A Freelancer’s Guide to Managing Job Uncertainty During the Coronavirus Crisis
Freelancers worldwide are facing an uncertain future as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the way we live.
COVID-19 has introduced more than just a change in health, social, and cultural trends. Many freelancers are worried about losing their clients, and lots have already lost work because of the crisis.
Despite the lifestyle’s lucrative nature, freelancing often comes with an unpredictable income. According to research, 59% of freelancers live from paycheck to paycheck.
Don’t be one of them. Be prepared. If you are a freelancer, it is important to take steps to manage and navigate job uncertainty (and your sanity) during this time.
This article seeks to explore and share some tips for managing job uncertainty during the coronavirus crisis. You’ll learn how to stay positive, proactive, and organized while riding out this storm.
HOW COVID-19 HAS IMPACTED FREELANCERS
The coronavirus pandemic has exponentially increased job uncertainty for the freelance community. Some got more work, but some lost their livelihoods.
According to an Upwork study, “currently, 28 percent of freelancers, or about 10 percent of the U.S. labor force, have had to stop freelancing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.” As the new variants keep making their rounds, many are worried about losing their clients in the coming months due to downsizing or other measures.
This is especially true for independent contractors and gig workers, who have no guarantee of steady work and are often the first to be let go in tough times.
While some niches have been thriving regardless of the pandemic, even they cannot always insulate themselves from larger economic trends.
Find comfort in a recent statistic that says that most freelancers feel that demand for the freelance workforce will pick up again once we return to normal life.
Still, you need to be proactive in managing your finances to safeguard yourself from the unpredictability of COVID-19.
Let’s see how!
HOW TO CREATE CERTAINTY IN YOUR FREELANCING BUSINESS
There’s a way to take back the wheel and steer your freelance ship with confidence. Let’s take a look at some tips for managing job uncertainty during COVID-19.
Step 1. Assess Your Finances
Start by evaluating your financial situation. It’s not so fun, but it must be done.
26% of freelancers say that one of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not having enough money set aside.
Are you in a good place to take a hit if things go south? Can you afford to live without income for a while? There’s no other way to determine that than coming up with cold, hard numbers.
First, list your monthly expenses (including food, housing, and other essentials) and other bills that are due in the next few months.
Then, add another 10-30% on top of that as a buffer. The result is how much you would need to live on each month if you stopped earning income.
Check if you have the present income level to start putting aside for an emergency or rainy day fund. If not, you may need to raise your fees, start freelancing in other fields, or find ways to cut your spending. Aim to have 3-6 months’ worth of money saved up.
Additionally, use spend management software to accurately monitor and reduce expenses.
Step 2. Evaluate Your Current Work
What’s your workload like? If you’re fully booked up and still not able to contribute to your savings, then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your current work. More specifically, you need to start charging more.
Another thing to look at is your skill set and what you’re currently offering your clients.
Are there services you can add, or are there complementary services you could offer for a little extra? Hiring is tedious. Clients like to get as many services from the same source as possible. Take advantage of that.
If you’re not fully booked, then it’s time to optimize your sales productivity.
Cold emailing, personal brand building, or using social media are all great places to start.
Step 3. Expand Your Skills
Ready to take things up a notch? Maybe even want to master more than one trade?
Many freelance workers stay competitive by continuously working on their skill gaps.
First, do some research on what’s in demand in your field. You can simply Google it, ask a question in a niche Facebook group, or ask your clients to see what services they most need. If you’re still feeling stuck, learn about sales strategies. This is a great skill to have for both yourself and your clients in almost any field.
Then, take some online courses to expand your core skills and make yourself more marketable.
If you’re venturing into the passive income category, consider creating digital products or setting up an online course. Here, you’ll be able to teach your existing skills while acquiring new ones in the process.
Learn new, relevant skills through Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, LinkedIn, or even YouTube videos.
Step 4. Build a Network You Can Leverage
No matter your niche, it’s essential to have a strong network you can lean on. If you want to gain repeat customers, then this is the way.
This is especially important in times of uncertainty. Referrals could be your main source of new leads and could lead to long-lasting professional relationships.
Start by reaching out to your current and past clients. See if they need help with anything or know anyone who does. You’ll be surprised how many will be happy to pass along your information.
Then, reach out to your professional network. LinkedIn is a great place to start.
- Submit a post about your availability for your connections to see
- Set up your services in your profile
- Get active in LinkedIn groups
- Offer a free consultation
Eventually, you could venture outside your immediate circles to build relationships. Attend virtual conferences, try online meetups, or participate in Twitter chats. There are a lot of networking platforms out there.
Before you message someone, ensure to have your website, or at the very least, a digital brochure ready to go.
