Are you a creative who gets confused about what to call yourself? Freelancer? Gig worker? Well, you’re not the only one. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Why? Freelancers and gig workers are classifications that the government doesn’t necessarily recognize. What does matter is how your work gets classified because it will translate into how you qualify for things like unemployment or even how you pay your taxes.
At Whipsmart we know that creative people aren’t the traditional nine-to-fivers and that you generally don’t sit behind a desk all day. (Government agencies call this kind of work, wait for it, “non-traditional"). You may straddle several different jobs and identify as a freelancer while holding a steady part-time job, for example, or maybe you are temporarily employed on a project for several months full time, and then take shorter gigs to fill in the gaps.
So when you find yourself staring at those confusing, never-straightforward government forms wondering which box to check, you may think to yourself: “what a clusterf*ck.”
We’re right there with you because we tried to figure out what all those boxes mean, too. We knew that the lack of a standard definition creates serious problems for how you pay taxes, and your ability to receive social services like healthcare, unemployment insurance and pandemic relief.
This crazy journey started early in the pandemic when we organized over two dozen focus groups and interviewed over 250 people to talk about the recovery and learned the social safety net was not working for you.
So we knocked on some doors in Olympia. The Governor's door. The Department of Commerce's door. And a legislative office or two. We spent hours sifting through the Internal Revenue Service and Washington State Department of Revenue definitions on websites.
We dug into the data available, and produced some our own reports, too. We reached out to an accountant to write a guide so self-employed creatives can better understand their tax implications. And we discovered that government has a lot of catching up to do with new and changing models of employment in the creative industries.
This is a big picture issue that the creative industries will need to work on together. This will take time, but now, it’s tax season.
Here’s the first in a series of handy reference tools we put together using what we learned to help cut through the messy red tape and translate government-speak into information you can use that will help level you up.