"I lost every contract within the space of a week and a half" - CIPR submits freelancer evidence to Government

PR Practitioners operating as directors of limited companies are still ineligible for any government support, although some practitioners report to having lost every client contract and 100% of their income within a week and a half. One mother returning from maternity leave had her clients postpone all work until August.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has written to HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Labour Party with this evidence and more. A summary of all the evidence we received is below.

The stories shared follows the Institute’s call for anecdotal evidence from practitioners. It also follows research showing the government’s support package fails to protect two-thirds of freelancers, with half having already lost 60% or more of their income.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who took the time to share their stories with us. The data we published with The PR Cavalry recently clearly highlighted the lack of support available to a significant number within our profession. This anecdotal evidence paints a much more worrying picture; a profession stressed and worried as much about the future of its ability to work as well as the immediate impact of coronavirus.

These are professionals delivering valuable services, contributing to the economy up and down the country and supporting bigger organisations, the public sector and charities. They feel they are being treated unfairly and we agree. We are calling on the Government to extend the support available and will continue to work with the business lobby groups to ensure this message gets through.
Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive

Anecdotal evidence – a summary

The evidence paints a stark picture of stressed practitioners across the country who have lost anywhere from 50%-100% of their income and client accounts in a matter of weeks. One lost all their clients in a week and a half. Money has already been committed to projects which have since been cancelled, whilst office bills still need to be paid.

There is a common feeling of being “punished”, “treated unfairly”, and being “left with no choices”. Many of those who contacted us point to their long careers contributing to the economy and paying taxes only to be “left behind” by the Government when they need support the most. We heard from directors of limited companies ineligible for any support, as well as from those who have recently become self-employed and lack the trading history needed to access support. We heard from those who specialise in the travel, tourism, retail and events industries who have been particularly hard hit.

The call from these professionals is not for handouts but for access to support that their freelance counterparts are able to receive whilst being allowed to continue to work. Many feel they are left with little choice or support; unable to survive on their furloughed salary (due to being paid largely through dividends) or on the income they receive from the small number of clients they have retained. If they do furlough themselves, they risk losing clients completely and some have pointed out that freelancers able to claim under the Self-employed Income Support Scheme have benefitted by gaining those clients. The feeling of being “treated unfairly” stems from the fact that these self-employed practitioners are able to claim financial support whilst still working.

There is a widespread misconception that operating as directors of limited companies is some kind of tax dodge. In fact many are required by public sector clients to operate in this way and recently many have switched from being self-employed to being company directors in preparation for the impending extension of IR35. They feel they are now being “punished” for making ready to comply with the law, given that they would have been better off staying self-employed.

The lack of support available has been compounded by clients extending payment terms and, for some, this has meant an income of £0 for the coming months. One household with children currently has no income at all to survive on. One response came from a new mum about to come back from maternity leave. She has managed to keep her clients by having a freelancer work on them while she was has been off. All her work has now been put on hold until August. Those with the luxury of savings are dipping into them to pay bills but also are unable to claim universal credit. Some are forced to sell assets and one is now considering selling their home.

This is a group of practitioners who “want to work their way out of this”. Many are now working pro-bono as it is the only work they can do. Most of all they are concerned about the long-term impact of not working, of losing clients and the wellbeing of their families if they are unable to financially support them.


About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)

Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).