Freelancing from home during coronavirus: a survival guide
Working from home can be a struggle as a creative industries freelancer during ordinary times; let alone when there’s a pandemic on, writes freelance consultant Emilie Heaney, founder of Start-Up Marketer.
Being confined to the same place can quickly become monotonous, which leads to lack of focus and frustration -- even for the most disciplined of self-employed people. Add to that the pressure of homeschooling that has fallen on many parents in the wake of the covid-19 outbreak and some days, getting anything done can seem like an uphill battle!
Thankfully, there are actually some ways to make your coronavirus-related isolation and confinement to your new workplace (your home), a little bit more manageable. As hardly any of these ways will seem obvious when dirty dishes, cabin fever and Skyping both your gran and a great new client all gang up on you, let me offer some key ones below, in advance:
1. Go local by using - and supporting - services closer to home
As creatives, we can all do our bit in the local community by looking for activities outside the home to stimulate us while also supporting the likes of a local arts charity. According to the government’s coronavirus guidelines, charity work or helping the vulnerable is a reason to travel from your home, so long as you’re not going too far.
Back at home, you can also help out local good causes which may need extra assistance during the pandemic by offering them your creative services such as content or design, as charities and community websites often need both. Just remember to offer up your skillset at a discounted rate so they can actually afford you!
Collaborative efforts in the community outside your home but during this crisis can transform the outlook of otherwise house-bound self-employed people, and small business owners, while allowing individuals to access a larger range of services without risks to their health.
Thanks to a cooperative scheme that’s been established post-lockdown in the area around my home, I’ve been able to order fruit and vegetables from a local supplier and pre-prepared dinners from a farm shop close by. These delivery and social distancing-conscious collection services have taken a lot of the stress out of shopping -- one of the very few other reasons that the government says you can leave your flat or house for.
Such services free up my time to keep working, more worry-free and undistracted at home even, for me, once the extra childcare is factored in -- a result of the closure of schools.
In short, wherever possible, use and support small, nearby independent businesses over large chains. It is tiny local traders who need your custom much, much more.
2. Keep clients informed of your covid-19 steps; say enough to reassure aspiring ones
In order to retain your existing clients while you freelance for them from your home, it is a good idea to let them know any steps you have taken in response to coronavirus. For our operation, and many other creative businesses, that involves moving all our meetings online. We now offer client consultations via Skype rather than face-to-face and have continued to work remotely, holed up in our homes rather than working in public places and co-working spaces.
From home, you can publicise these changes using the channels that you use most often to communicate with your clients. That may be social media, email or a bulletin on your website. The exact channel does not matter; what matters is that it’s reaching as many clients as possible – existing, but also new. Even if you’ve just done one thing to safeguard the safety of your clients and your team (if you have one), it’s worth talking about. How you respond to this national crisis, will impact your brand image in the eyes of existing and future customers.
3. Practice self-care when self-isolating at home
As well as looking after your freelance business during the coronavirus lockdown, there are some practical steps you can take in the home to look after yourself and help reduce your stress during these challenging times. One of the best ways to do this is by building regular breaks into your working schedule where you step away from your screen, maybe make a cup of tea and focus on something different, even if it is just looking out of the window!
In your house, try to work in a room that has a lot of natural light and, when it helps you, use music to boost your mood. As a very minimum and no matter how many video-enabled Skype calls you have or haven’t got lined up, make sure you start your day by getting dressed for a full working day, have a shower and keep your workspace as tidy as you would on any ordinary day.
Once at your desk (which should not be an afterthought but a dedicated workspace), write a manageable to-do list at the start of the day and work on ticking them off, aiming for 50% completed by the middle of your working day.
Finally, despite being confined to our homes, this is also not a time to skimp on exercise! It’s more important than ever to get your body moving, whether that’s with at-home workouts, yoga, jogging or just a 30-minute walk outside in the fresh air. There’s also a lot of online resources to explore from experts with experience on how to handle isolation -- including this interesting one which has just 'surfaced' from a submarine captain! Bad puns and joking aside, I’d like to wish all my fellow freelancers the best of luck, when freelancing and working from home during this pandemic.
Editor's Note: The author, Emilie Heaney, set up Start-Up Marketeer to help freelancers and entrepreneurs launch and grow their online business through effective digital marketing. Her mission is to let you tell the world about your amazing idea, product or service without a hefty agency price tag or industry jargon.