Matt Keen is one of UK advertising's 'limited' – a freelance producer who, like many colleagues, registered as a limited company and is now finding government financial support hard to come by. Here he explains why he's campaigning for that to change.
Anyone else shitting their pants right now?
Not just because you’re afraid of Covid-19, but because you don’t know when you’ll next get some work.
It’s good that full-time staff 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. Because of a technicality I knew nothing about, the government have now decided that I’m on my own.
There has been much discussion of this situation on Linkedin. There are 4.5 million individuals registered as Ltd Co’s in the UK. Anyone else shitting their pants right now? Too bloody right there are.
I was on Linkedin one day when 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 has been viewed 17,000 times since it went up. For comparison, government statistics estimate that there are 19,000 self-employed people currently working in advertising, and many will be in the same position as Chas and I, with no government financial support. Next we made a little film with the help of James Cook at madewithus.com, who’s also Ltd. And there’s more to come.
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 Linkedin and The Drum. I’d rather not be playing catch up when we come through this.
Everyone’s circumstances are different. Personally, I’m doing all the teaching of our five-year-old four days a week (do not underestimate how hard and tiring this is for me), while my wife works like crazy for a charity, trying to deal with cases of domestic abuse which have gone through the roof.
Yesterday a complete bombshell arrived in my inbox from the headmaster of our primary school that kept me up for most of last night. It informed me that my daughter would not be going back to school until September. That’s four months away. Now I’m the sensible type, so normally put away more than I need to for the taxman. But I can’t do any form of work, however menial, for the next four months. With no government financial assistance. Also, there’s the small matter of when things return to normality, how long will it take me to find some work? What will the advertising landscape look like? Answers on a postcard, please.
Both Chas and I have been in contact with our accountants (big firms, not a bloke above a chip shop) within the last few days, 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.
So, I’ve paid my taxes. Is it too much to ask to get some clear information and a little financial help from the government, however ‘Ltd’?
You can help. Get on Linkedin, follow @RishiSunak, and badger him (politely, of course) every time he posts about all the wonderful things they’re doing. You could change your profile pic to our logo, whether this affects you personally, or out of solidarity. And of course, use the hashtag #WeAre Ltd with a link to the film.
Matt Keen is a freelance producer. You can see the Ltd film in his LinkedIn post below.