Freelancers: COVID-19 Is Not The End For You!

To the employed, the life of a freelancer no doubt seems idyllic. You can get up whenever you want to, and choose your own working hours. You get to make a living from doing what you love, rather than marking down the days until the weekend. There's no boss standing over your shoulder, checking up on your daily productivity. And because many freelancers do most (or all) of their work from home, they get to forego the grinding tedium of the daily commute. And, indeed, freelancers do enjoy all of the above fringe benefits. 

At least, in theory. 

In practice, however, the life of a freelancer is far less idyllic. Sure, you don't have a boss standing over you, but that means you have to take your productivity into your own hands. And that can be easier said than done. Especially given the myriad distractions around the home from dishes and laundry to the allure of the TV to the intrigue of checking on the NBA power rankings. Sure you have freedom and autonomy, but you also lack the safety nets of sick pay, paid leave that your salaried friends enjoy. Sure, you get to make a living doing what you love, but finding clients who will pay you consistently to do it can be a challenge in and of itself. Which brings us to our current situation…

How the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect freelancers
If you're a freelancer, or you aspire to be one, it may seem as though the current pandemic has put paid to your career and your aspirations. Lucrative opportunities may have been withdrawn by clients who now have to tighten their belts. Promising prospective clients may now have withdrawn offers of work because it's more cost effective to outsource it overseas. Previously reliable clients may have to drastically scale back their orders. Worse, some may have had no choice but to close their doors altogether. 

But the newfound dearth of well-paid work isn't the only challenge to afflict freelancers during the pandemic. In a time characterized by fear, doubt and uncertainty, many are finding themselves struggling to remain productive, optimistic and proactive. Work that used to take a few hours can take a full day, while maintaining consistent quality can seem virtually impossible as the weight of financial uncertainty, fatigue and stress loom larger and larger of freelancers' minds. Even though they're getting less work done (and thus earning less) the psychological toll that the current circumstances have placed on freelancers may make them feel primed for burnout

Is this the end? Far from it!
These are uncertain and unprecedented times, to be sure! And it may make you question whether it's worth cutting your losses as a freelancer and seeking opportunities elsewhere. But as impossible as things may seem in the current climate, stick with it! If you were understimulated, underpaid and miserable in your previous job, you may well find that you feel exactly the same working for a different employer. 

COVID-19 is not the end for your freelance enterprise. Here's how you can right the ship and chart a course for profitability, even in these challenging times…

See if you're entitled to any support
Depending on where you live, and the field in which you ply your trade, you may be entitled to assistance and support, either from the government or from other organizations. If you are a UK citizen, for instance, you may be entitled to government support if you can demonstrate that your business has been negatively affected by the pandemic. 

Likewise, if you work in the field of journalism, there are a number of grants to which you may be entitled. Folio has a dedicated page for freelance journalists whose work and income have been affected by the pandemic. There you'll find a rolling list of grants, free resources and suggestions on where to find work. Speaking of which… 

Start registering on as many freelancing sites as possible
Needless to say, sites like Upwork, Fiverr and People Per Hour have their caveats. You may be expected to bid on work, and that's a skill that you may need to learn quickly if you're to secure winning bids and land lucrative work. What's more, another potential frustration with sites like these is that you may be undercut by a freelancer in another country who can afford to work for less because they have lower living expenses. 

Nonetheless, there's no such thing as a bad port in a storm, and many a freelancer has found a lucrative client on freelancing platforms. Given how quick and easy it is to sign up, there's no reason not to register on as many as possible and starting every day by seeing what's floating around. Here are some places where you might want to start looking. 

See if you can repurpose old work
There's a fine line to be trodden here. But if you're a blogger or copywriter, you may be able to repurpose old content and post it on sites where clients can bid and make offers for your work, or place briefs on which you can bid. 

Repurposing old content with new wording, new paragraphs and a slightly different emphasis may enable you to get paid to meet client brief's in a way that's quicker and easier than starting from scratch. Just be aware that there's a fine line between this and content spinning which is SEO kryptonite for businesses and can earn you a bad reputation. 

Attend online networking events
Networking is an essential skill for freelancers. Meeting new contacts, forming good relationships and earning trust are integral to long term success as a freelancer. But in an age of social distancing, you could be forgiven for assuming that networking events are a thing of the past.

However, there are a wealth of online networking events in 2020 which have the potential to build the relationships that will lift your career out of its slump. Of course, as with any networking event you need to conduct yourself appropriately. Networking is all about playing the long game, and never an opportunity to practice your elevator pitch. 

Especially if there are no elevators in which to pitch!

Dust off your address book
For veteran freelancers, now might be the perfect time to check in with old clients whom you haven't heard from in a while. Again, don't go in with the intention of hustling for work. Just check in with them. See how they're holding up in these difficult circumstances. Try and identify their needs, and if you see a glaring opportunity, don't be afraid to take it. The worst they can do is politely decline your offer!

Remember, there's a light at the end of the tunnel!
The world of business is changing. Companies are slowly realizing that the way in which they work will need to adapt to the social, economical, political and technological realities of the 2020s. Ultimately, we can expect remote workers and freelancers to become a much greater proportion of the global workforce. When you think about it, freelancers are the perfect antidote to the difficulties companies face in these troubled times. They're far more affordable than salaried employees with fewer overheads. They don't take up electricity and resourced within the workplace. And they're as flexible as companies need them to be. While businesses of all shapes and sizes may be reeling from the pandemic, they are likely to need to rely on freelancers more than ever once they find their feet. 

According to this article by Forbes, the majority of corporate executives and freelancers alike believe that the global demand for freelancers will actually increase rather than waning once we have shrugged off the pandemic.

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