We’re all stuck in a pandemic that caught us off-guard (aside from Bill Gates and other scientists who have warned mankind about an upcoming pandemic). The stock market has plummeted. Some businesses are temporarily halted. Many were laid off and put on forced leaves. Households are affected. The COVID-19 pandemic is no fun. This has affected most, if not all, people. Freelancers for one have also been hit.
I’ve seen people comment in freelance groups that their contracts have been put on hold as clients deal with the crisis. Others have hours minimized while some are out of work indefinitely. I, for one, have one project that’s currently on pause and that has affected my finances in a way. While the market and the economy are both uncertain, it is important to focus on the things we can control.
Here are some tips on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic (or any other stressful event) as a freelancer:
Use your emergency fund
If you find yourself out of work or with less working time, it can be challenging to stay afloat. This is the time when you can take advantage of your emergency fund. This is one of the reasons why you’re saving this money, to save you and your family on a rainy day.
When you have saved around three to six months of expenses, then you are able to cover your needs while you’re still looking for a job. If you can afford to cover up to a year, then do it. I talked on a previous post about the importance of having an emergency fund as a freelancer. Clients come and go and the income can be unpredictable. This is why setting aside money can be useful. The bigger your emergency fund, then you can withstand extended periods of unemployment.
This crisis is not the time to spend money on unnecessary things. You may be tempted to order a milk tea and a box of pizza delivered straight to your home because you are stressed. However, you may want to divert that money to essential expenses like your rent, utilities, groceries, and meds.
Some utility companies in the Philippines have offered deferred payments. Others are giving discounts if you’re paying your bills on time. If you are currently in a tight place with your budget, take advantage of this payment option. Contact your biller and ask if they are offering some sort of leniency during this crisis. If you are able to pay your bills without a problem, then it would be best to pay them right away. Don’t wait for the extended deadline only to find yourself short of cash when that day comes. Chip off payments if you are able.
Keep a pile of cash on hand. Always. Especially in this crisis. This doesn’t mean cashing in on your stocks due to the crash (NEVER DO THIS!). What I’m referring to is having money on hand that’s enough for two weeks up to a month.
I don’t want to sound like a doomsday prepper, but having cash is important. Banks might close and ATMs might go out of cash. Although this is very unlikely, it is important to have cash lying around just in case you cannot use your card. This also gives some peace for emergency expenses and purchases.
Apply for short-term projects
Always be on the lookout for new opportunities, if you find that your job isn’t stable. Try to send out three to five applications per day. Send more if you can. Having a backup job when your main job fails will save you. There have been countless occasions where my side gig saved my ass in the past. Make sure you have multiple streams of income in case the economy tanks or your client’s business folds.
The thing about facing a crisis such as this pandemic is that we’re not exactly sure how this will pan out. There might be a possible recession or depression. Having a few extra projects to work on will give you some sort of a safety net in case SHTF. With extra work, you can stash some extra money as savings to prepare for an emergency. This will also buy you time to find another job.
Learn new skills
If you want to keep up with the ever-changing freelance landscape, always upgrade your skills. If you have some time in your hands, learn something new. Watch tutorials and get yourself a certificate or two. Make sure that these skills add to your current skillset. Doing so can help you in landing a new position in no time.
Since a lot of people are forced to stay at home, competition for projects and jobs has recently increased. Jobs are now filling fast. If you want to stay on top of the game and be hireable, then it is important to improve your skillset now and then. Get certifications. Read more books. Stay current. It’s either you change with the times or you perish.
Bottom line: Safety net
I know that this situation is challenging for everyone. It is definitely a strange time for all of us. It can be difficult for some to get up in the morning lest even be productive. Although it is easy to be worried, you can reframe your mind by taking action on things that you can control.
These tips will work not just for freelancers, but for all types of workers. Having a safety net and being competitive in these changing times will help you stay afloat during this pandemic.