Matt Keen: no safety net for ad people in Covid-19 if you’re limited by being Ltd

This all happened so fast. Frighteningly fast.

I was about to meet a friend but he said he was going to choir practice instead. Meanwhile my wife explained she was going to a friend’s for dinner. I’d heard the news and was worried. Being the cautious type, I explained that I thought this was potentially a very serious situation, which needed to be taken seriously.

Choir practice and dinner never happened. Four weeks (years?) later and I’m going shopping in a virus proof mask, balaclava and a full face motorcycle crash helmet. Welcome to the new norm.

We’ve all been trying to find our feet this past month. I’m trying to teach a five year old from home four days a week, while my wife works harder than ever for The Early Years Alliance. Part of their remit is to work with domestic abuse cases, which sadly have gone through the roof.

I’ve been a Freelance Ad Agency producer for 16 years now, working at over 30 agencies. I’d love a permanent role but that’s another story. I’ve been trying to maintain a sense of normality by keeping in touch with Ad industry news through sites like Linkedin and More About Advertising. It’s nice to think that we may return to normality at some point, and I want to be well positioned and informed about the state of play when we come through this.

I envy full time staff that have been furloughed at 80% of their salary. I’m glad that the self employed are able to receive assistance from the government. I’m self employed but also registered as a Limited company, at the advice of my accountant some years ago. There has been much discussion of this on Linkedin and it appears that some people like me have slipped though the government’s safety net.

I saw a post by legendary copywriter Chas Bayfield that got me thinking about the concept of being ‘Limited’. Chas and I got in touch (remotely, of course) and came up with an ad for those in our situation #WeAreLtd, beautifully designed by Martin Casson. Chas wrote some copy and we put it up on Linkedin. The post was viewed over 11,000 times in just two days. For comparison, government statistics estimate that there are 19,000 self employed people currently working in advertising.

Both Chas and I have been in contact with our accountants (big firms, not a bloke above a chip shop) within the last few hours, and even they are unsure of what help is available to those in our position. If they don’t know, what hope do we have as creatives and producers, plumbers and photographers? What I do know is that one year I remember paying more tax than Facebook.

With seemingly no end in sight to this crisis (and no way of knowing when we’ll next find work when we’re allowed to) is it too much to ask to get some clear information and a little financial help from @RishiSunak now, however ‘Limited’?

#WeAreLtd

Matt Keen is a freelance producer.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.