I admit. I’m a bit of a pro at social isolation. It’s my default and (truth be told) preferred state. I looooooove being at home.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t also love spending time with friends and colleagues. I do. But my social “battery,” so to speak, is never really charged all that well. I’m a textbook introvert.
On top of that, I already work at home. In addition to being a dance instructor and performer, I’m a freelance writer.
Home is my sanctuary, and I’m happy to be here.
But because dance instruction and performance bring in a significant chunk of my income, times like these are, well, scary. And I can sense the collective apprehension and uncertainty from beyond the comfort of our cozy little flat.
As it stands, I’ve already lost a few lucrative local performance gigs, and two out-of-town workshop/performance weekends were cancelled or postponed.
In addition, I suspect that new and newer students are avoiding coming to class. My beginner classes are often much more full at this time of year, especially now that we’re back to Daylight Savings Time… but the class numbers have been low.
So, if self-employment financial anxiety weren’t already a challenge… it definitely is now. And I know many performers and artists are much more adversely affected than I have been.
Many of us already live precarious lives when it comes to income. Times like these can feel daunting.
So, what can we do to support each other?
Even if we shouldn’t be out around larger groups of people, we can still connect and grow. In fact, this might be the perfect opportunity to try that new thing or project that you keep thinking about.
Here are 8 ways you can help out your creative, independent, freelancer, small business, and self-employed friends.
1. Take an online class.
So so so many of us offer online instruction.
If you’re unable to go to class, hit up your favorite dance teacher and see if they’ll work with you online. Maybe they have online offerings already. And many instructors are offering discounts and reduced rates for other artists feeling the financial squeeze of so many cancellations and shut downs.
Reach out to your favorite educators and ask them if they offer distance learning options. You’d be surprised how many already do!
2. Use Patreon and Ko-Fi.
Many artists and educators have Patreon and Ko-Fi accounts. That extra 5 dollars a month might not seem a lot to you, but if a hundred people pledged the same, that’s a big chunk of someone’s rent!
Or maybe you don’t want to commit to a monthly payment. I use Ko-Fi for donations, and I’m always surprised at how much people give. And don’t forget that there’s always good old PayPal and Venmo.
Maybe throw a coin to your artist?
3. Buy their stuff.
Is a musician friend of yours lamenting a month or more worth of cancelled gigs?
Buy their album. Buy merch. Or see point #2 above.
With regard to buying music: Online streaming has really gutted the music industry. I know of several bands who have had to quit because they can no longer afford to produce albums. Spotify and streaming services don’t pay well. YouTube only pays $0.00074 per stream. Spotify pays a measly $0.00437. The “artist-friendly” TIDAL service only pays $0.01284.
If you buy an album (not even a physical album, but a digital download), a band or musician will make about $0.70 – $0.80 per song. You’d have to stream that song hundreds of times for the artist to make the same on Spotify.
Do your musician friends a favor and buy their album. Buy a print from a visual artist. Buy a handmade item from a maker friend. And see #2 and #5 for your performance art friends.
4. Buy gift cards.
Many creative types, service, and food businesses offer gift cards. Buy one for yourself, a friend, or a family member.
You’ll be putting real money in the pocket of a small business that they can use now, when they really need it. And you’ll have something to look forward to later. Think of it as a reward for being so diligent about social distancing.
5. Book a performer for a future show.
Eventually, we’ll all be able to go out again. We’ll have birthday parties, wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations, and engagements… and those gatherings will need entertainment!
So why not book a performer now for an event in the future?
And when you do, pay them a deposit now. You’ll not only be securing their services, but also you’ll be making it easier for a professional performer to pay their bills, eat, and just generally survive in the next few weeks.
6. Share on social.
Many of my dancer and performer colleagues are promoting their online classes and private lessons on social media.
Even if you can’t spend the money on these services yourself, share their posts to get the word out.
Several people have been compiling spreadsheets and other resources, too. A resourceful member of the Bay Area Gigs and Work group on Facebook has been maintaining a “Quarantine University” survey, which just keeps growing with some great offerings!
7. Reach out.
I admit that I’m not great at reaching out to people, either to check on them or when I need help. Which is one of the reasons I’m writing this post. Emotional outreach isn’t my strong suit, but education and ideas are.
But for those of you with those emotional and interpersonal skills (and the energy to do so), reach out to your friends who might be adversely affected by the current situation.
My social media feeds are flooded with artist and independent educator friends lamenting lost work and income. Combined with general anxiety about the state of the world, let alone worrying about getting severely ill (which can also cut into our incomes, because freelancers don’t have paid sick leave), it’s a recipe for real emotional struggles.
Even if you can’t donate financial help, a little expression of care and compassion can go a very long way… especially as we’re physically isolating ourselves from our communities.
8. Advocate for those in need.
I understand that this suggestion is an energy-intensive one. But it’s likely that many people—not just creatives—might be unable to pay their rents/mortgages and/or utilities because our economy is so interconnected.
If you find yourself with extra energy that you’d typically use to go out with friends, go to a concert, or see a show, redirect it to help those who make those evenings happen.
Write or call your local legislators to demand that late fees, shut offs, and evictions be waived. Donate to your local charities that help underserved communities. Spread the word about the importance of social isolation in protecting those vulnerable to COVID-19: people over 60, the immunocompromised, and those with diabetes and existing heart and lung disease.
We can show compassion and care, even from the solitude of our homes.
Let’s be heroes to each other in this challenging time by being creative and making sure that we’ve got each other’s backs.
Though we live in trying times
We’re the ones who have to try
Though we know that time has wings
We’re the ones who have to fly
– Rush, “Everyday Glory”