Self-employed artists have been devastated by the Coronavirus pandemic, with some struggling to live on less than £50-a-week, according to a survey
The lockdown at the start of April had a catastrophic impact on the earning capacity of thousands of small businesses run by artists and craftspeople, with fewer than one in ten continuing to earn their full, pre-Covid salary.
While most of the self-employed artists, fashion, textile and jewellery designers, publishers, photographers, and other crafts producers said they have continued to work, half are earning less than 50% of their normal income. One in four is earning less than a fifth of their pre-lockdown wage while 15% earn a tenth or less.
Six out of ten reported that, because of the way they’re paid, they didn’t qualify for any Government support schemes.
The survey was carried out by the Edinburgh-based Scottish Design Exchange (SDX), a not-for-profit business, which surveyed almost 200 artists and craftspeople.
Chief executive Lynzi Leroy said: “There are thousands of people whose creative output helps to define our country and to sell its image at home and abroad, generating large amounts of revenue for the economy.
“Yet this survey reveals the stark reality of how close to the edge many of those people live, without an effective safety net when things go wrong.”
She added: “It highlights a wider problem about how, as a society, we don’t value or protect the foot soldiers of our creative industries.”
Some 60% of respondents said they have received no financial help from the Government, compared with 40% who have.
Of those who have received some funding most (60%) did so through the Self-employed Income Support Scheme.
A small number (2%) accessed funding through the Self-Employed Hardship Fund and the Coronavirus Business Support Fund while 4% were funded by the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
One artist who responded to the anonymous survey said: “In order to grow my business in the past four years, I have used what would have been profits to purchase equipment and software.
“The Government formula to access self-employment funds meant that my small work pension was more that my profits over the period. I therefore received no financial support.
“My outlets for selling my products all closed and the main source of my income is unlikely to be operational before next year. This has had a huge financial and personal impact on me and my family.”
Another said: “The Government created some bizarre rules which meant that my business fell through the cracks and I was unable to get any support.
“I am a knitwear designer, but no-one was buying knitwear online. During the summer I make money from tourists buying knitwear, so my income has been zero, without my partner to pay my bills for me I would have been destitute.”
Another said: “I have fallen through every single gap in the governments schemes - it’s so incredibly wrong and makes my blood boil. I have paid my HMRC taxes since I started business in April 2018 but because I made a loss in my first year - as most businesses do as we speculate to accumulate - and a healthy profit in my second year of more than £20,000, the second year was not taken into account.
“These last three months have been super tough on my business and I really think the Government should have given out one or two thousand pounds to all those in business who did not receive anything at all. This small fee could very well stop a small business from going under.”
Almost 40% of respondents said they have suffered some hardship and of those the same proportion said they have suffered moderate or extreme hardship.
More than a third (37%) said they have been unable to continue paying their rent or mortgage, while over a quarter (27%) said they have had to suspend paying payments into pension funds.
A third (32%) have had to ration use of gas and electricity while 30% said there have been times when they have been unable to buy items of essential clothing.
Some 13% said they have been unable to pay gas or electricity bills and the same number said they have had to cancel insurance policies.
Almost 16% said they have been unable to afford essential toiletries and sanitary products while one in 10 said there have been times when they have been unable to feed themselves.