In this article, I lay out some essential Coronavirus advice for freelancers.
It’s certainly not something I relish writing about. But Coronavirus (Covid-19) is now present on every continent except for Antarctica.
While, at the time of writing, serious outbreaks are concentrated only in particular areas, there’s already been significant disruption to the business world. And governments and official bodies are largely unanimous in saying that it’s a question of “if not when” the virus spreads far more widely.
In short, the reality is that the spread of Coronavirus is going to get worse before it gets better.
So why do we need a feature on coronavirus advice for freelancers, specifically? Well, the sad truth is that freelancers and gig workers could find themselves far more suddenly and profoundly affected by the knock-on effects than employees.
With that in mind, let’s begin.
Take Care of your Own Health
If you’re a freelancer, you’re no doubt already aware of the general rule that if you don’t work you don’t get paid. (We’ve talked before on this site about the challenges of dealing with illness when you’re self-employed).
With coronavirus in the mix, taking care of your own health becomes more important than ever. As we’ll discuss shortly, there are various reasons why the outbreak could reduce your income. So the last thing you need is to lose out on money by being unwell too.
With that in mind, make sure you’re taking care of the basics: eat well, drink modestly, take care of your body, and practice obsessive hand hygiene, as all of the health authorities are advising.
There’s a reason we’re all being told to wash our hands regularly – it is genuinely the most effective way to reduce the chance of infecting ourselves and others. Take the advice seriously, especially after spending time in crowded places.
Assess how your Clients Could be Affected
One key piece of coronavirus advice for freelancers is to think very carefully about the possible impacts on all of your clients.
I’m aware of clients in my own circle whose companies have already been seriously impacted by coronavirus, and it’s still early days. Profit warnings are coming from all directions, and as experienced freelancers all know, it’s not always the direct effects that do damage, it’s how they cascade down.
If a client who pays you money makes less money themselves because of this outbreak, that’s a reason for concern.
So think about each of your clients and how their businesses may be affected. You may not be able to prevent that phone call pausing your work and cutting off some of your income, but at least you can pre-empt it and try to prepare.
Prove you can Work Remotely
Restricted travel and movement is one of the key ways that Covid-19 is hitting businesses. Many companies including Twitter are already advising staff to work from home.
If you’re an entirely home-based freelancer, you probably have the least to worry about here. But what about if you sell your time and spend it on client sites? What happens if their offices are closed, or travel restrictions are put in place near to you, or near to your clients?
The important thing to do NOW is to work out a plan for how you can still complete your work WITHOUT going on site.
This could mean proving you can access systems from a distance, perhaps working with your clients and their tech teams to provide you remote access.
The key is to have a PLAN. Don’t leave it until you get an email saying “the office is closed, we’ll be in touch when you can come in and work again.”
Make some Financial Cutbacks
Last night I was thinking about exactly what to include in an article giving coronavirus advice for freelancers. I came to a rather depressing realisation:
It’s pretty unlikely that many of us can expect business to pick up or boom in the months ahead.
We’ve already talked about profit warnings, but there are also the drastically cut growth forecasts and the predictions of recession (which could well have been on the cards anyway, as this article discusses).
Yes, there are no doubt some industries that will profit from the chaos. But unless your clients sell face-masks or pharmaceuticals, you’re more likely to see them ease back in the short term than spend more money and start new projects.
With this in mind, it’s probably wise to think about how to spend a little less and save a little more.
It’s best not to stop spending altogether, or you could contribute to recession becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it’s probably a good idea to think carefully about large or speculative investments.
Think of New Revenue Streams and Side Gigs
The freelancers I’m most fearful for are those in the physical gig economy, such as Uber drivers and parcel couriers.
Travel restrictions and a general reduction in demand could have a really profound effect on these freelancers. Workers unions are already trying to find some kind of protection for them.
Whether or not that’s the kind of freelance work you do, it does no harm to try to establish some other streams of income. This can mean anything from starting to sell a new service to simply having a clear-out and boosting your coffers by selling some things on eBay.
It’s good practice to have some “Plan Bs” at the best of times. With uncertain months ahead with regard to the coronavirus, it’s extremely sensible.
Keep on Working
At times like these, it can become really easy to be sidetracked by the endless news cycle.
I confess that there have been a couple of days where my own level of productivity has dipped, as I try to find out the latest (and overthink about how it will affect my business…)
Ultimately though, it’s doing your regular work that will earn you your regular money.
While it may feel as though the world is going crazy, until trouble knocks at your own front door, the best thing to do is to keep on keeping on.
Use Extra Free Time Productively
There’s really no way to sugarcoat it: there’s a good chance that coronavirus will have a negative impact on your freelance business.
It’s too easy to say how much impact, and obviously it will depend on what you do and who your clients are. As with a recession, it’s often nothing more than luck that determines which freelancers have the hardest time.
If you do find yourself short on work and long on time, don’t let it go to waste. Use that time to do the things you’ve been putting off, such as:
- Getting your accounts and invoices in order (maybe with a free trial of Freshbooks).
- Finally building a new website or working on that blog you keep putting off!
- Taking a course and learning a new skill.
Be Ready to Develop New Routines
At the time of writing, there haven’t been mass school closures due to coronavirus…yet.
But governments are warning they could happen, and they have already been implemented in some countries.
If this happens, those of us who balance working with parenting are going to have a serious challenge on our hands, especially if we rely on school hours to get our work done.
I have to be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure HOW my wife and I will cope if we find ourselves with our children at home all day for a month or more! But we will be giving it some serious thought – and the most important coronavirus advice for freelancers who are also parents is to do the same – sooner rather than later.
Up your Marketing Game
Regularly stocking up your funnel of new clients is “Freelancing 101.” But, let’s face it, we all slack off on marketing when we have plenty of work to occupy us.
Perhaps now’s a good time to turn over a new leaf, it that applies to you. If there’s a chance of losing clients, it’s a good idea to start putting the wheels in motion to gain some too.
This article on 50 ways to get clients should give you some inspiration.
So, that brings this rather grim topic to a conclusion. Has coronavirus had an impact on your freelance business yet? Are you worried? Is there more you think freelancers should do to prepare? Share your views in the comments section below.