News & Updates

🦠 Like the rest of Philly, our coworking space is temporarily closed due to COVID19.
Read more, and stay safe out there: https://indyhall.org/covid19

News & Updates

Self Employed? Here’s the real deal with COVID19 relief and the CARES Act

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you might have seen my public exasperation with PNC Bank’s horribly broken website.


I know I’m not alone. Every small business owner is grappling with some version of questions and confusion about the REAL and CURRENT situation with government relief for small businesses currently being impacted by COVID-19, and at some point, probably wanting to throw up.

On top of an already scary situation, the lack of communication and clarity means people don’t know what they can or should do.

So while I am NOT an expert, I’m going to try my best to relay what I’ve learned as of today (Tuesday April 7th).

As I learn more, I’ll keep this page updated.

SBA PPP loans will be available for freelancers and self employed individuals. But not yet?

The PPP (or Payroll Protection Program) is a large part of the government package designed to help companies keep their people employed.

It’s technically a loan distributed through local banks, though a large % (up to 100%) of it is “forgivable” as long as you use the loan within the parameters of keeping people employed.

But how does that help you if you’re self-employed?

Supposedly, there is a separate PPP loan application on the way designed for self-employed people. Hooray?

Trouble is, you can’t apply yet if you’re self employed. The special self-employed application is theoretically going to be open on April 10th, but with everything that the SBA and banks have bungled so far, I’m cautious to predict anything except for missed deadlines and further disappointment.

NB: The reason I was applying over the weekend is because Indy Hall’s small but mighty team is on payroll and keeping them paid through this is one of my top priorities.

Even when the PPP Loans for Self Employed are available, it’s completely unclear how they’ll be calculated. With payroll, it’s reasonably easy to ask a business owner to upload payroll docs.

If you’re a freelancer with variable income, the documentation…may not be so clear or easy to report. In my experience with talking to folks in the government, many of them have no idea how we actually get paid.

So that’s the fun-times update on PPP Loans for self employed Americans.


Meanwhile, banks are actively fucking people over by making up their own rules

My favorite is the banks (Chase and Bank of America, notably, but I’m sure there are others) who are only accepting applications from customers with business accounts or worse, credit cards/other loans.

Basically, if they can’t make money off you some other way, they’re not gonna help distribute the government relief. Cool cool cool.

This isn’t actively prohibited by law (I don’t think, but I’d welcome an expert commentary) but of course, the banks are the banks. History repeats itself, and rhymes, and is full of greedy horrible people.

Mind you, you don’t HAVE to apply through your own bank. Some services like Lendio have nicely built portals that let you apply once, and then they (somehow) are distribute your application to banks who want to help.

But “experts” suggest that applying with a bank where you already have some kind of business relationship is the best way to avoid falling to the TOTAL back of the line (or in our case, the back of the back of the line).

But again, until they have an application for self-employed people, what the banks do right or wrong is mostly irrelevant to people like us. 


The one application that’s worth your time…maybe?

This quick (5-10 minute) application puts you in line for an EIDL loan, which is tied to our government declaring PA a disaster zone.

Technically, these loans are actual loans, though the interest rate is meant to be quite low. They’re only available for businesses under 500 employes, and are meant for things like payroll, rent, and other utility/expenses.

Technically, they are distributed later, though it’s unclear what later really means anymore. (More on that in a second)

And technically, the EIDL loan application does have a built in checkbox for self-employed people to apply!

Best of all, this application is fast and easy.

You should be able to fill this out with mostly info you know off the top of your head, except maybe your 2019 total revenue and Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). What the heck is COGS if you’re a freelancer?

Cost of goods sold (COGS) is the cost of acquiring or manufacturing the products that a company sells during a period, so the only costs included in the measure are those that are directly tied to the production of the products, including the cost of labor, materials, and manufacturing overhead.

So if you’re a freelancer and services is your primary source of income, your COGS is almost definitely zero. Check with your accountant.

