It’s been almost like an alien movie without the aliens and helicopters. Lockdown and the pandemic has given us a taste of how the world we know can and will change.
And for the business world, too.
For freelancers, the landscape of finding clients and the way that we work could look very different with technology, the way we connect and who we connect with.
In the freelancing world, half of all freelancers surveyed have already lost over 60% of their income, according to PR Cavalry. And many of the 2 million freelancers in the UK are considering quitting or putting their business on hold. Despite this, there is still a growing number of people starting their own business as an alternative to trudging through the slow and muddy path of employment.
For freelancers, it’s crucial to consider ways to keep business going through this unprecedented time rather than quitting altogether – because business will grow again.
Because once lockdown is over, even for the most experienced of freelancers and business owners, there’ll no doubt be some unexpected surprises and challenges to the way of working and even what is offered.
So, what will a post-lockdown life look like? And how can freelancers prepare? Close your eyes and get ready for a bumpy ride. Where some clients are closing business – for now – others opening up and increasing sales. Where one business is surviving, others are thriving. Think healthcare, gaming and personal finances to start with.
Here’s a guide about how you can roll with the tide and prepare for freelance life when lockdown ends.
Finding Silver Linings
Designer, Lucie Selby, highlights where she has found new clients from people who have either been furloughed or who have set aside savings for future design work.
“This is where I’ve found new clients during this tricky working environment.”
Even in a crisis, there can be silver linings. Having more time at home and fewer clients means you can spend more time researching companies you’d like to work with – or in a brand new niche.
Need to revamp your profile? Maybe tweak your portfolio and update it? Journalist, Katie Fisher, suggests tweaking your LinkedIn profile or giving your online presence a whole new look to raise your game. Never has there been a better chance to do this.
Focus on Growing Niches
While some businesses are suffering right now, there are also industries that have grown at a rapid pace. Services providing help with budgeting, medicine and keeping fit have all increased sales since lockdown and there’ll be an ongoing demand long after, too.
Digital marketing freelance writer, Elna Cain knows that, as a freelancer, you’re in control of where you take your business. Where one specific niche usually works for you, if that industry slows down during a challenging time, it helps to be versatile.
So, why limit yourself to one niche?
Elna talks about focusing on sectors most benefiting from the lockdown.
“We’re in a unique position now, with the opportunity to earn money remotely, unlike many people whose job requires them to work in person.
“To maximise your efforts in finding clients, focus on the businesses benefiting from this situation. For example, at-home exercise and yoga are exploding because people need to stay fit and healthy.
“Reach out to these companies and offer your services, and you might be surprised how quickly they snag your services.”
Believe it or not, they’re out there in this climate. Gaming sites struggling before now find bored people at home logging on and signing up; teachers are getting booked for online classes with parents wanting their children to continue their education.
Helping Businesses Out
No, we’re not suggesting you should provide services for free or lower your rates, but now is a time to be genuinely helpful. Be smart about this and offer something that’s useful but isn’t going to take up a lot of your time. It could be tips on content marketing, a template for a business providing essential customer communications, a free webinar or social media designs. Then let your target audience know you’re giving it away; or reach out to local businesses and ask them what they need right now so you can come up with a helpful tool to help.
Sure, people may not be looking to purchase a service from you right now; but by being helpful, businesses will remember you when the economy is looking good again.
Consider a Side Income to Your Side Income
Even for seasoned freelancers, weathering the storm of lockdown and the effects of social distancing is just another situation to work through. But while on the lookout for new clients to work with, this can be challenging even for more experienced and established freelancers.
While new enquiries are slow, supplementing your income from agencies and businesses that hire freelancers can be a safety net. You won’t have to find your own clients, a brief will be provided – all you have to do is the work itself. Plus, it’ll only add to your freelancer portfolio and you can pick up a reference at the end.
“You can often pick up work through agencies by reaching out to them and offering your services, says freelance animator, Anthony, of Anthony Animates. “One-off projects with agencies can help you grow and can be a lifesaver to keep work consistent until work picks up again.”
There are agencies for different industries specialising in various skills – find them on LinkedIn, through reputable freelance work platforms, like Twine or through your own online research.
Video Calls Taking the Lead
Since the lockdown began, video calls and investment in conference call technology has seen an increase in downloads and investment in software from businesses for their newly remote teams.
For many freelancers, conference and video calls are pretty much a way of life when speaking with clients and can open doors to new ones.
Lucie says the increasing use of new technology like Zoom, has increased what she can offer new and existing clients.
“Since lockdown, I have found international clients I work with over video and screen sharing to develop design concepts live. This allows them to have an input into the design, which is more palpable than providing feedback over email.”
Value Your Worth
Where do you excel and who is willing to pay you well for it? This is the golden ticket answer every freelancer wants to know.
Even in a crisis when you can help struggling businesses, there are still clients willing to pay well for certain skills. Could they be skills you have?
Award-winning marketer, trainer and Brave By Design podcast host, Laura Khalil believes that getting clear on your skillset and which companies will pay well is key to avoiding a ‘race to the bottom’ pricing model.
“Money loves clarity. Find your niche. Find people who have a problem you can solve and share with them the value of your service. That’s how freelancers can go from struggling to successful,” says Laura.
Keep the Marketing Alive
Keep the spark of marketing going, even if it’s just regular updates on your LinkedIn profile. Even when business is dragging, marketing should never be on your backburner. We’re not talking all out Facebook ad campaigns or Google Ads here, but regular, meaningful posts on social media, building your network and sending a few personal messages can work like magic in the long-term.
And while there’s less work around, you’ve got more time now to try some marketing strategies.
It may not feel like you’re growing your business this way, but more people will get to know you and what you do. Then, when they’re ready, they can contact you.
Lucie says: “Sharing aspects of your business and showing your followers that you’re still working on projects will eventually pass on to those considering design work.”
Remember your clients are human, too. Business owners have had all sorts of challenges through the pandemic, from loss of business to family illness – even closure. As well as marketing, sharing thoughtful posts and consideration for how tough people are finding it can help people see the human in you. Freelance content writer, Emma, of Emma Writes, suggests empathising with people’s posts and tagging them when posting helpful information. People are behind the businesses and this is what matters. Who knows? You could be doing business with them one day.
Using Co-Working Spaces
Before the lockdown, use of co-working spaces were said to grow by 40%, with freelancers who want to network with others. Working with people around you is proven to improve productivity, motivation and helps build networks to get new business. There are plenty of modern and useful facilities popping up around London and it doesn’t cost much to sign up to use them each month. But if you’re starting out and don’t want to spend out, there’s plenty of online spaces you can go for, including hotel lobbies and open areas in cafes.
Not only can working among others help with isolation, but it can also help to create ideas, as well as worries.
Coming out of lockdown won’t be easy and it’ll take time to get things for the market to stabilise again. But by being resilient, adapting and changing, it can help you stay afloat as we get into a new normal.