The Professional Briefing: April 2020

This is an updated version of the information we sent you in an email recently. I can act as a signposter in these very difficult times. I can point you towards help – such as it is – but regrettably I have no magic wand. We are a broad church and members do very different things within food writing. Some sectors are already hit very hard indeed. I am sorry that some members have already had to put catering and teaching businesses on hold or, sadly, close. Others are trying to run delivery or online services in place of their normal work. It’s hard to be a restaurant reviewer if the restaurants are closed. Freelancers who are used to working at home may have an advantage but the financial situation for them is already precarious in many cases and a lack of advertising revenue is going to make things worse. There are still opportunities and specifically targeted articles may find favour.

If anyone owes you money, claim it now – get your invoices in, chase any overdue ones and claim any expenses owed.

The government has said it will help people through this crisis and you will find a useful digest for small businesses and the self-employed at simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/articles/2020/03/coronavirus-support-for-small-business/.

The government’s own page is here gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-employees-employers-and-businesses.

Help for the self-employed – which directly concerns a great number of our members – is detailed here: gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-gives-support-to-millions-of-self-employed-individuals However there are lots of questions still to be answered especially for the newly self-employed without three years of accounts. There is speculation and assurances were given that people would not be left out. Unfortunately the safety net may just be universal credit, which is fairly difficult to access according to reports. The self-employed scheme as it is described by the government does not pay out until June anyway. If this is going to cause serious difficulty for you, you should ask for a mortgage / rent / credit card holiday, any ‘free’ overdraft your bank is offering and make sure your accounts are up to date.

In this rapidly changing situation, despite the toll on your morale, it is wise to keep up to date. Martin Lewis’ site is a good place to do this: moneysavingexpert.com. There is a lot of well-researched information on the various measures in place and those which are proposed.

In your local area there may be help and support. Social media especially Facebook can be a good place to find out about community initiatives – whether you need help or whether you can offer any. Search for your borough, town, village etc.

The Guild’s Facebook Forum has been proving an invaluable resource, with members supporting each other, pooling information and not least providing companionship. If you’re already a member, do drop in; if not, email jonathan@gfw.co.uk and we will fast-track you into the group. I’d like to pay particular tribute to Kristen for cheerleading and marshalling, ably assisted by her team of moderators. And where would we be without Jonathan? Thank you all.

ALCS (the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society) recently tweeted that, although their staff were all working remotely, the March distribution ‘would’ go ahead as planned and members could expect their secondary royalties in their bank accounts next week. If you are not registered and you are a published writer, use this time to get around to doing this very simple thing. It costs you NOTHING up front – membership fees and commission come out of your payments from them. Go to the website alcs.co.uk and register. You will need the details of all your books and magazine articles with their ISBN / ISSN. If you are already a member of ALCS, make sure your published works details are up to date.

If you have published books, ensure you’re registered for Public Lending Rights (PLR) – plr.uk.com – and make sure your latest works are included as they are published.

Depending on the sort of writing you do (whether it passes the ‘Literary Merit’ test – non-fiction is NOT precluded), if the current situation causes you serious financial difficulties, you may be able to apply to the Royal Literary Fund – rlf.org.uk.

The Guild of Food Writers has its own Benevolent Fund – much more modest than that of the Royal Literary Fund – but the committee would endeavour to help anyone in dire need. Please be aware this is for people in extremis, as we do not have the means to help everyone.

If you need any more information or have any other ideas that might be of assistance to your fellow members, please feel free to contact me directly via iamsarahbeattie@gmail.com.