'Gig economy' barely surviving during lockdown
As digital connectivity deepened across the world came the invention of the “gig economy”. Everyone could be their own boss, free from the shackles of a 9-to-5 day. They could create the kind of content they wanted through designing, song writing, and more - diversifying income streams without holding down a full-time job.
However, the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns have put a pause on many innovative careers, leaving many at their wits end and some not even eligible to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Freelance graphic designer Nkanyezi Sibanda said it has been a tough month for him because work opportunities have dwindled.
“Now, in the time of Covid-19, we freelancers are jobless, hopefully temporarily, but for how long? Weeks? Months? Nobody knows - and, in the meantime, many of us are applying for unemployment benefits, raiding our savings and desperately searching for whatever work we can find; casual workers and independent contractors can’t get redundant,” he said.
He added that under normal circumstances, by this time of the month he would have had several briefs from clients who need him to work on their logos, presentations, etc.
“Unfortunately, business has slowed down because things have slowed down on their end too. Many businesses can’t afford the services of a freelance graphic designer such as myself.”
Singer-songwriter, TV presenter and creative entrepreneur Pilani Bubu echoed Sibanda’s sentiments on the difficulties faced by those in the gig economy.
“I’ve been working on content and trying to find ways to pitch content that can be created from home, that can be aligned with brands sponsors and partners, to be able to continue staying afloat.
“I also have been focusing on how to sell my merchandise so I have websites and Shopify set up,” she said, adding that many artists have had to resort to self-promoting, which can come across as being insensitive during these times.
Arts 24 Academy founder Mlamli Maloyi during a performance at Protea Glen hall
“That’s how we make a living - by being out there expressing ourselves, and then hoping that someone will pay for that.”
The 35-year-old said she found it challenging asking for support.
“At a time like this, when is it a good time to ask for money, especially seeing that other companies are also going through this economic crisis?”
Advertising executive Asanda Khanyile, 29, said as businesses make less money they spend less on advertising and that most newspapers, radio stations, websites are all funded by advertisers.
“In the advertising space, it’s been tough for us. By this time we would’ve had a significant number of ads out across various mediums but that has slowed down because businesses are spending less on advertising. So this will determine how consumers change their media habits. People are using social media so much more now.
“Covid-19 has brought unforeseen challenges for all of us as citizens of the world and as a community. We are all trying to get into a routine of working closely in a respectful and disciplined way with all our colleagues and clients,” she said, and advised that the best way moving forward is to tailor-make solutions for each client based on their needs.
Performance artist and founder of arts academy Art Twenty Four Academy Mlamli Maloyi (29) said the lockdown has affected many performers’ livelihoods.
“I mainly depend on physical income which is from door-takings, payments from gigs, and all of that together makes out what you earn that month. So if there are none of these gigs happening then clearly there’s no income at all. Unfortunately, in theatre, our work is more physical than anything else,” he said.
Maloyi said the academy, which consists of 58 performers, would have been able to put on six shows this month but he had to shelf his plans because of the lockdown.