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How Actors, Musicians, and Artists Can Earn During Coronavirus Shutdown

Lucy Miller 30th Mar 2020 No Comments

Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you’re a creative or a performer, you’re likely to be having a difficult time at the moment. With galleries, festivals and music venues closed down for the foreseeable future due to the global coronavirus pandemic, it can be hard to keep up a sustainable income. We want to help you out at this difficult time, so we’ve put together some ideas on how actors, musicians, and artists can earn during coronavirus shutdown.

Afterwards, we’ll discuss some grants and funding opportunities that you could apply for as a self-employed performer or artist.

Let us know if you’ve got any other ideas that we should add to this piece by commenting below the article.

How actors can earn during coronavirus


There’s no escaping that it’s going to be a tough few months with film and TV studios as well as theatres closed. It goes without saying that actors often need to be there in person to share their craft. 

Still, there are a few things that you can do right now that might help you bring in some cash. Here are just a couple of ideas. 

Make money now 

  • Teach acting online. Yes, really. Acting might be a physical medium, but there are plenty of ways you can teach the theory and basics to beginners without being there in person. Try Skillshare to create your own acting workshop from the comfort of your own home.
  • Consider voiceovers. Look into whether there’s any voice work you could do remotely. Maybe look into remote voiceover work, or see if there’s any scope for narrating audiobooks. This could end up being a whole new revenue stream! 

Plan your future income 

  • Work on video techniques. This might include recording more monologues for castings, which will be useful both during the lockdown and afterwards. Remote castings are likely to start being held soon, so that venues and production companies can start filming again as soon as the lockdown is lifted. Get ahead of the game! 
  • Try writing. Always thought you were better in front of the camera (or on the stage) than furiously scribbling ideas behind it? If Phoebe Waller-Bridge taught us anything (and let’s face it, she taught us a lot) it’s that we can do both. Try it; you might surprise yourself.
  • Try a virtual production. Get together with other actors and experiment with video to create ‘in isolation’ work. The BBC actually has a writing competition for scrips specifically related to this, so get your entries in. 

John Byrne, a writer, performer and broadcaster, has some great advice for actors in the current climate: Explore every performance and income possibility open to you. Improvisation and creativity is part of the DNA of our industry and as we collectively come to terms with the new landscape, good ideas will continue to appear. Try them out, but in addition to ideas that ‘may just work’, create smaller goals with outcomes firmly within your own control. That might be mastering a new accent or writing the one-person show or play you always meant to. Celebrate when you hit those milestones.”

How musicians can earn during coronavirus

Musician with guitar

Had your gigs cancelled as a result of all the country’s music venues being forced to close? The loss of live opportunities can seem like a terrifying prospect, especially if it’s your main source of income. 

Luckily, as a musician you don’t necessarily need to be in the same room as people to get your music heard. During the lockdown, it’s time to consider all your digital outlets, and ways that you can further utilise them to get your work out there. 

Make money now 

Make and stream new music.

This can be the perfect time to work on that creative idea you’ve had niggling in the back of your ear for a while, but haven’t been able to quite pin down. Use the quiet days and evening downtime to write new music, and to start thinking about how it might best be shared.

Make and sell merchandise to fans online.

Already got a strong following? You’re in a good position to start creating and selling merchandise online, even if your fanbase is small. Think about t-shirts, posters, or other bits that could easily be manufactured and sold for a few pounds. Make sure your friends and family support you by buying your merch and spreading the word! 

Utilise your entire skillset.

Great at editing, composing, or finding the exact right riff? Start thinking about how you can use these skills to help others remotely, rather than just concentrating on creating your own music. Consider commercial opportunities here – brands are still advertising and still need music to sell their products. There’s no shame in it!

Do Instagram or Facebook Live concerts.

Lots of bands (including Hozier and contemporary cover band Suzy and Alex) are going live on their social media channels, providing themselves with a means to continue performing and their followers with a fun night in alternative. Why not ask for donations in lieu of what audiences would usually pay for a ticket? Not everyone will donate, but if you’ve got a big following and make the case that their couple of pounds will help fund your work, you’ve got a decent chance of pulling some money in.

Become an online music teacher.

Why not market yourself as a music teacher, albeit remotely? Many parents will be looking for a creative outlet for their kids and to take the load off their homeschooling responsibilities by outsourcing lessons that they can’t teach themselves. Almost anything can be taught online (via video chat platforms such as Zoom) these days, so give it a try. 

Create a Patreon page.

Patreon is the platform that allows creators and artists to develop a sustainable income from their fans, who pay small amounts of money in order to ensure those they’re following can continue to create work. More and more people are realising that content cannot remain free indefinitely, and since the coronavirus lockdown Patreon has actually seen a spike in the amount people are paying on the platform. As a musician, this could be an ideal time to sign up.

Plan your future income 

Live stream Q&As, or even rehearsals.

Want to give an insight into what goes into making your music? You probably won’t be justified in asking for a donation for this, but giving a sneak peek behind the scenes can offer a connection with fans that can help build your brand for the future. 

Apply for sponsors.

Yes, it seems like admin. But the extra time provided by the lockdown can be a great time to get the boring stuff done. Dedicate some time to establishing relationships with sponsors now, and you’ll reap the rewards in the future.

Working on your marketing plans.

