This is one of a series of personal blogs I’ve written about coronavirus.
They are not a pieces of journalism, and are not like the investigative work I do for major publishers.
They are my personal reflections, in attempt to make sense of the situation.
I am, effectively, a small business dealing with coronavirus.
I’m self-employed, and I make money mainly from two sources: public speaking, which provides the bulk of my income and bankrolls investigative journalism, which provides a smaller amount of income and takes more time (but is something I feel has a lot of social worth, ultimately).
Since early March, as large public gatherings have been cancelled, all my public speaking work has been pulled. That’s about £8,000 worth of bookings gone.
Journalism is still feasible, but right now pitching anything not related to coronavirus is pretty much impossible (my other three major investigations have been put on hold). I’m attempting to investigate coronavirus, of course, but realistically I’m up against an army of other journalists who are aggressively exploiting every angle. My approach works by concentrating on long-term investigations into areas where the competition isn’t, and at the moment, there’s no room for that: publications want immediate, coronavirus-focused output.
I’m now preparing for a period of five months or so with little or no income.
It may sound terrifying, but it’s a scenario I’ve always been concerned about. Even after years as a successful freelancer, I still worry the work will suddenly dry up. And so I’ve prepared for it. I over-save so I have a buffer to get me through, and as I’ve worked longer I’ve tried to build up the buffer. To a certain extent I’m lucky, as I have a job which has enabled me to do this, but I’ve also worked hard to capitalise on my luck.
My preparation means I’m less likely to receive any government help. At the moment, the government’s moves to help workers seems mainly to revolve around extending statutory sick pay for those who are ill. That doesn’t help me and others who, while healthy, are looking at weeks or more without income.
I could apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance, but the Department for Work and Pensions will (quite rightly) look at my savings account and judge that I’ll be fine.
What really depresses me are the companies who’ve moved quickly to lay off staff. Where was their buffer against the bad times? Is my approach that unusual? Do most other businesses work on an if-you’ve-got-it-spend-it model?