As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc left and right, the remote workforce has become the new norm for most companies and organizations around the world. However, the 57 million freelancers in the U.S. do not have the same protection and resources that full-term employees enjoy, and they are already feeling the squeeze on their wallets. This is leaving a lion’s share of gig workers and freelance employees feeling apprehensive about their financial stability and job security, leaving many to wonder what is in store for freelancing in the days of Covid-19. Is remote working the future of work, leading to more outsourcing, or will businesses reduce the amount of outsourced work in a bid for cutting costs?
These individuals make up 35% of the working population in the U.S. However, with travel curtailed, group gatherings put on hold, and events being cancelled left and right. The self-employed are facing the brunt of financial impact. In a survey, 32% of the freelancers surveyed asserted that demand has decreased greatly with companies cutting freelance costs and halting any new contracts or projects. Although global giants such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook are paying hourly workers regular wages despite a marked decrease in demand, most freelancers are facing the impact of COVID-19. However, there are a few measures freelancers can employ to protect themselves.
Incorporate Rescheduling, Cancellation Clauses In Contracts
Unlike full-term employees, freelancers can’t call on the human resources department for their rights or when they don’t get paid. With more and more clients cancelling, a lot of freelancers are facing major financial losses. This is why legal experts recommend that freelancers include clearly defined rescheduling and cancellation clauses in their contracts in which clients can only reschedule or cancel a contract at least 30 days before an event. However, there are clauses that can protect freelancers if they fail to perform services less than 30 days prior due to an unavoidable and unforeseeable event. Freelancers should tweak their existing contracts and protect their businesses by adding a few clauses, such as being excused from fulfilling commitments outlined in the contract in case of unforeseen circumstances and the right to discontinue service if some area is being affected by a communicable disease or other such unsafe conditions.
Harness Your Network
First things first, stop acting like things are going well. While you may naturally want to keep up appearances, it is better in the long run if you are upfront about the difficulties or the financial instability you are facing. The key is to look for support and look to your network of clients and colleagues. Chances are that they are in the same boat and most might have already figured out how to deal with it.
Even if your long-term clients can’t afford you at the moment, they could refer you to someone they know. Even if no business opportunities present themselves at the moment, getting in touch with your network can give you the support and encouragement that you need. In these trying times, sometimes all you need is a little positivity. In some places, broader networking opportunities are being set up for businesses affected by the corona crisis, so that freelancers can openly discuss their challenges and difficulties, find work, and exchange coping tips.
Reskill To Survive
This is not the time to stick rigidly to your niche. While the idea may leave a sour taste in your mouth, it may be necessary in the long run to take survival jobs to tide over the temporary lack of income from your current industry. You may even find new jobs in industries you are unfamiliar with, such as on-premises jobs like administration or sales, or online jobs such as content creation, web development, and SEO. Be creative, flexible, explore avenues that are still providing employment, and reskill accordingly. In fact, as more and more businesses shift to digital, jobs that were previously on-premise, are also falling into the remote job category. While you may have been too busy in the past, hustling between assignments one after the other, that you never had time to learn new skills. But less work leaves more time to learn new skills. Some of these could even lead to lucrative opportunities down the road.
Google’s Digital Garage is a fantastic place to start, especially their “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing course”, which includes 26 modules covering social media, SEM, SEO, and content marketing. You can complete it at your own pace and use your newly acquired knowledge to secure more freelance gigs. Not to mention, Udemy has incredible courses at really affordable prices, led by world-class experts. The CIPR and PRCA are both offering free short courses and webinar series to help PR freelancers navigate the crisis as they go along.
Review Business Tools, Platforms, And Expenses
In the face of your current business situation, why don’t you take a stock of all your recurring expenses that your freelance business is using, and to cut costs and streamline wherever possible. Keep in mind that coronavirus is not going anywhere for at least some time, and it will be an even longer time before markets recover. Cutting down on some expenses will help you stay afloat until the markets pick up again. You can start by revisiting the platforms and tools that your business is using and look up affordable versions and even offers and discounts.
Subscriptions to services and tools can often amount to a large expenses. In addition, customer relationship management software, data analysis tools, and sales and marketing platforms, keep shifting their offers, as do communication platforms for business telephony and live customer chats, and project management tools. Keep comparing your existing platforms and tools with new developments in the field and new offers and see how you can reduce business expenses. This is especially true since the current crisis leads many platforms to offer reduced rates and special deals.
Although it might seem tricky to set goals in the face of such uncertainty, when nobody knows what will conspire one day to the next, this is a great time to start thinking about what you really want for your business. Reflect on what drove you to start freelancing in the first place? What type of clients are you looking to work with? Look back over your freelance career and think about your achievements, and whether you are going on the right path. Perhaps you want to attract new clients from new sectors, or augment retained monthly earnings by a certain percentage. Perhaps you might want to branch out into a new era, start a podcast or write a book? Write down your goals for the year and break down your goals into actionable chunks, spread out over quarters and months. So often, we can get caught up in mediocrity, just paying the bills and forgetting about our real passions. Life is giving you a chance to reevaluate yourself.