Emma Gannon: “Coronavirus will change the way we work in the future profoundly”

The Multi-hyphen Method author and podcaster Emma Gannon chatted to Stylist about what it’s like to be a freelancer right now, the future of flexible working and her new online bookclub.

While the government continues to roll out its plans to cover people’s incomes during the coronavirus pandemic, self-employed people are still waiting to hear what package they will be offered. Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out plans for 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers last week, and it’s expected that he will announce similar protection for the self-employed later this week. Considering there were 4.8 million self-employed people in the UK in 2018 –which was 15% of the working population – that’s a lot of people who are no-doubt carrying an extra worry about their finances right now.  

And if there’s one person who knows all about the types of worries that come with being self-employed, it’s multi-hyphen freelancer Emma Gannon. 

Gannon is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Multi-Hyphen Method and Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online. Her podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, is the number one careers podcast in the UK, with over 6 million downloads. She’s also just started an online book club –The Hyphen Book Club – ahead of the publication of her first novel, Olive.

Stylist caught up with her to talk about what it’s like to be freelance at the minute, and find out all about her new online book club.

Can you explain the worries experienced by self-employed people right now?

It’s very frustrating to feel left out from big conversations yet again. Even though the government says it is currently working on a package (fingers crossed!), it feels like we have been left hanging and it’s making people anxious. 

It’s something I have written about before. For example, freelancers are penalised for trying to get on the property ladder even when their earnings over time are similar to someone on PAYE. The systems aren’t in place to support us and I hope if anything this crisis exposes the gaps. 

I’m proud to be self-employed. The solo self-employed community contributed £271bn to the UK economy in 2017, which is enough to fund the NHS twice over, and that number was even bigger in 2019. The UK’s creative industries contribute almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour. 

Do you have any advice for self-employed people during the coronavirus pandemic?

I don’t have any specific advice, because everyone’s situation is probably extremely different and it can be annoying when people dish out advice especially during times like these. 

My advice remains the same as it always has back when I wrote The Multi-Hyphen Method – that passive income strategies are vital, and so are having multiple digital income streams. The world was always becoming more digital, but now we are realising more than ever the importance of future-proofing our businesses for an online world. 

Most people are working from home because of coronavirus – is this going to change how we work in the future?

I do find it interesting how many businesses were constantly pushing back on flexible working, and were vehemently against working from home even when their set up was mostly digital, and now the entire world is having to trial it. I think this will change the way we work in the future profoundly.

You’ve also just set up The Hyphen Book Club, which many readers will no-doubt be grateful for right now – can you tell us more about it?

I am so excited to launch this virtual space to support people during this strange time, but also to support authors who have sadly had their IRL book events cancelled. That’s why I woke up one morning and felt really compelled to do it. 

This club is definitely for others, but it’s also for myself, as I know reading a book a month with a group will help my mental health. Each month we will read a book together, and come back on a set date one month later where I will host an Instagram Live, with the conversation then carrying on in the comments section. 

I already have some brilliant authors including Holly Bourne (whose books have been selected for future months) agreeing to join for an exclusive Instagram Live also which will be fun. I definitely want to experiment with bringing people as much virtual book content as possible.

A lot of people are finding it hard to concentrate on reading right now – do you have any tips on trying to focus during worrying times?

Of course, it’s totally understandable. I think it helps to read in small bite-size chunks. I treat it as if I’m going for a run, you do a little bit each day and then you can go for longer. I almost feel we have to retrain our brains. 

I once read a study that claimed reading actually scientifically relaxes your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles and reduces stress by up to 68%. For me, reading is an escape from reality so it’s been a great thing to get sucked into a book instead of scrolling through the endless news cycle. 

If you are struggling for time or concentration, I recommend going to bed 20 minutes earlier and reading in bed for 20 minutes (with your phone in a different room). Carve out that special time for yourself and your brain. 

Follow @thehyphenbookclub on Instagram. Gannon’s debut novel Olive is publishing 11 June (HarperCollins) and you can pre-order here. 

Images: top image provided by Emma Gannon, Getty

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