Opinion. Small business is under attack.

The situation in the world right now with the Coronavirus is going to fundamentally change the way we work and I see self-employment as being under attack.  Everyone should be able to work the way they want. Be it as a gig worker, independent contractor, service provider, employee, business owner….whatever it is!  If we can make money doing it (and it is not illegal) then you should have the freedom to choose what you do to make money and how you do it. 

The Coronavirus public health crisis is bringing to light the way we work and integrate our work and our life.  Work has become our primary identity, especially as people are choosing to step away from communities like a church community or a hobby community, a bowling league….people just aren’t as involved in activities outside of work as they used to be.  We often don’t have a community outside of work, and therefore work becomes our community and our identity, and that can be a very dangerous thing, especially when it’s suddenly taken away.

My TEDx talk “The Three Words That Will Change Your Life”, addresses what happens when our identities get wrapped up in work and how hard it is to break that cycle. Kinda like a bad relationship cycle where It’s like, “But it fills me up and when it’s great, it’s so good, but when it’s bad, it’s so bad and I don’t know how to get out of it”.  Then when your finances, healthcare, retirement plans, and social group are all tied up in that it can be really hard to leave. The choice to be self-employed is a hard one, but it’s getting harder…which is crazy to me because Americans are so driven by the identity of being an individual. Americans won’t be told to eat healthy, stay home, not own guns, practice a specific religion or lifestyle or being told they can’t. Americans want to do what we want in our own way. So it’s no surprise that self-employment is so popular, yet it’s not being well supported during this crisis. What I am seeing during this time is that most of us feel like we are failing, at everything, all the time. Right now it’s really hard to be a full-time parent, full-time employee/boss/business owner, full-time spouse, and still process the trauma of what we are going through during this pandemic. 

When you add to that the fact that it’s getting harder for gig workers and contractors to find work independently with States like California categorizing most workers as employees, it’s even harder for those out of work right now to simply pick up digital gigs while they are ordered home by the government. Trying to find work on something like Upwork, Fiverr or Rev is near impossible if you have an address in California due to AB5. Not be able to pick up gig work that you can do on the internet is ridiculous to me right now. States are pushing contractors to rely on unemployment rather than their own ability to work.  Then when you finally get into Government help for small businesses, the self-employed, independent contractors businesses aren’t being treated the same.

The Self-Employed weren’t even able to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program until a week this program rolled out to formal corporations and businesses.  30% of the nation’s workforce were self-employed as of 2019. The self-employed accounted for 44 million jobs. That’s a lot of jobs created by the self-employed. It’s estimated that there are over 16-million people who are self-employed, Solopreneurs who pay themselves on a draw and not on a W-2 paycheck.  Yet, this sector is still being treated like second class businesses because they generally don’t have existing borrowing relationships with banks, don’t have lawyers on call for help and don’t also have accountants or CPAs to help navigate these programs. 

It’s estimated right now as the self-employed and solos are able to apply for things like the paycheck protection program apply for things like an economic injury that there are over 26 million Solopreneurs who pay themselves on a draw and not a W2 yet. That sector, that sector, that accounts for 44 million jobs was not allowed to apply for the paycheck protection program until a week after other companies had been allowed to apply.

There is still this secondary treatment of the self-employed through even getting aid during coronavirus. The cares act allows self-employed individuals and in that, I’m lumping in, you know, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, gig workers, all, all y’all self-employed are being treated less than and less valuable than traditional companies that pay W2’s are being treated as if they aren’t as important, but this is 30% of the workforce. This is a big deal, but when the cares act rolled out, unemployment for self-employed, most States still don’t have that up and running. When they rolled out the paycheck protection program, including self-employed businesses, they couldn’t apply until a week later and then can’t always apply at their bank. If they don’t have a lending relationship. A lot of people who are self-employed try not to take on business debt. That’s their choice to work the way they want to work and to make their work and their life look different.

I keep seeing attacks on small business in news stories, on social media, and in conversations. Businesses should be prepared, people should be prepared with savings and a disaster plan. Did anyone (well I am sure some did, but it wasn’t the dominant conversation) have these discussions with the banking industry in 2008 when they needed a bailout for a situation they created?? This pandemic caused government forced closures of non-essential business, unlike anything we have lived through. This is unanticipated and for some business ending and it wasn’t caused by the industry themselves.

I am frustrated, I am with you and I don’t know how to make it better at the moment. If you need to save your business do it, apply for the PPP, if it doesn’t fit the EIDL might. If that doesn’t then unemployment. You didn’t cause this, this is an unprecedented event and it’s ok to be in survival mode. Don’t let anyone, or anything makes you feel like your business isn’t worth saving.  You’ve got this, hang in their friend. If you want to hear my full rant on this…it’s in Episode 29 of Get Legit Law & Sh!t. 

Emily D. Baker, Esq.

Emily D. Baker, Esq.

Badass Lawyer for Online Business

Emily has been running business for 15 years and has ove 13 years of legal experience. She spent 10 years at the Los Angeles County District attorney's office where she truly learned to be a solopreneur. Emily has built her consulting and speaking business from the ground up, in her garage jamming out to 90's music. She specializes in no BS practical advice for the starting and scaling online entreprenur. Emily will tell you what the business gurus can't in a way that is both hillarious and empowering.

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