Help Australian freelancers and sole operators weather coronavirus

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Freelancing has been my sole source of income for the last decade. I've recently returned to work after self-funding a break of four months to have two foot surgeries. 2020 was going to be the year I got my savings back and back into business. Now, this is no longer the reality due to coronavirus. 

As an advocate for freelancers, I have some 6000+ people who are sharing daily stories of heartache with me. They are hard working Australian parents, people with disabilities, regional Australians, arts workers, idea builders and innovators who have essentially lost the jobs they worked so hard to create in the blink of an eye. 

I've heard stories of people who thought they had $50K worth of work for the next six months suddenly having nothing. People with multiple contracts taking call after call to have that canceled. People in arts and entertainment who are now competing for the chance to pack shelves after their entire year of work has vanished. 

These sole operators work so damn hard to keep their families afloat. Yet we are completely ignored and left behind. 

Please- don't let us end up forgotten, broke and broken. 

According to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s ‘Small Business Counts: Small business in the Australian economy’ July 2019 report, 62% of small business in this country are sole traders/non-employing business. Yet in the stimulus package designed to keep small businesses and other Australians safe, freelancers receive no support. 

Freelancers and sole traders are the canaries in our economic coalmine. We work in 120+ different vocations. We’re already seeing impacts due to the bushfire crisis. And now, contracts and projects are being cancelled, delayed or put on indefinite hiatus.

We're in crisis. And we need the Australian public to support us to get help! 

We service some of the most impacted industries in travel, tourism, education, the arts and the festival circuit. Already hit by cashflow problems due to late paying and low paying clients, any further disruption to our opportunities for work and/or how and when we get paid are catastrophic. Our clients are nervous due to words such as ‘economic downturn’ and are holding back and reducing budgets.

We’re calling on the state and federal governments to act now before this diverse and talented industry sector collapses.

How freelancers and sole traders can be better supported

We recognise that change does not happen overnight, however, we do believe we have the right to equal access to the stimulus addressing the impact of coronavirus (COVID 19). Most of us do not have the cash ready to be able to spend to a $30K cap limit, let alone the increased $150k until 30 June 2020. Nor do we employ people or have the need to do so.

Matching immediate freelancer needs means:

·        Providing a specific grant or emergency fund for freelancers who travel, work in the arts and/or high impact sectors to reinvent their business to adapt their offering

·        Extending the $1 billion in funds set aside for specific economic regions that will be heavily impacted by the loss of arts, travel and tourism to the workers (often freelance) who support it both locally and remotely

·        Taking Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s suggestion that suppliers should be paid on time or even in advance into actionable legislation by introducing mandatory 30 day pay cycles for all outstanding invoices, regardless of sector

·        Ensuring we don’t go broke for being sick. The average weekly wage according to the ABS is $1658.70. That is much higher than the proposed Newstart payment of $565 a fortnight for singles

·        Easing the proof of income qualifications to raise the savings limit and judge income on the immediate 30 days instead of quarterly or yearly earnings

·        Access to one-off safety net payments for people that become ill to cover the anticipated 4 to 8-week period away from the business

·        Using the Business Connect program as a means of hearing concerns, gaining information and offering government assets to educate and assist us

·        Providing specific and tailored support in debt collection scenarios for freelancers

·        Active promotion of remote working situations and promotion of freelancers as viable, enabled and accessible supports to all Australian business.

Addressing medium to long term impacts as a matter of priority such as:

·        The disqualification of freelancers from appropriate insurance if they have accessed the mental health 10 sessions

·        Providing appropriate access to mediation, advice and support in late payment, low payment and refusal to pay post work completion scenarios often faced by freelancers

·        Access to funds and/or appropriate in-kind programs to offset the negative impacts of poor cashflow during downturn, disaster, pandemic and other high impacts

·        Getting Australia properly engaged with and ready to work remotely through incentives, education and infrastructure.

We are innovators who have designed our own jobs to solve issues such as workplace inflexibility; to be engaged parents; a lack of regional job opportunities; a lack of access and inclusion when working with disability, health and mental health issues; perceived gaps in the labour market; to avoid bullying or toxic work environments; to create new ideas and opportunities and more. 

Help us to help keep the economy going by supporting our needs, too!