how to survive the Coronavirus effect as a small business or freelancer

There’s been a lot of talk amongst freelancers and small business owners about how we might weather the storm of coronavirus in terms of still earning and surviving in the midsts of potential travel restrictions, bans on gatherings and school and workplace closures. Fingers crossed it doesn’t get this far, but it makes sense for is to calm consider what life might be like for a while and how we can weather the storm.

The first thing to say is please do not panic. Panicking and worrying though a very natural response never helped anyone and gets you straight into a scarcity and lack mindset which will make it very difficult to remain objective and positive.

Some things are completely out of our control and focusing on them doesn’t do us any good and much damage can be done to our mental health and stress levels by living in a zone of ‘what ifs’ on a permanent basis.

That said, it’s perfectly reasonable to have concerns and to want to try and take some action to help in what might be a difficult, though hopefully short, period of time in our businesses and lives.

So I want to talk about how to spend the downtime we might get through a downturn in work productively, how to change the way we do things to still earn if our usual ways of making money are curtailed and also just keeping sane and positive – and maybe even thrive despite the setbacks!

I think the first thing I want to say is that there are a lot of us all in the same boat, small business owners, sole traders and also those running much larger businesses. If our income takes a hit we really will be all in it together. The UK alone is made up of millions of self employed and small business owners. Despite the constant attention to bigger business it is us small businesses and sole traders who are the backbone of this country and we do the majority of the tax paying and employing – and the government know this. They can’t afford to have us all end up on benefits.

I know that doesn’t put food on the table and I don’t want to diminish people’s genuine concerns around that but it sort of makes me feel better that I’m not the only one. The fact that in Italy people are being allowed to skip a mortgage payment shows how many people would immediately struggle if a lockdown like that was instigated. Today the UK government have started to announce some ways that they are trying to protect people from loss of earnings, including the business and self employed communities. Let’s hope there is more to come.

Remember, this will only ever be relatively short term in all likelihood – we probably are not talking about it dragging on for months and months if the government handles the situation right. And yes, I’m really trying to be super positive on that point as their track record isn’t fantastic!

Firstly, if you don’t already know, work out what your basic minimum monthly spend is – when I did this, I was actually comforted by how much smaller an amount it was that we needed if we simply fed ourselves (with a reduced food budget), paid the mortgages and kept essentials like heating, petrol, mobile phone and internet. This might seem a scary thing to do, but you really need to know what you need to bring in as a basic. If you think you will immediately fall short of this, think about how you can cope with this.

The next step is to look positively at things you can do to ensure that, when you can start trading again properly, you have done things to accelerate your sales at that point. A quick recovery is what we all need.

So for example I bought a Pinterest e-course recently that I haven’t got my teeth into yet – I could spend time on that so that I am making good inroads into how to use that platform to drive traffic to my coaching website. You could have a look at my latest e-programme, Gather & Grow about ho to grow and use your mailing list to grow your sales.

I also want to gain more branding clients for my branding company in the hospitality sector so I will put an intro campaign in place, get the visuals and messages ready to roll out when the time is right. Time spend doing marketing planning is never wasted! What marketing planning could you do that you’ve been putting off?

I could also write a bank of blogs and social posts so that I have lots in store and can have things scheduled and automated so that when work picks up I have less of this to do for a while and I can focus on delivering as much as I can. Could this work for you?

So, how can you change your working practices to still sell in these challenging situations?

Could you take your work online? For example, if you are a maker who currently sell your stuff face to face by selling in shops and galleries or at markets etc could you focus your energies on online sales? Even if you have a local audience for your work, they will still buy from you online via Etsy etc and you can use the social channels and mailing list you’ve been building up to let them know they can still buy – and use those channels to talk about your work etc.

If you currently offer coaching, mentoring or any other kind of consultancy face to face, offer it online. Don’t make the assumption that your clients won’t be able to pay you now, they might feel they need you more than ever, and at least have that option ready and set up – if you’ve never coached or consulted by skype or Zoom, now is the time to try!

Be of service – you might feel that some of your audience cannot afford to buy from you at the moment, but can you just find ways to give any way, be of service, just offer support and still be there and present? There’s no need to just disappear! If you stick with and by your audience even when they can’t support you, it will come good eventually and help to build trust and goodwill.

Do your admin – now is the time to look at your systems, focus on making your business kore efficient and catch up on boring but basic stuff like filing, bookkeeping and the like. If you’ve been considering a new accountancy package, you could trial it now (I use Xero and it’s great) or you could look around at different options for your mailing list – I use mailchimp and I really like it but there are others out there with different features.

Look at your website and how you might update and improve it – the easiest thing to change is the copy – check out  Suzy Darke for tips and ways to do this – she has lots of free and paid for ways to up your game in terms of communicating compellingly (so that your ideal customers want to buy from you. Suzy is amazing at this stuff and is on all the social channels offering her gentle and wise words.

Think as laterally as you can about how you can temporarily pivot your business. Get creative and see this as an opportunity to do things differently – you never know, it might be that you come up with an idea that will just work really well generally for the future.

I hope this has been useful and I’d love to hear any ideas that you have to stay productive, positive and earning should we start to have our businesses and work changed by coronavirus measures.

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