Updates for Freelancers and SMEs regarding COVID-19

March 16, 2020

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are conscious that new measures are being put in place by countries, organisations, and individuals globally. We are aware of the potential negative impact that COVID-19 will have on many freelancers and small-to-medium sized businesses not only nationally, but globally. Our Business Advisers are on hand to advise any of our members being impacted. More importantly, we have created a list of useful resources below outlining the latest advice for freelancers and SMEs. This webpage will be updated regularly by our team with live information as and when we become aware of any further support available for you and your business during this uncertain time. Of course, our Business Advisers are also on hand for business advice meetings with members of our BRT community via skype or phone to discuss any further business challenges you may be facing. To book an appointment via skype or phone with one of our Business Advisers click here.

Communication

In difficult times communication is the number one skill required. Whether you are communicating with employees, customers or support networks. COVID – 19 has brought extremely hard times not only for the short term but will have a profound impact on businesses in the long term. Here are a few things to think about with regards to communication.

  • Communicate early with employees and customers. The earlier they know the effect it is having on your business the better.
  • Be honest, if things are tough and let all parties know. People don’t like surprises.
  • Ask for help. Its ok to ask for help! Everyone is going through this worldwide and businesses are all facing the same problems. Communicate through social media channels with other business owners and share solutions and the stress. Let supplier know and ask for longer payment terms or rent reductions. Phone HMRC for help and extensions on tax bills. Most importantly let your customers know how important the money is for the survival of your business. It is not a sign of weakness!

Small Businesses

Financial Support

  • Loans for businesses with a turnover below £41m
  • Businesses with <250 employees will be eligible to have the cost of 14 days sick pay per employee refunded in full
  • A £3,000 cash grant will be made available to 700,000 small businesses, accessed through Local Authorities
  • Business rates for properties with a rateable value under £51,000 will be reduced to zero for 2020–21

Freelancers

Universal Credit / Employment

The government has removed the minimum income floor for Universal Credit, making it easier for the self-employed to quality for Universal Credit.

They have also opened access to the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) from the first day of illness, rather than the eighth. This amounts to £73.10/week for those over 25 or £57.90/week for those under.

Contracts

“People are cancelling all my work.” Hopefully you have a contract in place and you can call upon the cancelation policy. Having said that also remember other businesses are in the same position. If you can offer a payment plan, you should. It is more likely to help the relationship with the customer and maintain future businesses.

Tax

As with my first and most important point about communication this definitely applies with HMRC. They have setup a helpline 0800 0159 559 for businesses that are worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to pay tax bills. This help line will let businesses to set up a payment plan. The quicker you phone and sort this out the better. It will free a lot of headspace to deal with other challenges.

The budget will help

  • Refund for businesses and employers required to access Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • A 100 per cent Business Rates retail discount for one year and expanded to include leisure and hospitality sectors
  • Additional £2.2 billion funding support for those small businesses that pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR)
  • A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service

Helpful links

Business Gateway – Risk Management – Continuity Planning

Remote Working Tools

Since the move to online working, many people are asking questions about what tools they should use. There is a plethora of online programmes and resources that can help you navigate the ‘home working’ environment. Here are a few we have found helpful. Please feel free to email us here and add any suggestions to the list.

  • Zoom – Great for video conferences, webinars, and phone. The free version can be used for chats with up to 100 individuals, however they cut your webinar time at around the 30 minute mark.
  • Google Classroom – Classroom helps students and teachers organise assignments, boost collaboration, and foster better communication. 
  • Medial – Imagine a video and audio streaming system that flawlessly works behind the scenes, allowing you to Create, Manage, Deliver and View all your content within an all-inclusive turnkey solution that you can run either On Premises or in the Cloud. This platform is great for both education and business. 
  • Google Hangouts – Secure, encrypted content. Stream conference calls in HD. Hosts up to 50 pax. Gather up to 50 members in a call.

General resources

Creative Scotland have pulled together resources that can help creatives that are affected by the current economic climate.

Johnston Carmichael have published a comprehensive article containing practical business actions.

A very good view at things to do in a downturn by seed-stage venture firm NFX

This one is for those of you that need to move their content online – a number of things to consider together with some handy tools by Times Higher Education.

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