Celebrating my sixth business birthday – in lockdown

I was not expecting to be celebrating my sixth business birthday in lockdown.

I would usually write a blog post around this time reflecting on the last year, but it seems hard to remember anything that happened before March 23 at the moment.

So, I thought I’d write a little bit about the reality of being self-employed in the middle of a global pandemic.

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Juggling work with home-schooling

Covid-19 has caused massive upheaval for everyone and as with everything, there are positives and negatives.

My children were sent home indefinitely from school on March 19 and we’ve been home-schooling ever since – with fantastic support from the school, I might add.

Being self-employed has always allowed me to work around my family and this flexibility has enabled me to pretty much drop everything to play teacher while my husband works from home.

Obviously, the flip side is that everything has been dropped – my last workshop was on March 17 and only three people attended out of a sold-out class of 12.

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Dealing with workshop cancellations

Since the lockdown started, I have unfortunately had to cancel:

  • 10 workshops at my regular venues
  • 3 private workshops
  • 2 talks/demos for the WI
  • The summer term for my weekly classes

The cancellation of my weekly classes has been particularly hard as the groups have been together for quite some time and we were working towards some exciting things.

We were hoping to create an exhibition based on everything we have learned so far and we were looking at ways to access funding to do so.

But we had to press pause, particularly as some of the people who attend my classes are at higher risk from the coronavirus.

We were also looking forward to being part of the The Art of Handwriting Conference at Newcastle University in July, which has sadly been cancelled.

Other events I was excited to be involved in as an artist for the first time, namely The Late Shows and the Make and Mend Festival, have also been cancelled.

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Keeping in touch with customers

Fortunately, most workshops have been quickly rescheduled, as I already had dates pencilled in with my regular venues for my autumn/winter programme.

(You can see all the latest dates here.)

I did consider the possibility of moving my workshops online, but I just don’t think I have the time or the headspace to do it justice at the moment.

I did create some calligraphy care packages for my weekly groups though and I am still able to send out supplies and worksheets.

I’m also keeping in touch with people via my social media pages and newsletter, as well as my blog – so hopefully I’ll still have a customer base when all this is over.

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What does the future hold?

I must admit, at times I have wondered if Creative Calligraphy will see its seventh birthday.

But I’m holding on to the hope that come September, things will be different.

Some of my losses have also been covered by the Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund for Individuals and the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

I’m hoping the latter will be extended until October, like the furlough scheme.

I’ve also had some commissions, which I wasn’t expecting at all during lockdown, particularly with the uncertainty around weddings, so that has been a welcome boost – even if it has meant going back to working in the evenings and at weekends, like when I first started out in 2014.

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Taking a financial hit

Financially, the biggest hit has been the loss of my freelance PR work at The Customs House in South Shields, which is currently closed.

Theatres and cultural venues up and down the country – and around the world – are facing an uncertain future – and that goes for creative and cultural businesses too.

The Government has set up a Cultural Renewal Taskforce to help things get back up and running, so we’ll have to see how that pans out.

In the meantime, I’ll keep plodding on and thinking positive and staying safe.

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