Where panic prevailed during the first lockdown, Rik Vermaat (62) managed to stay calm during the second. “During the first lockdown I found out that you can live very economically,” says Vermaat, hairdresser and independent entrepreneur in Zierikzee. “During the second I had a lot less stress. I knew exactly what I needed to survive. I thought: I’ll keep that up for a while.”
His sole proprietorship had to close twice: for months from March last year, another eleven weeks from December. Although he had to use his personal savings account for the past year and a half, he managed to keep his head above water. “My wife and I have postponed the renovation of our bathroom for a while. We have used up too much savings for that,” he says. “But in my opinion it is busier now than before corona.”
The corona crisis hit the self-employed hard. At the beginning of this year, more than half of the self-employed without staff (zzp’ers) stated that the demand for their services had decreased during the pandemic, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) calculated. Self-employed entrepreneurs in the service sector, such as hairdressers and beauticians, experienced the biggest setback: no fewer than 84 percent had less work since March 2020. In addition, a third state that they will be able to get by for less than three months if their income is lost. The same applies to 19.7 percent of all self-employed entrepreneurs, according to CBS.
Have the self-employed in the beauty sector recovered a year and a half after the start of the pandemic?
Happy and relieved
The beauty sector has a relatively large number of self-employed. For example, about 50,000 people work in the hairdressing industry, according to a spokesperson for the Royal General Dutch Hairdressing Organization (ANKO). Of these, 27,000 are self-employed. A spokesperson for beautician organization ANBOS says it has about 4,500 members, of whom about 89 percent are self-employed.
Since March, almost all restrictions on the sector have been lifted. Contact professions are allowed to go back to work, albeit with the necessary hygiene protocols. Things are going well in the hairdressing industry at the moment, says spokesperson for trade association ANKO Gonny Eussen. “Members are happy to be able to go back to work,” she says. Branch organization ANBOS notices that members are “above all very happy and relieved” to be able to get back to work.
At the same time, many self-employed in the sector have taken advantage of loans or personal savings, for example for bad days or their own pension, say both trade unions. Eussen: “Obviously, that has to be replenished and repaid at some point. Some are concerned about that.”
Independent hairdressers affiliated with ANKO members lost an average of almost 28 percent in turnover in 2020, according to a poll conducted by the association earlier this year. About 30 percent of all 4,000 members with and 1,500 members without staff completed the poll. In contrast to companies, the self-employed make use of their private assets in the event of financial distress. As a result, they can get into personal problems more quickly, says Eussen. “In addition, many self-employed people were not eligible for corona support.”
Three quarters of the members without staff made use of financial support measures, compared to 95 of the members with staff. “Many self-employed people did not meet certain required turnover thresholds, for example because they do not work full-time,” says Eussen. Self-employed persons were also often not eligible for support if they had a partner with an income.
Els van Meenen, beautician: “We will never make up for the damage we have suffered.” Photo Merlin Daleman
In some cases, the self-employed received support, but it was simply not enough to make ends meet. This also applies to the 50-year-old independent beautician Els van Meenen, who works in Geldermalsen. She received EUR 1,050 per month from the Temporary bridging scheme for independent entrepreneurs (Tozo) for personal costs, and a compensation of around EUR 1,700 in total under the Temporary Support for Necessary Costs (TONK), intended for fixed business expenses.
“That’s nice, of course, but the rent for my office building alone is 1,100 euros per month,” says Van Meenen. “And for a single mother like me, 1,050 euros is never enough to make ends meet.” The buffer that she built up over the past six years as an independent beautician for bad days has passed after a year and a half of pandemic.
The trade associations for hairdressers and beauticians also see that many self-employed people are afraid that customers will stay away forever. “A large part of the customers were eager to be able to go to the beautician again, but some customers are more careful and still stay at home,” says the ANBOS spokesperson. “It remains difficult to fill the agenda properly due to cancellations.” Eussen of the hairdressing association: “There are customers who have noticed that they have to go to the hairdresser less often. Or they have been cut by their partner or neighbors and have decided that is fine too.”
“We will never make up for the damage we have suffered. Someone who usually comes once every six weeks does not now book an appointment every week,” says beautician Van Meenen.
This is also recognized by home hairdresser and independent Esmie Post (48) from Sittard-Geleen. She is experiencing the consequences of the lockdowns and also got the corona virus among its members. She was out for almost a year. “I understand that people can’t wait for that. I think 60 percent of my regular customers have come back,” says Post. “I hear similar percentages from many hair salons.”
She also sees an “explosive increase” in the number of self-employed hairdressers. This gives customers more choice. “Some of those self-employed have lost their job in a hair salon and then started their own business,” says Post. “But there are also a lot of people who were at home during the lockdown and have taken an LOI course. While entrepreneurship is much more than just cutting hair.”
Nevertheless, positivity prevails among the self-employed. “You can be proud of yourself if you are still standing as a self-employed person,” says beautician Van Meenen. “Certainly if we succeeded without taking out loans and having incurred debts, as in my case.”
The Zeeland hairdresser Vermaat sees the future positively. “It is going well now and I don’t think there will be another lockdown. The glass is half full for me. With a nice red wine in it everything will be fine.”
Self-employed people no longer have a piggy bank, but they are back to work
Source link Self-employed people no longer have a piggy bank, but they are back to work