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Gig workers hit hard during COVID-19 | Covid-19

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TIFTON — While many businesses have temporarily closed their doors to help curb the spread of COVID-19, those who work in the gig economy are seeing the most immediate side effects of social distancing.

Gig workers are those who don’t have a traditional full time job but instead work on a contract, or gig, basis.

Tifton native Daniel Shippey, a photographer, has lost more than $6,000 in cancelled jobs this spring. Most of his work revolves around large-scale events.

While most of the cancelled events are large music events and commercial photoshoots, Shippey also shoots weddings.

“I’ve had two weddings reschedule,” he said in a remote interview. “There is possibly a third one about to reschedule. Thank God they’re not canceling. No one is currently booking new photoshoots. This makes it very difficult for me to budget. I’m in a similar position as musicians. If we don’t have gigs we don’t get paid.”

Shippey currently has no paid shoots on the books until a wedding on May 23, and even that event may be rescheduled. If that wedding reschedules he will have no paid work until the middle of August.

To make up for the lost revenue, Shippey has started selling art prints of his work from around the country, but said that hasn’t put a dent in his losses or made up for lost revenue.

Additionally, Shippey has concerns about COVID-19 itself.

“I’m very concerned over the health of my parents because they’re in their mid-70s,” he said.

He expressed concerns about the virus spreading, particularly from hard-hit Albany. While social distancing is the way to go, he has concerns about how that will affect his life and business.

“How long can we sustain this sort of lifestyle?” he said. “Some experts are saying unemployment could be 30% by the summer. I really wish our country had been better prepared for this pandemic. I’m afraid it will get much much worse before getting better.”

Shippey worries about the future.

“I have some money saved, but what will happen if this goes on through the summer,” he said. “Will I be able to pay my studio rent in downtown Tifton? I’ve been there 11 years as part of the downtown business community. I love my space. It’s a haven for me to work on the backend of projects and to prepare for new ones. I still do a few shoots there as well.”

Shippey said he recently gave up his apartment in Nashville, Tenn and has concerns about making it in Tifton, which is a much smaller market for his services, which are mainly entertainment and commercial photography.

“Tifton has been good to me but as my career transitioned over the years I found myself getting less work here,” he said. “I can’t live off of $150 photoshoots. This is why I’ve traveled so much. Clients elsewhere pay much better typically. I can’t travel right now though, at least not for the foreseeable future.”

He said that he looks at not having to pay rent on multiple properties as a silver lining.

“I am very concerned that COVID-19 will continue to negatively affect my business,” he said. “I hope none of what I’ve said is sensational or dramatic. I know some people and corporations are losing billions right now. I’m just a simple creative entrepreneur trying to find his way.”

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