere. My biggest clients are in Indiana, New York and California. My team of freelancers that I regularly hire are in Florida, Minnesota, Virginia and Michigan. You find good people and you stick with them.

And when they lose their jobs, they lose everything. They pay for their own health insurance. They pay double the taxes taken out of your checks every week. They buy their equipment and office supplies out of their own pockets. They aren’t furloughed, with a promise to be hired back after the lull. They are, simply, draining the coffers.

So what’s the point? The point is… you have freelancers in your cities and states, right now, who are out of work. Or, perhaps, they have a much reduced workload. Find them. Support them. Hire them. They will take the work. And pay them what they ask for. No, you aren’t going to get a logo done for your new business idea for $50 like “that site online” says you can. I know. And that’s a subject for another time, but for now, know that $50 doesn’t pay for that designer’s experience, expertise and personal touch.

It is a relationship. Two way. Find the local folks and use them. Because these people usually do work all over the world, for companies big and small, companies you know. And you might be shocked to learn about your new designer friend’s contributions on that global scale.

Google them. It is easy, search “MYCITY freelance graphic designer” or “MYTOWN freelance design” or “i need a logo who can design it in MYTOWN” or ANYTHING. Ask your friends for references. Check out Facebook and LinkedIn. Find the folks, many sitting at computers next door banging their heads against keyboards and waiting for something, anything to hit their inboxes.

And frankly, that extends to designers of all ilks – landscape, interior, graphic, video… all these people are experts, and all of them are hurting, too.

You need them, they need you. Yes, we aren’t doctors or nurses or first responders or essential workers, but we could use the help and we can help you, too.

So buy local.