Like many workers, freelancers are currently experiencing a series of unique challenges and hardships. Within those challenges, however, lie opportunities to reflect, pivot and plan to successfully embrace a future in which remote work is universally accepted.
The steps outlined in this post are designed to help freelance talent protect themselves and minimize the impact of unforeseen challenges or uncontrollable circumstances—both in the near future and for long-term planning.
Establish an Emergency Fund.
Whether you're new to freelancing or not, having an emergency fund is important. A good general rule is to have 3-6 months' worth of income in the bank. You may experience slow days, weeks or even months, and you'll need to be ready for that.
Of course, nobody could've predicted the size and scale of the business and economic effects caused by COVID-19; so if you're currently struggling, know that you're not alone.
(We've also put together a list of COVID-19 Relief And Resources For Freelancers which includes a list of tools, resources, and programs designed to provide short-term relief and assistance.)
Strengthen Your Contract Terms.
Change how you get paid. As a freelancer, you can choose how and when you get paid, so make sure that your payment terms work for you. Set clear expectations before you start any work so that clients fully understand how you like to be paid.
*Remember: be kind and human to clients, at all times. You never know what they may be going through (even when not in a situation like the one we are in right now).
In addition to changing how you get paid, strengthen your cancellation and rescheduling policies. Did you know there are legal clauses meant to protect you during unforeseeable and unavoidable events? Consider adding the following to strengthen your existing contracts and protect your business:
Force Majeure Clause: French for “superior force,” this clause excuses you from performing the services outlined in the contract due to an unforeseen, unavoidable or impossible event, which includes epidemics and pandemics.
Safe Working Environment Clause: Reserves the right to discontinue service in the event that an unsafe condition arises such as an area being affected by a communicable disease.
Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause: Clarifies the procedure should you not be able to perform your services.
Build Multiple Streams of Income.
It may seem obvious in hindsight, but don't underestimate the importance of having multiple streams of income. This will not only help you make more money but also ride out any bumps in the road. After all, your greatest advantage is not your product, but your skills and expertise. Learn to adapt, expand your skills and find new ways to consult or offer related services to make money.
Continue Improving Efficiency.
As more organizations realize that employees can successfully and productively work from home, this behavior is likely to be encouraged post-COVID—and freelancers should be ready to support these changes as well.
Whether it’s transitioning in-person meetings to video calls, freezing your co-working membership or taking on clients in new geographies or locations, look for opportunities to become more efficient and productive while continuing to grow your business.
Focus on Secure, Ongoing Work.
Find more retainers and ongoing arrangements to balance out uncertainty. Think about how you can become so indispensable that your clients don't drop you when trouble strikes. Polish your skills, think about what additional services you might offer and see where you can improve. If you're a web designer, for instance, can you also provide web hosting and ongoing site maintenance?
Now is the time for future planning, preparation and goal setting. Post COVID-19, what are some things you will do differently? How will you go about managing your business? How are you planning for the future? Freelancers who can begin answering these questions today will position themselves to be successful in the future.