by Rachel Smith
20 March 2020
I know, I know. It feels like there isn’t a whole lot to be positive about right now.
A killer virus is sweeping the world, global markets are crashing, there are rumblings that a recession is imminent. Freelancers have been ignored in stimulus packages, the balance of our super funds are plummeting. And many of us are losing work hand over fist.
In the past 2 days alone I’ve fielded calls from half a dozen friends and family about the state of play. Anxiety has been high on everyone’s agenda.
But again, I’ve gotta ask: what are the positives of this hairy and unpredictable situation we’re in? Are there any glass-half-full nuggets of wisdom to glean from all of this? I think so.
I sometimes toy with the idea of looking for a permanent job. Sometimes, the idea of steady work and a monthly pay cheque appeals (especially in times like these). But my parents, who are very much of the job-for-life generation, completely quashed that idea on the phone to me today.
By their reasoning, I’d been freelance for a long time (20+ years). I’d built a strong business with a portfolio of loyal clients, so while my income could take a hit if I lost one or two, I’d be in a far worse position losing my sole in-house job. And I’m cheaper to hire on a short-term basis than it is to have a full-time employee. Who are those clients gonna call? Freelancers.
If you made it through the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 as a freelancer, you can do it again. Make no mistake: the shit is very likely to hit the fan and things might be lean for a while, but don’t forget that you’re in the driver’s seat of your business. You have strong freelancer networks and systems in place. You can cut back and have some control over your costs. Dammit, you can hustle in your sleep.
What all this boils down to is agility and your ability to try new things. Like upskilling. Tweaking your marketing, updating your own portfolio. You can put together some brand new discount packages for your services and promote the shizz out of them on LinkedIn and other social media. You can brainstorm strategies to help your clients weather the storm, and offer yourself as an extra pair of hands on deck – even doing things you might not have otherwise. You can send pitches to editors and LOIs to former and current clients letting them know you’re available for quick turnaround work and suggesting ideas.
This is a big one. Even if you’re scared and haven’t written for those industries before, a little research goes a long way AND many of your skills are translatable. For example, ten years ago I would’ve fallen off my chair in disbelief if someone told me I’d be writing about finance, business and insurance in the near future (after years interviewing celebrities, doing movie reviews and writing travel stories). But I have some solid clients in these areas now and they’ve become great income streams.
While some industries (like travel) are temporarily tanking, others are going to be in need of content, comms, crisis PR, etc etc. What might those be? Banking is just one of them. Health and medical is another. And with the shift to online and working from home, industries serving that trend will also be in need. Many digital outlets, too, will need vast amounts of informative and engaging content for people stuck at home, bored, desperate for entertainment, how-to pieces, tips on keeping the kids amused, ways to make the most of the pantry, strategies for staying connected with loved ones. How can you spin this to your advantage? What’s new and fresh that you can pitch that taps into the current reality?
Running a jobs board, I feel like I’ve been banging on my drum for years about why companies should hire freelancers, the benefits of outsourcing projects and embracing remote working.
So I’ve been watching with great interest as so many companies start sending their employees to work from home in droves. Yes, Covid-19 has forced the issue, but suddenly freelancers are the experts in this way of working and watching bemused as the in-house staff fumble and try to get with the program. Just look at the millions of blog posts flooding your feeds in the past week (including ours, sorry) about pointers for remote working.
And, yes, part of me hopes this will trigger a real culture shift, away from the old-school bums on seats policy and more towards an enthusiasm for remote freelancers. I’m hoping it will mean a surge in more remote short gigs and jobs for us all, by companies who realise it’s cost-effective and smart to use freelancers plug the skill gaps in their teams.
Take a freelance copywriter friend of mine who works across marketing, advertising and corporate comms.
“When the GFC kicked in, I’m not going to lie, it was a bad year. This was because work just froze up — clients were suddenly cancelling or indefinitely delaying projects. No one wanted to commit to spend. There was clearly a lot more competition suddenly for what work there was thanks to layoffs. I got through that year somehow,” she remembers.
“I still had work and made money, just significantly less than I had been in years prior. However, the following year, there was a dramatic turnaround and I actually found the work rolling in. This is because in the interim companies had laid off staff and axed their big agencies so they needed contractors more than ever. If you can make it through this tough patch, maintaining your existing clients as much as possible and forming new relationships wherever you can, you’ll be ok.”
Make no bones about it, freelancing during uncertain times can be tough. Are you hustling more than ever, tapping new industries, picking up new clients? To help, we’re giving away 5 copies of our powerful new lead generation tracker worth $19.95. Leave a comment below about what you’re doing to weather the coronavirus crisis and you’ll go into the draw to win.