Finally, on the EIDL loan, make sure you check the box on the last page to “be considered for a $10,000 advance”.

But don’t get too excited…

First, the EIDL loan isn’t 100% forgivable like the PPP one. Yes, it’s low interest but is intended to be paid back.

EXCEPT (and this is confusing) that $10,000 advance is supposed to be forgivable. I say supposed to be, because the rules keep changing!

Case in point, as of today, the SBA has finally started communicating about the distribution of EIDL loans (I applied for ours over a week ago, total radio silence since).

But all of the sudden today that $10,000 advance has been reduced to $1,000 per employee and of course, no clear indication what that means for self employed people.

At this point, I stand by my advice from a week ago. It’s smart to apply for anything you MIGHT qualify for, but don’t make plans based on money you hope to get from the government.



What about unemployment?

This might blow your mind, but the CARES Act DOES have a provision to provide unemployment payments for self employed people for the first time ever. Wow!

But of course…there’s a catch. I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

What’s the catch? Well…unemployment is handled state by state. That means almost anything you find documented about the new unemployment rules is referencing the new federal law… but good luck finding ANY specific details to the state of Pennsylvania.

Maybe you’re luckier in your state?

On top of that, while the PA unemployment site acknowledges that self employed people will be eligible for some kind of relief, they explicitly say NOT to apply through the standard portal and to wait for a new one with no clues about timeline. Just “check back soon.” Awesome right?

So that’s what it feels like to be left on read.

The money isn’t infinite.

On top of ALLLL of this, it’s very likely that the government budget for support is already oversubscribed. 

Sure, they could unlock more money. Congress is already being asked to approve another $250 million for PPP relief (update 4/8/2020). But nobody knows if it’ll be approved, or how far it will go. 

Meanwhile, wanna guess who has already had their PPP loans approved? Super wealthy people. Don’t be surprised, be mad.

What I’m trying to do about it.

I’m using every connection I have to try and get some kind of clarity from the state. My hope is that by saying “hey I represent a few thousand self employed people and can help you answer their questions instead of them clogging your inboxes” we get somewhere. 

But the most common answer I’ve gotten from people pretty close to the top is: “I don’t know. Nobody does.”

So the good news is, if you were feeling clueless before reading this article, you’re not alone. The people in charge don’t know either.

I really wish I good news, or specific tips or hacks to share. But right now…it’s not great.

It’s pretty bad for a lot of businesses, including single-person businesses. 

That said, this is just the state of things on Tuesday April 7th. Everything is moving and changing daily, and you can be sure that I’ll be sharing anything I find/learn along the way. 

I’m sharing these updates with the Philly Freelance email list, if you wanna get a short email any time I post updates, you can sign up for that.

But right now, I think our best bet is mutual support.

We should act as if nobody is coming to save us, and be pleasantly surprised if and when we are wrong.

That means finding ways to work together. Possibly creating small, local or regional lending networks.

It also means getting smart about our businesses and clear about what valuable services we can offer to the businesses who are still spending money (they do exist!), even if it’s a short term thing.

We’re working on resources to help with this through the Indy Hall and Philly Freelance communities as quickly as we can, so stay tuned for that.

Until then – stay safe, stay inside, and wash your damn hands.

Last Updated: April 7 2020 4:57pm

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Dear Philly Freelance Community

Hi there. Alex here, cofounder of Indy Hall.

First and foremost, I truly hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and getting by, considering the circumstances. ❤️

Even with our relative health and and sanity intact, nearly all of the freelancers, consultants, and small business owners I know are coping with a unique set of uncertainties right now.

So I wanted to write a little something to provide a little bit of relief and solidarity specifically for freelancers in our region.

Here are THREE positive, supportive updates just for you:

  1. FREE office hours and workshops for Freelancers starting next week, you just have to RSVP.
  2. Tips for accessing government relief for small businesses and self-employed people (and more to come).
  3. A peek ahead into what we’re planning for the Philly Freelance community.

