How to manage a freelance business amidst the pandemic

How to survive the pandemic as a freelancer

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world and caused thousands of companies to close down.

This translates to more than 195 million lost jobs according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). (Source: The Guardian)

In fact, you may have known someone who has recently lost his job.

There are also some freelancers I know who are having a difficulty during these trying times.

That’s why in this article, let’s talk about what you could do to keep your freelancer business afloat despite the pandemic.

Let’s get this started.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting freelance businesses?

Sometime during March, we held a large family meeting that consists of me and my wife along with my side of the family.

One of our main agenda is the potential impact of the pandemic on our freelance business.

Fortunately, our current clients, whose businesses are digital, weren’t that affected so it’s still business as usual.

However, that’s not the case for everyone.

Take this survey conducted by Payoneer on 1,000 freelancers from more than 100 countries.

Close to 32% of the respondents shared that the demand for their services has greatly decreased.

Out of 1,000 respondents, close to 32% shared that demand for their freelance services has greatly decreased.

Reportedly, most of the drop came from clients in North America and Europe. Freelancers who are doing business with clients from Asia and Australia only experience a slight impact.

One of the factors to consider is the nature of the client’s business.

Travel and hospitality businesses are heavily affected.

Freelancers who are serving these businesses will most likely experience difficulty as these businesses earn little to no income.

Takeaway: A small percentage of freelancers, especially those who are serving clients with businesses on travel and hospitality, may be experiencing difficulty.

Expect a surge of freelancers

Clearly, the number of freelancers will surely increase in the following months.

Around May, I predicted that there will be a surge of freelancers as more employees are being laid off.

Payoneer has also stated the same in their recent report.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, leading marketplaces have reported a rapid growth in new freelancers entering the platforms, as well as steadiness in the demand for services from businesses worldwide.

As people get confined in their homes without any means to earn, they will set their eyes to the most readily available source of income — the internet.

This will tip the supply-and-demand scale into an overwhelming supply with only a minimal demand.

For example, in Upwork alone, I have noticed that the number of freelance jobs available got fewer compared to the last few months.

There were over 4,000 freelance writing jobs available last December of 2019.

Here’s the number during May of 2020:

The number of available freelance writing jobs in Upwork

Currently, there are only about 2,700 available freelance writing jobs in Upwork. That number seems to be decreasing by the minute.

Certainly, the same thing is happening in different niches and services.

As more businesses close down, there will be fewer contractual work available.

Takeaway: The number of freelancers will exponentially increase as more people get laid off from their regular jobs and are forced to turn to the internet to earn money.

Is it too late to start your own freelance business?

Short answer:

No, it’s never too late to start working at home as a freelancer.

Although it may be better if you started months or years ago, it’s still a good time to start a freelance business.

Related: How to be a freelancer and start earning from home

However, you may have to do things differently compared to when things were still normal.

As you’ve seen earlier, the number of available jobs in freelance platforms are declining. But once the pandemic is under control, the demand will go back to how it was before, if not greater.

But for now, expect fewer jobs on freelance platforms like Upwork. You will also see more low-paying jobs as businesses start to recover.

If you’re starting now, watch out for lowballers or those that pay way below what’s appropriate.

Here’s an example of a lowballer client:

An example of a lowballer on Upwork

The best move is to focus on serving industries that are less affected by COVID like tech, finance, marketing, and entertainment.

It is always better to start now. Once the pandemic is over, there will be a surge of demand so starting now will give you the experience and credibility need to gain more clients in the future.

Takeaway: It is never too late to start freelancing. But you will have to be more focus and aggressive and avoid lowballers on freelance platforms like Upwork.

What are the best freelance services to focus on right now?

Normally, most of the in-demand skills are related to technology like mobile app development, landing page design, data visualization, etc.

Here is Upwork’s top 100 skills during 2019’s third quarter:

The top 100 freelance skills according to Upwork

But since the onset of COVID, companies are taking a more conservative approach by reducing non-essential expenses.

However, more companies are also taking a stance to prepare for a post-COVID world.

They do this by boosting their marketing efforts, customer service, and financial management.

In the coming months, there will be a rise in opportunities for:

  • Copywriting
  • Writing and editing
  • Content marketing
  • SEO
  • Lead generation
  • Customer support services
  • Project manager
  • Finance coaches
  • Business management
  • And more

As the world economy heals and everything settles down to a (new) normal, expect to see more clients in need of advanced technology skills like machine learning, digital transformation, and business optimization.

Takeaway: There will be an increased opportunity for non-technical jobs like copywriting, content marketing, lead generation, and others. When companies start to recover, technical jobs like machine learning and digital transformation will also rise.

