A COVID-19 Guide for Freelancers, Artists and Creatives in Toronto

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This sucks. I just needed to get that off my chest. This is also the weirdest article I’ve chosen to write on this blog. This is a concerning time, to say the least. It’s also a weird, uncertain time. This is the first time we’re dealing with something like this on a global scale, together. So, in a solemn way, we can at least be hopeful that it might bring mankind a little closer together. Forgive me, I think I needed to write all that for me more than you. All of this for that matter. I hope you’re staying safe and staying at home.

First off, please note, Toronto Creatives remains open, operating entirely from our respective homes. If you want to connect with us, head over to the contact page.

I also wanted to put together a list of resources and maybe even offer some advice – although, like you – I’ve never dealt with a global pandemic, so take it all with a grain of salt, and remember we’re all doing our best and everyone is in a similar boat so the best thing we can do is support each other.

Overall the government’s plans have not expressly described a plan when it comes to freelancers and the ‘gig-economy’ so-to-speak. That said both the Government of Canada and The CFIB have noted contingencies for Freelancers and the Self-Employed. If you’re a freelancer, you’re self-employed and we can only hope the plans they have set (or are setting) out will come out fast, and prove effective.

In the meantime here are some resources that might help.

 

The AFC

The AFC is dedicated to being the lifeline of Canada’s Entertainment Industry. Founded in 1958 as the Actor’s Fund of Canada the organization rebranded to The AFC in 2006 to reflect it’s evolution to supporting all members of the entertainment industry on and off stage, and on and off-screen. The AFC is not an income replacement but can help with immediate hard expenses like rent and food.

At the moment the organization is advising ANY AND ALL Canadians that have a full-time working connection to the entertainment industry to reach out for help, even if you’re not sure you’ll qualify. That means if you’re a graphic designer that gets all of your work from clubs, bands and DJs – reach out to The AFC. While you might not qualify, they are stressing that in the current climate they will be looking at making extenuating circumstance-related exemptions. 

Here are the basic criteria you need to meet before you go filling out an application:

  • earned more than half your income in the Canadian entertainment industry over the past 3 years (this means, movies, tv, concerts, nightclubs, drag-shows, etc)
  • earned the majority of your income from the Canadian entertainment industry, if you are over 65
  • experienced an unforeseeable emergency that has led to a financial crisis
  • made reasonable efforts to find other means of income or support

 

Toronto Arts Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund

The Toronto Arts Foundation has launched an ambitious program to help artists through this difficult time. To date, they have raised over $700,000 for Toronto artists. For more information or to make a donation visit their site here.

 

Photographers Only

I can’t 100% decide how I feel about this – for lack of a better term honestly, promotion. That said, right now $500 is $500 so if you’re a photographer and want to ‘apply’ for The Photographer Fund you can click here. This $25,000 fund will be distributed in $500 chunks to successful applicants, no specific criteria or guidelines are given. You just have to give Format.com your email. Our photographer did.

 

Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ+ Artists, Performers, and Tip-Based Workers

Managed by the awesome folks at Glad Day Book Shop the Emergency Survival Fund for LGBTQ+ Artists, Performers, and Tip-Based Workers is exactly what it sounds like. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m proud although not surprised to see the community pull together in this dreadful time. Lot’s of LGBTQ+ artists make their living in the entertainment industry, via night-life in particular. I can attest to this that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for design work I did for nightclubs and bars. If you don’t need the help, consider donating.

 

Canada Council for the Arts 

While the Canada Council for the Arts has made no specific mention of freelancers, they do have a section on their website outlining the plan for Canadian artists to get access to Employment Insurance through the CRA. Under the circumstances, freelance designers and creatives facing financial difficulty should apply for this. The Council has also announced $60M in advance funding to help ‘stabilize the backbone of the arts sector‘. 

 

When All Else Fails

You’re going to be ok, because of what you do. Clients don’t seek out creative professionals because we know how to use the software, they seek us out because we solve problems. They seek us out because we have an uncanny ability to bring things to life and even make something from almost nothing. I know there’s a lot of inspirational this-and-that out there right now for creators and marketers, so I’ll try and keep the fluff to a minimum.

It is time to get creative. It’s time to fully reach outside your comfort zone and try something new. If you’re comfortable working from home, and you have the technology to do so, you’ve already got an unfair advantage. 

Start by asking yourself some of the same hard questions you ask your clients, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions before. If you’re like me you ask these questions all the time. 

  • How have you gotten your work in the past?
  • Is this work acquisition still viable? ie: Do you rely on personal networking or do you get work online?
  • If it’s not viable, how can you switch your methods?
  • Do you rely on industry verticals like hospitality?
  • If so, how are those verticals adjusting their businesses?
  • Most importantly, how can you help your clients?

I don’t have all the answers, we’re still figuring a lot of this out ourselves. I can provide a list of some resources that we’ve found incredibly helpful over the last week of dealing with this crisis.

 

Zoom.us

Zoom.us is a free high-quality video conferencing software. You can host and join meetings and every time you talk the screen cuts to you like you’re on CNN. It’s sweet and we love it because we can not only screen-share with team members and collaborate easily, we also get to see each other’s awesome faces!

 

Google Drive 

If you don’t use Google Drive already, you should. This is Google’s ‘cloud’ software and we use it religiously to keep track of all our design files. We seriously have drive folders from projects as far back as 2016. We all have access to the same files no matter where we are!

 

Google DOCS

Fully integrated with Google Drive, Google Docs is a seamless experience for multiple users working on a single document. The setup is essentially a ruthless copy of Microsoft Word – and is fully compatible with Microsoft Word. If you didn’t know, Google has a whole line of apps that make any traditional Microsoft Office program obsolete. 

 

STRIPE 

This one is particularly helpful at the moment. As creatives, I’m sure we can all agree that chasing clients for cheques is our least-favorite part of the job. As the world’s corporations move forward with employees working from home, wire-transfers and credit card transactions are going to fast become the norm. Stripe lets you accept credit cards and even subscription payments.

This is probably going to suck, but life will still go on. As a creator, you’re in a unique position to be adaptable to the world. Your craft does not have to be tied to your current clients if they’re going off the radar, new ones will pop-up as different industries need different things. One thing they will always need, maybe now more than ever, is the voices that tell their stories and advocate for their brands.

I think the most important thing we can try to do is keep each other safe, entertained, and informed. There is a lot of nonsense out there right now and we’re going to try our best to keep our blog not only positive but informative and accurate. 

 

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