Sound good? Let’s get started:

1. FREE Office Hours and Workshops during April – starting next week! RSVP below.

When you are your own business, investing in and taking care of yourself IS investing in and taking care of your business.

So whether your work has stopped, slowed, or is the same but way more stressful, we decided to help by finding experts to help us make those self and business improvements during a free series of workshops and office hours.

While we lock in dates with the rest of our experts, we wanted to invite you to the very first session taking place NEXT Tuesday, April 7th.

Our first workshop, focused on mindfulness, will be led by Dr. Hava Rose and her organization, The Write Echo. This unique take on mindfulness will combine writing and meditation to help you find calm and focus.

It’s totally free, but you DO need to RSVP at this link:

✌️ RSVP to Mindfulness for Freelancers with Dr. Hava Rose”

Note: this new RSVP system does require a one-time registration, but hopefully will make it easier for us to keep you up to date on events and opportunities going forward. And it just takes 15 seconds to sign up!

2. Are you confused about how the COVID government relief packages will apply for freelancers?

Yeah, me too.

Seems everyone is confused about what’s included for self-employed people, and even more, how we’re supposed to apply. It’s a big moving target, and every day the communication seems to change.

💰 One thing you CAN do is fill out this application and check the box for the $10,000 loan near the end: https://covid19relief.sba.gov

The bad news is that filling out this form is not a guarantee of anything.

The good news is that it is fast and fairly painless to fill out (less than 5 minutes) and unlike other applications that can take hours to complete, you won’t need to go digging for paperwork (at least not yet!).

The only info you’ll need that you probably don’t have memorized are two numbers:

  • previous 12 months of revenue
  • previous 12 months cost of goods sold

At this point it doesn’t ask for any additional files or paperwork, and in theory, every business that applies is automatically eligible for a $10,000 “fully forgiven loan” (aka a grant).

Just check this box on the homepage and start the application:

I am working with regional experts specific to Pennsylvania for more information and HOPEFULLY will be able to organize some kind of focused information session/Q&A specifically for self-employed people in PA/Philly. As soon as something like that is confirmed, I’ll send another email.

3. What’s next for the Philly Freelance community?

While the future of many things are uncertain, the reality is that freelancing isn’t going away anytime soon and for many people, it will become the next best option to employment.

So our original goals with the Philly Freelance fest are still relevant, maybe even more than before! The shape of how we do it might just be a bit different.

So before I sign off from this email, a quick peak into what’s next for our community:

🎉 THE FEST WILL RETURN
The Freelance Fest WILL return in the future, once it’s 100% safe to organize in-person gatherings again.

🌍 MORE ONLINE EVENTS
In the mean time, we are focusing our energy into online resources (like the office hours and events mentioned above in #2).

📍 NEW WEBSITE
We’ve relaunched the PhillyFreelance.com website! It’s still limited on information but will be expanding in the coming weeks.

Note: you don’t need to sign up for the VIP list, you’re already on it 🙂 But if you know other people who want to stay in the loop, please share and encourage them to join!

🖇 MORE FREELANCER AND CLIENT CONNECTIONS
In addition to online events, we’re designing an “opportunity switchboard” to help companies seeking freelancers find people with the skills they need, and to help/encourage freelancers to collaborate in going after bigger contracts together.

✊ SMALL GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL COACHING
Lots of people expressed interest in ways to set and achieve goals, so we’re introducing ways to get the accountability and support you want and need to achieve your personal and business goals.

🆕 FREELANCER BOOTCAMP
Need a crash course in business fundamentals designed with a creative freelancer in mind? THIS SUMMER we will launch the very first Freelancer Bootcamp, a multi-week program to infuse your freelance business with the business savvy you need to get better clients, keep them longer, work fewer hours, and make more money.

🎲 🍸 🎤 PHILLY FREELANCE SOCIAL EVENTS
We’re also dreaming up some purely social events…including stuff we can do online while in quarantine. Virtual game nights, happy hours, maybe even Philly Freelance Karaoke?