See above: marketing might not be your favourite aspect of the job, but it is essential if you’re going to continue being successful in a drastically changed creative climate. Consider all your digital channels, as well as any offline ones you might have.

Reorganise your cancelled work.

Had gigs cancelled? Stay in touch with venues and clients so that they know you’re still available and keen to reorganise as soon as the lockdown is lifted. Often play private events? They’re not happening right now, but weddings, big birthdays and other events are likely to be postponed rather than outright cancelled. Promise to honour the new dates and your post-lockdown diary will suddenly start looking very busy indeed.

Apply for next year’s festivals. Big ones, small ones… stay on top of when applications open, and get them in as early as you can.  

How artists can earn during coronavirus


You’re used to using creativity daily as an artist. This is a perfect opportunity to use the creativity and ingenuity that you rely on for your art to pull in some extra income during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Of course, being at home and potentially not being able to get to your studio might make for a very difficult situation. So it’s time to get thinking outside the box. 

If you’re stuck at home without your studio, consider the following… 

Make money now 

Sell your prints online.

Got a website? If the answer is no, it’s time to set one up. Look for a website that has an easy ecommerce function, like Shopify. Popular hosting sites like WordPress have easy ecommerce plug-ins. Also consider selling your prints on established art selling sites, such as Displate or ArtPal.

Want to sell your photography?

Try uploading your existing work to sites such as PicFair, or even signing up to the stock photo giants such as Getty.

Look for commissions.

Use your website and social media platforms to share your work, letting people know that you’re open to commissions. You can charge more for bespoke commissions than you would be able to for existing pieces, so even just a couple of commissions could net you some serious income.

Consider merchandise.

Already got a strong brand and a decent sized following? Great! Use this time to think about merchandise, and how you might persuade people to buy it.

Think about the wider media.

Lots of independent magazines and media outlets commission artists, to make their content stand out from the crowd and avoid the use of cheesy stock images. Look for publications that are seeking new artists and pitch your work to them. 

Consider online tutoring.

YouTube offers a great opportunity for creators to offer online classes to teach others their talent. As video is an artistic visual medium, it lends itself particularly well to art tutoring. Why not try to create some videos where you paint (for example), talking through your technique slowly so that those who are new to creating art can follow and try it out for themselves? Watching you create your art is also likely to be a wonderfully mindful outlet for a lot of people, meaning that it could really take off (and pull in some serious YouTube ad revenue) in these troubling times. See an example of how teaching art online has worked for one artist here

Plan for future income 

The lockdown can also be a great time to plan ahead, and to consider where you might want to take your art or your career in the future. Here are a few things you could do whilst on lockdown to improve your work for the future. 

Think about mixing up your mediums.

Usually work in a studio, but think your work might translate well to another medium – potentially one that you could work on in the house? This is the perfect timer to try it out. If it goes wrong, it doesn’t matter!

Update all your digital platforms.

This can be the perfect chance to update and improve your website, make sure your social media channels are displaying the most up to date information, and consider whether you could be utilising any of your platforms in different ways.

Consider whether your wider marketing needs a revamp.

Brand is important for artists, and if you’re feeling unsure about your own personal brand it’s likely that’s translating to your audience too. Think about what you want your art to represent, and make sure all your messaging (both on and offline) reflects this message. 

How actors, musicians and artists can earn during coronavirus: Help from the government

The government is of course doing its best to help all groups who are losing income as a result of the lockdown. There are a couple of options available, and more might come – but for now you should think about the following: 

Universal Credit 

Universal Credit can provide you with some subsistence if you’re really struggling and don’t have savings that you can use to find yourself whilst the lockdown is in place. There’s eligibility criteria that you’ll need to check first. Find out how to apply for Universal Credit here.  

Help for the self-employed 

Self-employed people can apply for a grant from the government. This could give you 80% of your average income every month for the next three months, up to £2500. Read our detailed article about the self-employed income support scheme here.

New arts grants as a result of coronavirus 

Lots of new grants for people in the arts have appeared as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few of them… 

Find more funding ideas here.

External funding for people in the arts

Numerous organisations have also set up funding opportunities to help those suffering financially during the lockdown: 


  • Wales Art Review has launched a crowdfunding project to support affected artists in Wales.
  • a-n Artist Bursaries are being brought forward, bringing £300,000 of financial support for artists and arts organisers.
  • The Creative Scotland Bridging Bursary can offer one-off grants of £500 and £2500 to Scottish artists affected by the crisis.
  • The Coventry 2021 Coronavirus Resilience Fund will support arts organisations and artists, with a maximum grant size of £1,000 for organisations and £500 for individuals.


  • Equitable Charity Trust. For actors who are registered with actors’ union Equity, the Equitable Charity Trust can provide hardship support and help with retraining or education.
  • The Actors’ Benevolent Fund is also committed to helping actors during the coronavirus crisis. You have to meet certain criterias, including having applied for Universal Credit.


  • The Royal Society of Musicians has made £500,000 available to support musicians affected by the crisis. Help Musicians UK will administer the money as part of its Coronavirus Fund.
  • The Musicians’ Union has set up a £1 million fund for members facing “genuine and pressing hardship”.
  • The Help Musicians Coronavirus Hardship Fund has £500 grants available for members who fulfil their criteria.
  • The Youth Music Network (England) has grants available for youth music organisations that have been affected.

More helpful reading: 

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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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