Sussex’s digital sector unites to survive impact of COVID-19

Sussex’s digital sector unites to survive impact of COVID-19

With leadership and support from Wired Sussex, members and those in the digital, media and tech sector across Sussex are working together to endure the toughest of times.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the world in unprecedented ways. During this challenging period, Wired Sussex is empowering its membership to support itself and the wider community as digital businesses are being hit hard, with freelancers severely impacted.

Kieron Cropper, Head of Member Services at Wired Sussex said:

“We recognise that for many of our members and the thousands of people who depend on them for their livelihood, this is a difficult time. To get through it, we all need to support each other.”

Wired Sussex recently opened a Slack group for members and non-members in the digital, media and tech sector across Sussex to help exchange relevant advice and expertise. Numerous channels are creating conversations, from contingency planning, and how to work remotely, to how to deliver customer value in new and remote ways, and advice on how to stay positive.

Julia Stent, Commercial Mentor at Trajectory Mentoring, said:

“I’m a new member that just discovered this Slack group. What an amazing step from Wired Sussex. It feels like there are a lot of us offering free/heavily discounted services to local businesses. There are potentially a lot of complementary skills here – marketing, tech, strategy, operations from just a few messages I’ve read.”

The workspace has over 4301 participants and is building momentum every day. It is acting as an area to share discounted and free offers and services from those in the community, including expertise from local organisations as well as freelance IT consultants, digital marketers and graphic designers, to name but a few. It is also providing a hub of resources curated by the group’s members, together with Wired Sussex sharing essential information and emergency advice from the Government and other public bodies.

Mel McClements, a freelance writer, said:

“I’m a content writer and PR consultant who works for environmental businesses and organisations. I’ve joined the Slack group as I’m looking for info and support regarding what happens to self-employed freelancers in these crazy times. My two current projects have just both been put on hold, meaning I’m looking at losing my income just as I’m also meant to be starting to home-school my ten-year-old. My husband is self-employed too and we are waiting to see what is going to happen with his work.”

Wired Sussex recently ran a rapid response survey into the impact that COVID-19 is having on businesses and freelancers in their digital, media and tech community – 96% of respondents confirmed they’ve been affected by the pandemic with freelancers having been hit hardest; 71% of those having lost work and a further 25% having other contracts that look fragile. 58% of companies reported a loss in work or contracts, and a further 22% said that upcoming contracts and work was under threat.

Phil Jones, Managing Director of Wired Sussex, said:

“Wired Sussex has a responsibility to its members – we need to ensure we use whatever resources we have to deliver the right support that is required now, as well as communicate the needs and challenges of those in our sector to the Government. The negative impact of the pandemic on freelancers has had very limited Government recognition to date.”

84% of survey respondents want better advice and some form of financial assistance from the Government, with 96% of freelancers needing financial assistance and advice; 16% of companies need immediate help with their cash flow.

Phil added:

“We’re lobbying on behalf of all those in the digital sector across Sussex who have highlighted the lack of clarity around Government advice and support – the creative and digital sector contributes to a combined worth of £1.25bn a year to the local economy. Together we can make a difference.”

Wired Sussex has responded to the crisis by adapting its face-to-face events programme. They have radically revised plans for all current events and while some have been postponed, content and networking opportunities are being converted to an online platform, where possible. By way of example, March’s Brighton Immersive Meetup is open to those with VR headsets to experience a completely virtual 360-degree environment.

Wired Sussex’s Slack group is available to members and non-members alike. If any business has a short-term digital, media and tech paid work opportunity for a freelancer, they can share it for free on Wired Sussex’s Commissions & Briefs board.

While their home, The Fusebox, remains closed to residents and visitors, the Wired Sussex team is working remotely for the foreseeable future. They can be contacted directly:

●      Business impact and mitigation:

●      Membership and recruitment:

●      Talent Fest 2020:

●      Events and community events calendar:

●      Marketing:

●      The FuseBox:

For further information or enquiries please contact:

Phil Jones, Managing Director, Wired Sussex