Some of these will be available a-la carte, with a mix of free and ticketed/paid access. We’re also working on an all-inclusive membership community to help keep things affordable and create a stronger sense of community between events and activities.

Oh, and one more thing…

💊 HEALTHCARE. At the Freelance Fest I teased that I’m working with some industry partners to launch a brand new program designed for people who find the current insurance marketplace expensive and inadequite.

Bottom line: access to healthcare should NOT be a barrier for anything, including self-employment.

Until a few weeks ago, our plan was a slow rollout this coming summer. But given the fast-changing needs of workers everywhere, we’re figuring out how to speed up the launch of this new program designed to help everyone get affordable access to primary care, prescription drugs, and mental health services.

We’re still prioritizing safety and “do no harm” while we figure out an expedited rollout, so I can’t say a whole lot more right now, but I’m hopeful that what we’re getting ready to launch will help a lot of you get back to seeing a doctor without the expensive premiums and copays we’re used to seeing.

I’m aiming to have a waiting list live for this in the next few days.

That’s more than enough from me today, but hopefully this gives you a glimmer of hope that this community – and the team working behind the scenes – have your back.

Be well. Stay safe. Wash your damn hands.

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An Open Letter about “Doing Community Online”

I think this is going to be the last mega-post that I write for this week, but it’s the one I’ve actually been looking forward to writing. Unlike the last few, this one isn’t sharing bad news….AND it’s useful for EVERYBODY in our community. 

It’s about Indy Hall’s online community spaces, and how you can stay connected while working from home, and how we plan to continue doing what we do everyday using tools and technology on the internet. 

BUT FIRST!

We know remote tools are new for a lot of people, and we don’t want you left out if you’re not familiar. 

There are a wide range of people who join our Indy Hall community. Some people – especially those of you on remote teams – are already very familiar with popular tech tools like Slack and Zoom. (Also, what a silly bunch of names these apps have!) 

However now is a good time for us ALL to remember that not everyone’s used to, or comfortable, with video chat. Learning new tools can be confusing and frustrating. 

If you’re in that boat, don’t fret. This week has been a bit extra but next week we want to host some “Work From Home Tech 101” sessions in a no-pressure, no judgement environment. We’ll have a way to sign up for that next week, and they’ll be free for all members (and very affordable for everybody else).

👉 If you’re someone who has been using tools like Slack and Zoom to connect remotely with people for a while, and would like to volunteer to host one of these 101 sessions, please drop us a line at team@indyhall.org so we can collaborate on the contents and help get them lined up!

In the meantime, here are two tools that Indy Hall is using a LOT and what they are:

Zoom

Zoom is kinda like facetime but WAY more powerful and supports groups better. It works really well on Apple and Windows computers, and even on mobile phones (iOS and Android). It’s free to install.

Once Zoom is installed, following any Zoom link on that device (computer or mobile) will automatically take you to the correct group video chat. 

Slack

Slack is a text chat tool, so it’s a bit like texting from your computer or phone BUT has different rooms to organize conversations (and people) into interests, topics, and kinds of conversations. It’s great for sharing links, asking quick questions, and friendly banter. 

These are some of the most valuable and popular channels to join!

💪 Indy Skillz

What: One of the best parts of our community is being able to get help when you are stuck on a question or problem, or want to learn about almost anything. In the #indyskillz channel, you almost always find someone in the community who can help! 

Tip: Post here whenever you want help learning something new (or when you learn something that you want to share). 

✅ Daily Goals

What: Feeling unproductive? WHO ISN’T right now. If it’s helpful, this channel is a place to share your daily goals, be kind and encouraging to each other, and help each other be accountable. #1 rule of Daily Goals is “don’t be afraid to ask for help”

Tip: Check out this page for some member-suggested guidance on getting the most from this channel.

☀️ Brightside

What: Need a break from bad news? Share something, anything, that makes you feel delight. Though this channel is one of the newest to be added to our Slack, it’s quickly become one of the most active (and necessary) resources for much needed relief. One of our amazing members made this room to share “an escape from the worries of the world”, and every little post of optimism and happiness does just that.