What to do during the pandemic

If you want your freelance business to thrive and prosper even during the pandemic, you will have to make a few changes on how you do business.

Here are some of the things you can do:

Be more aggressive in finding clients

Increase your effort in finding clients by becoming more proactive.

If you’re using freelance platforms, submit more proposals and make sure you watch out for new jobs at least twice a day.

Improve your proposal cover letter. Make sure it will win you the job.

You should also consider leveling up how you find clients as more newcomers flock to platforms like Upwork.

Consider using cold email tactics to reach prospects.

Here is an example of an email you can send:

Hey John,

I love your blog, especially your article about content marketing.

Anyways, I have noticed that articles related to blogging do quite well.

I actually have a few ideas I would like to pitch to you if you’re interested.

By the way, my name is Joe and I help marketing agencies like [agency A] and [agency B] increase their website traffic through content marketing.

If you’re interested in knowing more about my work, check out these links:

[link 1]
[link 2]
[link 3]

Let me know your thoughts.

Regards,
Joe

Sending cold emails is more challenging than merely browsing freelance platforms and marketplaces since you will have to find your prospects’ email addresses and reach out to them.

For some people, the idea of sending emails to people without prior contact seems daunting. But this is definitely more rewarding than other means of finding clients.

Whatever works for you, make sure to double down on it.

Expand your skills

Now is the best time to learn new skills, especially those that are in-demand right now.

There are various free and paid resources you can tap like Edx, Coursera, FutureLearn, and more.

There is also Class Central which is a free search engine for free online courses.

Personally, I use LinkedIn Learning to learn new skills. It isn’t free. But I like it since the certificates can directly be uploaded to LinkedIn with a single click.

Here’s how it looks on mine:

How certificates from LinkedIn Learning look like on a LinkedIn profile.

If you’re new to freelancing, try learning how to:

  • Write for an online audience
  • Use WordPress
  • Manage social media pages
  • Create landing pages
  • Write an email copy
  • Design an infographic

If you’re a seasoned freelancer, learn skills that complement with your current skillset.

For instance, if you’re a website developer, try learning how to write content so you could include it in your package.

Increase your branding efforts

As the freelance space gets more competitive, getting your name out there will help you land more contracts.

Usually, it’s the freelancer who should find and get in touch with clients.

But how would you feel if the clients themselves will make the effort of reaching out to you?

If you like that, consider becoming more active on LinkedIn — a social media like Facebook made for professionals.

Being active on LinkedIn helped me get in touch with clients that can only be found on LinkedIn.

Reply on LinkedIn from a prospective freelance client

Another suggestion is to start a blog.

Blogging will not only help you get your name out there, but it could also be a source of passive income for you.

There are platforms you can use for free to start blogging like:

Of course, if you have plans to expand and turn your blog into a business, you should use WordPress (org) with a paid hosted domain.

Bluehost (affiliate link) has a really cheap hosting plan that costs only $2.95 per month and it already comes with a free domain name for one year.

Provide more value to clients

Some of your clients may be experiencing difficulties as they try to keep their business afloat.

As your client’s partner, you should come from a place of help.

There may be times in the coming days when you will have to step up and help your clients with their businesses in an increased capacity.

For example, a past client has approached me and asked if I could copy her articles from her old website to a new website.

Here is how our conversation transpired:

There is no need to charge for such a small task. But I am confident that when the time comes that she needs the services I offer, she will come to me again.

Of course, you don’t have to do it for free yourself. But you may be able to set up a way that will make the burden lighter for them.

Be more mindful of your finances

Whether you’re a freelancer or not, one of the best things you should do right now is to be more mindful of your finances.

Cut down some of your non-essential expenses for the moment and increase your income.

Prioritize allocating savings and emergency funds from your income to be better prepared for worst-case scenarios.

If you have money saved up for emergencies, that’s one thing less to worry about.

Takeaway: Although it is unfortunate that the pandemic happened, you should try looking at it as an opportunity to grow further. You can use this time to find more clients, learn new skills, and connect with other people.

Keep going forward

With the pandemic around, starting a freelance business may be one of the most lucrative income-generating activities.

But only if you do it right.

There are numerous freelance businesses that are still thriving right now.

To do that, you have to be more aggressive in finding clients, increase your branding efforts, and provide more value to clients.

Now it’s your turn:

  • What are you doing to keep your freelance business afloat?
  • How much time are you allocating right now to find more clients?
  • Did you learn any new skills in the last couple of days to expand your skillset?

Let me know by sharing your thoughts down below.

About Alan

Alan helps different companies generate more qualified leads and increase their sales by educating their readers with strategic content and writing blogs. He's also the founder of Work Pajama.

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