Step 5. Come Up with a “Plan B”
Freelancing is awesome. That’s why you’re in it! Still, it’s important to always prepare for a worst-case scenario.
What happens if you land a bunch of leads, but none of them materialize as paying clients… for months on end? This is where having a backup plan comes into play.
The answer could be:
- Picking up a part-time job
- Starting to freelance in another field
- Taking on some short-term projects
- Picking up a full-time job
- Starting a profitable venture that you love to maximize your weekends
- Doing some survival side gigs like driving for Uber, putting your spare room on Airbnb, or signing up for TaskRabbit
Prepare a list of things you can do in case of an emergency, and you’ll feel a lot safer knowing you’ve got options.
And remember, not being on your ideal path is okay. The goal is to have a few temporary lifelines that will help you stay afloat until things improve.
TIPS FOR MANAGING A CRISIS AS A FREELANCER
Money is important. But keeping yourself in check is also essential for a well-rounded plan. Take a look at these mental health and wellness tips for freelancers during a crisis.
1. Prioritize Your Health and Wellbeing
The saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s true in many ways. The busier you are, the more you need quiet time to recharge.
You’re not alone in feeling down at times. The pandemic has stressed out a lot of people since it started.
Researchers have proven that being anxious or depressed can affect your productivity. Deteriorating mental health is a serious matter. The first step is to make sure you’re taking care of yourself both physically and mentally.
Some tips for this are:
- Sleep, sleep, sleep (you know you need more of it)
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise (even a 10-minute yoga session makes a difference)
- Take breaks throughout the day
- Talk to someone you trust when you’re feeling anxious
- Take a digital detox day to unplug from the online world
If you can’t keep to any of these healthy habits, try to find an accountability partner who’ll keep you on track.
2. Look Into Relief Funds for Financial Support
The coronavirus crisis has resulted in the creation of new relief funds. They could keep you going during a rough patch.
Freelancers Relief Fund – This fund is available to US residents and Freelancers Union members who have lost work or experienced a loss in income due to the pandemic.
Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) – This Canadian fund is available to employed or self-employed workers who have lost income or been laid off because of the coronavirus.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) – This Canadian fund gives income support to employed or self-employed workers who are unable to work because they’re sick or self-isolating due to COVID-19.
New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – This UK-based fund provides relief to self-employed individuals affected by the coronavirus.
In addition to relief funds, your local government and nonprofit organizations may offer other forms of assistance, such as:
- Mental health counseling or therapy
- Job placement assistance
- Emergency food stamps or vouchers
- Rent or mortgage assistance
- Utility bill payment assistance
- Tax help
Do your research in your area for business and pandemic-related information. This way, you can get those worrying thoughts out of your head and focus on your freelancing.
3. Get Creative and Innovate
You may need to change the way you think about work. Work can be a lot of things, including a hobby.
If you have no other hobbies than watching Netflix, maybe it’s time to challenge yourself. An interesting hobby can very well turn into a profitable venture that you love.
Have you ever thought about trying…
- Creative writing?
- Jewelry making?
- Setting up a non-profit for a worthy cause?
The options are endless. The bottom line: you never know what could work out in your favor.
Facing your financial reality can be a sour pill.
But being in a frenzy of anxiety and stress is not going to do you any good. So, take a step back and review your situation.
- Why did I start freelancing in the first place?
- What victories did I achieve?
- What progress have I achieved since I started?
- Would the worst-case scenario be really that bad?
Imposter syndrome can also rear its ugly head at this time. It’s normal to feel like you’re not good enough or that someone else could do the job better. When in doubt, remember that your skills are valuable and your experiences are unique.
5. Seek Help and Community Support
Freelancing can be a lonely experience. You’re often working by yourself, in your own space.
It’s important to find community and support during uncertain times. This could come in the form of an online group or forum, or even just talking to friends and family.
You can also try…
- Joining a virtual coworking community (there’s The Lab marketed for digital nomad girls or MyWorkHive for global freelancers)
- Joining an in-person coworking community
- Attending meetups related to your industry
- Finding a mentor
The most important thing is to not go through this alone. You’ll be better equipped to handle anything that COVID-19 throws your way if you have a support system in place.
YOU GOT THIS? YOU GOT THIS!
The coronavirus crisis has created a lot of uncertainty for the freelance workforce. But there are ways to manage job uncertainty and keep your head above water.
Just remember that everything is temporary, and you will get through this. Planning for different scenarios might ease your worries.
Also, try picking up some new, healthy habits, look into relief funds, get creative and innovative, reprioritize, and seek help and community support.
And most important of all, don’t panic. You got this!
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