All of these rooms (and many more) are available in our members only Slack “workspace”. If you don’t have access to Indy Hall’s Slack (or can’t remember how to get in) send us an email and we’ll help out!

We do have and use other tools, but these two are going to be the MOST IMPORTANT (besides email) over the coming weeks. 

❤️ A bit of Indy Hall “Netiquette”

Whether you’re an online veteran or brand new to internet spaces, Internet Etiquette (aka “Netiquette” is something that we can all be mindful to observe. This is true always, but especially true right now. 

First and foremost, offline rules apply online. Our code of conduct is fully transferable online. And when in doubt, don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. That’s that. 

Second, please try to post with context. Especially with the instinct to share every link and news snippet that happens, we’d like to avoid a situation where our online spaces are inundated with links…but no discussion. That’s a bit like running into a room, saying a random sentence, and walking away. Not exactly the friendliest interaction, especially when the link may include stressful news!

So if you have a link you wish to share, that is 100% what these spaces are for but please take a moment to share it with context. What does this link make you think or feel? Does it raise a question for discussion? Does it just make you happy? Will others find it useful, and if so, who?

Taking the time to share with CONTEXT helps make online conversations more like in-person ones. It takes some practice but is a good communication habit in general. 

Third, ask for consent before sharing private conversations in public. Even though we’re connecting on the internet, the Indy Hall spaces are typically member-only spaces by default. 

If you want to share a screenshot of what someone said, or a group photo of a gathering on zoom, that’s okay BUT please ask permission from the people appearing in your image first! 

Most people will appreciate being asked and quickly say yes, but some have good reasons for preferring to keep their presence out of public spaces and will appreciate even MORE that you asked first. In most cases, you can still share as long as you crop or cover part of the image. 

Have other netiquette suggestions? Tweet at Alex and we’ll add them!

With those two things in mind, we DO have a growing list of low-key and high value online community things that have already taken shape. 

So if you’re looking for a little bit of extra human contact, or a friendly distraction from the world outside, this is YOUR personal invitation to join us for any or all of them.

If you’re not a member yet, our online community membership starts at just $20/month.

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Building access + picking up mail during COVID-19

In case you missed the news, Indy Hall (like the rest of Philly) is closed through the end of the month for the safety of our team, community, and city.

Here’s our comprehensive post about how we are moving all community activity online, and how we are handling memberships during this period.

Thank you so much for the positive and supportive responses over the last few days. It really means a lot. ️❤️

A few people have remarked with similar sentiments along the lines of “this isn’t so much about changing where we work, so much as trying to maintain during a crisis.” I hope you’re being kind and patient with yourself, in addition to the folks around you. And parents…I really feel for you.

Today I want to share a brief update on a couple of the top logistical questions about accessing our building and picking up mail/packages.

I need to lead with the fact that anything I share here, and that we have planned, is based on what we know right now and is subject to change….basically anytime? 😬

Need to get into Indy Hall to get something you own?

First and foremost, please do not try to come into Indy Hall to work. 

At this time we are working to minimize presence in the building as much as possible. I do not want anybody in our community to risk unnecessary exposure/transmission with anybody else who may still be in the building in spite of the government-imposed lockdown.

With that said…

If you are a keyholder, you can use your key to get in to quickly grab anything you might need at home while we’re closed.

If you are not a keyholder, we will have specific scheduled pickup times for belongings and mail 2x a week on Tuesday and Friday where either Adam or I are present for a window of time to allow people in.

You can book a time to pick up your mail here:
https://calendly.com/indy-hall/pickup

The slots are 15 minutes, so please try to be on time. If we run out of slots, we’ll figure things out how to add more.

All members should have received a link to reserve a pickup slot in your email today. If you did not, please let us know: team@indyhall.org.

In either case please follow the cleaning and sanitization guidelines of washing your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after entering the building, and touching any door handles or shared surfaces. We will have soap and disinfectant on-site.

