Tips for freelancers during the coronavirus pandemic and really any time business is slowing down

Estimated read time: 7 minutes


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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted probably everyone in the United States. That can be through working remote, no school, being infected or reduced or lost income. A total of 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims during the pandemic  – an all-time high in the United States.

#FreelanceChat host Michelle Garrett joined me on the Business Storytelling Podcast to share thoughts and tips on what freelancers can do. This article is based on our discussion and combined ideas.

The freelance community is seeing impacts similar  to other areas of business. Some freelancers are extremely concerned, especially newer freelances, said Michelle. Others have been through recessions and are trying to apply what worked then.

With that let’s dive into some ideas…

Assess the current situation

Start of by seeing where certain industries are. Who needs help with your services right now and how can you reach out to them?

For example, a lot of churches needed help with live-streaming services. So I did the natural thing and wrote about how to set that up and what the options are.

I even offered a discounted training session with me to help. How much immediate business did I get out of this campaign? Zero. Nobody hired me. Nobody took advantage of the call. A lot of people did read and share the article. I even received messages letting me know how helpful the article was.

See, churches have congregations and chances are somebody that’s a member will volunteer to help set up the stream. Or the pastor handled it.

There was no business to be had there, but I was able to offer value through content. That could help downstream potentially. Sometimes we try campaigns and they didn’t work for immediate business return.

In another case, I thought clients wanted to hold off on projects due to the coronavirus pandemic. They did on a specific project but then asked what we should do “now?”

Related: Marketing during a pandemic

Other clients had projects that weren’t necessarily publishing today anyway. Long-term projects may just continue without little change in timeline.

Other projects may pause or slow down for a bit. Especially if you work with clients on live content projects, there’s a chance they may have to adjust or change timing.

But consider offering ideas on how to move forward, move things around, etc.

Communication with clients

One of the biggest steps to take is to communicate with people. Check in on clients. See how they are being impacted by the current situation. I had and have contracts that are related to conferences – many were cancelled or postponed. Some moved virtually.

Related: How to quickly move your conference online

We needed to talk about the plan now. Do we move billings that were due now to the later time? Do we substitute the postponed project with something else that is needed now?

Also consider reaching out to previous – currently not-active clients – to check in. But be careful going back too far. A lot of business have been sending out emails to their entire lists.

I got emails from places I may have eaten at years ago and this is the first time I hear from them again. If I don’t remember them, that email won’t be a positive experience for me the customer or client.

Diversify

Times like these are also a great reminder of the importance of diversifying projects and income. Had I budgeted my entire year on speaking only and now all these conferences get cancelled that would be a big hit.

But if the portfolio looks more diverse  1-2 clients pausing won’t have that big of an impact. I try to diversify like this:

  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Podcasting
  • Public relations
  • Brand reputation guidance
  • Etc.

Another way to think of it is through income. If you want to make $250,000 a year there are many ways to get there:

  • 1 client at $250,000
  • 2 clients at $125,000
  • 5 clients at $50,000
  • 10 clients at $25,000
  • 20 clients at $12,500
  • 100 clients at $2,500

Marketing

Marcus Sheridan
Marcus Sheridan

Should you do marketing? Marcus Sheridan put it this way:

“Don’t buy into the statement:

‘You should not be marketing your business right now.’

Just make sure you have tact and a soul. That is key.

But yes, do marketing.

Sell.

Survive.”

Definitely agree. Why do businesses have to completely sacrifice everything? Especially when you have something to offer that can help others now, keep offering it. Keep sending relevant marketing messages. Have sales people call and follow up. Just be aware of the current situation and be tactful. Those tips apply even in non-coronavirus times.

“Don’t go from caring language to sales-y in 0 to 60” in an email, said Michelle.

One thing to remember is that some tactics might change and most businesses can’t run paid campaigns mentioning coronavirus.

  • Google has blocked tens of thousands of ads mentioning coronavirus
  • Social media networks appear to be doing something similar in some cases
  • Amazon is locking down publishing books that mention coronavirus. For example, I tried tp publish a book with all my blog posts that mention the current situation. Amazon published it, it climbed to No. 13 of new releases in its category and then Amazon took it down citing the content wasn’t appropriate.

Also, if times are slow, reallocate the time to even more marketing.

  • Start a podcast
  • Blog more – share your knowledge
  • Update your website – dig in and see how people are converting. Make necessary updates
  • Do keyword research to see where you can maximize business more
  • Network in Facebook Groups and Twitter chats. Offline, too, in times of when people are allowed to meet in-person again.
  • Write a book

Related: Are Facebook groups worth it?

Saving for the slow times

Work longer and more when times are good and save for when times are slow. Consider a separate business savings account for those funds and also put your estimated quarterly tax payments into that account so you have the money when it’s time to pay.

Of course, this tip is most helpful when things are going well. We can also cut expenses when times are right. Do we really need to buy that keyboard, tool, etc. right now? There are always things that can be cut when it comes to spending. Make a list of expenses and see what can be stopped. Software as a Service tools are an easy target. What are you subscribing to and do you really need that right now? Is there a free version that might work?

How about pricing?

It’s tempting to let prices drop. Some people’s philosophies are that it’s better to have some business as opposed to no business at all.

Pricing Expert Mark Stiving gives tips on pricing in this article and the podcast below:

Michelle also warned that it might be okay to lower prices but don’t go too low. It’s also hard to raise prices once you start too low.

I try to follow Mark’s tips when it comes to pricing but also consider the overall context.

  • What else am I currently working on?
  • How does it fit into my skill sets?
  • Is this a good client to have?
  • Etc.

I also recommend upfront payment – especially for smaller projects. Using PayPal.me or PayPal is easy enough to send payments quickly. I can’t be spending time chasing payments down the road – especially when the project is smaller.

There are also some projects that help us stay informed on what is working in the industry. Really, many projects do that. That’s something to consider. For example, how to run ads and what’s working changes often. The same is true when it comes to SEO and organic social media.

We stay informed and experts when we work on projects in our fields.


At the end of the day, “take a deep breath. This shall pass,” said Michelle.