What is Insurance to me as an arts freelancer?
A waste of money. I can save that money in the bank and use it for my medical bills when I need to. Insurance companies have too many rules and regulations for pay-outs. Moreover, that money can be better spent to buy art material to create more work for sale.
A safety net. I don’t know what will happen to me tomorrow, maybe I will be healthy, maybe I won’t. I just want a plan for the worst-case scenario.
The above reactions are two ends of the spectrum on how people think about insurance, but most of us likely have views that fall in between. Each one of us will have unique needs and an individual understanding of the value of insurance, so there is no one “optimal” amount of insurance to purchase.
So, what might it be like for an independent arts freelancer when it is just “you and you alone” who has to bear all the potential risks, and how can you do your best to mitigate your perceived risks, so that there is less to worry when the risk becomes a reality?
Let us take a step back and examine the concerns of three very different arts freelancers:
- Gabriel - male, unmarried, early-50s, a veteran visual artist doing iron sculptures.
- Lynette - female, married with two kids, late-30s, arts educator teaching little children dance and drama.
- Nath- male, single, mid-20s, contemporary dancer.
What will each of their risk portfolios look like?
- My rented studio space has flammable material which I need for my work.
- The tools and equipment I keep in my rented studio are expensive.
- Some of my completed commission works I keep in my rented studio will only be delivered in the next two months.
- The heavy equipment I use for my work is causing me more and more pain in my back. My last back sprain had me in agony for over a month.
- In the next three months, I have to conduct dance and drama workshops in open public spaces.
- I am getting more projects now and my income is stable to afford more goodies for my kids. However, running from project to project is taking a toll on me. I fall sick more often and for longer periods of time. I need rest but I cannot afford to stop work.
- The last time I caught a flu virus, I had to see the doctor repeatedly for medication.
- My body is strong but accidents do happen when I dance. When I suffer a fall, I need sufficient time to rest and recuperate, but I am not paid when I am on medical leave.
- The last time I sprained my ankle during rehearsal, I was out of work for three weeks.
As one might imagine, Gabriel, Lynette and Nath will likely anticipate different risks, and be looking for different types of insurance coverage from one other.
What type of Insurance is for me?
Paid Medical Leave Insurance
Regardless of a freelancer’s age and career type, the common denominator of risk faced is the reality of the body occasionally becoming unwell and needing time to rest. As a freelancer with no paid medical leave however, taking rest means the stopping of income. There are specific insurance plans designed to protect freelancers from income loss due to illness or injury that may be of help. With these plans, signing up for them earlier rather than later is best, as falling sick is not something you can control 100%.
Depending on the work you do, the type of insurance you would need will differ. As a dancer, your potential physical risk may differ from say, a poet. In a similar vein, if you rent a studio space, you will face different risks from if you worked from home. Any insurance undertaken will be to protect your assets or minimise your liabilities, and it will be best to seek advice from a professional insurer. That said, some factors to consider include:
- The type of work you do;
- The type of assets you have eg. art-making tools and equipment that are of significant value and considered crucial to the creation of your work;
- The potential liability you may owe to a third party eg. If you have similar concerns as Gabriel, you may consider having a Business insurance plan for property and equipment coverage. If you have similar concerns as Lynette you may consider having a Public Liability insurance plan.
You can also read Chapter 5 on Insurance found in ‘Advocates for the Arts – A Legal Handbook for the Creative Industries’ for more information on the range of insurance types that might be relevant to you.
Finally, if you are keen to explore personal insurance like Life insurance, take note that your insurer will consider your current age, gender, lifestyle habits and even your family history of illnesses.
What do I need to look out for in an Insurance Plan?
Firstly, ensure the coverage meets your needs – the Goldilocks principle applies here – try your best not to under-cover or over-cover. The former generally means that you will not get a pay-out equivalent to your loss, and the latter means that you are paying excessive premiums that you do not need.
Secondly, ensure the scope of coverage is right for your needs. To ascertain scope, you need to firstly determine your risk portfolio like Gabriel, Lynette and Nath in the above example.
Thirdly, look at the fine print of every insurance plan you are considering to buy. Ask the insurer as many questions as you need, eg.
- What does this insurance plan not cover?
- If I incur my loss overseas does this plan still cover me?
- How are claims done?
- What documents do I need to support my claims?
- When can I get my claims after I submit all necessary documents?
- Give me real-life cases where a person could not or did not get his/her claim.
Do not be afraid to ask questions no matter how silly you think they may be. In the spirit of candour, be absolutely honest with your insurer regarding your situation, so that there is no complication further down the line if there is a need to make a claim.