As soon as any of these details or expectations change, we’ll let you know ASAP.

NOTE: If you urgently need to get something from the coworking space outside of the scheduled pickup windows, please email us team@indyhall.org and we will coordinate a way for you to get in as soon as possible.

Mail Notifications and Pickup

According to our building management, mail is still being delivered to our suite and will be for the foreseeable future.

Our current plan is to use the same pickup sessions for one of our team members to go in and sort the mail every Tuesday and Friday while we are there.

We will also use our existing mail notification system to notify you when you have mail or packages that have arrived. These emails will include a photo of the mail or package so you can get an idea of what it is and how urgent it may be to pick up, along with a link to schedule a pickup time.

Please try to prioritize coming in for important mail/packages only!

So please watch your email inbox for notifications that look like this:

NOTE: If you have a very important package or delivery, and need to get into Indy Hall to pick it up outside of the scheduled pickup windows, please email us team@indyhall.org and we will coordinate a way for you to get in as soon as possible.

We’re doing our best to consider the most common and critical cases, so if there’s something we’ve overlooked or an idea for how to make this easier, PLEASE reply to this email and let us know!

That’s it for this email. Stay tuned for the next communication.

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our coworking space is closed temporarily for the safety of our community and city

Well, this is new. 

As of 5pm on March 16th, the City of Philadelphia is ordering a mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses through the end of this month until further notice. 

This will undoubtedly have crushing ripple effects throughout our city. However, with all of the evidence we have, this action is necessary to save lives. During one of our team calls today, Anaia shared something she said to a relative: 

“Lives that aren’t lost can be rebuilt.”

Critically, this does mean that our coworking space is closed right now and will be until it’s deemed safe.

If there is any way of safely opening sooner, we absolutely will, but an exact date is uncertain right now. Mayor Kenny has said “there is no playbook for this.” I feel that. 

So I’m sure you have a lot of questions. Adam, Anaia and I are working together to communicate as much as we know we can answer.  

In the meantime, while the first part of our initial response plan has changed we are committed to the remaining two parts.  

1. Adam and Anaia are working on a robust digital coworking and community plan to help us stay connected and weather this storm together

The internet is an especially anxious place right now, but still a valuable tool that we intend to use to keep our community more connected.

Our plan is that starting this week we will carve out a schedule of online activities that allow us to come together online to work, stay connected, and support one another. 

If you have ideas for things you’d like to see, or lead, or experiment with…this is the time! You don’t need to know how we can figure that out together. 

No ideas are dumb ideas. Drop us a line at team@indyhall.org and we can schedule a video chat to brainstorm together. 

2. We intend to credit your active coworking membership during this closure towards future months, once we are allowed to re-open. 

If my #1 priority is the longterm safety of our team and community, the very very very close second is making sure that our team is taken care of, and that Indy Hall’s coworking space is still around for us to return to when we get to the other side of this crisis.

So, as I also mentioned in my previous post, we planned to roll all unused day passes during the current billing period into future months. This is still the plan, though the specifics are still being determined so that we can be fair to members of all levels.

Transparently, in order for this to happen, I’m working quickly to figure out our options financially. 

My request to you, our community, is to grant me time to formulate a plan. I recognize that everyone is likely concerned about finances right now, but if you have the means to maintain your current membership for even just a couple more weeks, please do. That will give us the time to come up with a better long-term plan to ensure that Indy Hall can exist long into the future.

With that said, if anyone’s membership DOES become a financial strain during the next few weeks, PLEASE communicate with us. The last thing I want is for money to keep any of you away from our community at this time. Instead, we can figure out a way to create a mutually beneficial exchange based on your skills or interests. Whatever it needs to be, we’ll figure it out. 

I have a lot more that I want to say, but right now, I think this is enough. We all have a lot to digest.

Be careful. Be safe. Call people you care about. 

And remember: “Lives that aren’t lost can be rebuilt.”

❤️Alex

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