How to deal with the pandemic as a freelancer

How to deal with the pandemic as a freelancer

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.

Prioritize expenses

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.

Stockpile cash

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.

Stay safe!

Living with Uncertainties as a Freelancer

Living with Uncertainties as a Freelancer

I want to talk about something that nobody is openly discussing. Freelancing is not all rainbows and unicorns. It’s not even all roses if that’s your thing. Being a freelancer is not at all dreamy. If you want to become a freelancer, you need to live with constant uncertainty.

I ended 2019 (and also started 2020) with anxiety. There were times when I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if I’ll make it. Then, I’ll cry and not get back to sleep. I would cry and get mad at everyone almost always in a cycle. I didn’t want to go out and hang out with friends. Furthermore, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what I was going through. Every single day, I was living in fear. I kept my thoughts (and fears) to myself and I wasn’t holding everything pretty well.

Uncertainty is the norm for a freelancer, usually. Projects and clients come and go. Just like working in a normal nine-to-five, you have no security. However, with being a freelancer, the risks are higher. Some projects tend to be short-lived. There are times when your services are no longer needed or the clients’ needs have changed. You just have to be comfortable living with risks and dealing with uncertainties.

My story

One retainer project ended last year and I was worried as hell. I worried that I might not be able to save enough or pay my bills. But that’s not the entire picture. I still have two retainer clients and another on-going non-urgent project that I am working on. It’s not the end of the world, but I panicked because I might not reach my target income that allowed me to live (i.e., save and pay) comfortably.

A funny thing happened. When that retainer project ended, other projects came unexpectedly. I got short-term writing projects that allowed me to earn that same amount I lost (or even more). For this, I am thankful to the Universe (and to former clients who still trust me through the years). When one short-term project ends, another one came. Always. Then, I realize I panicked for no reason at all.

I also had emergency funds that covered the lost income. This allowed me to pursue projects that paid at a later date. Had I not saved enough; I would probably be fucked for real. However, I will have to replenish the funds I took out to prepare for a similar situation in the future.

The ebb and flow

Freelancing has its ebb and flow. There will be good months where you’re fully booked and blessed with paying clients. However, not everyone talks about the slow months where it takes you weeks to find a project that fills your work schedule and pays the bills. These months are real. They’re too real. You either learn to live and deal with these slow months or you let this break you.

Unless you’re okay with this, you should not jump into the sea of freelancing. Sorry to break it to you, honey. Clients and projects don’t just magically appear in your inboxes. You have to put in the work. You need to create your profile, build your portfolio, and be searchable. In short, you need to put yourself out there. Work has to be done.

Dealing with uncertainties

To deal with these uncertainties, you need to take measures. You need to prepare yourself. You should have money saved to cover for the slow weeks or months. Having three to six months of expenses as your emergency fund is a good start. This will give you enough time to search for another project while making sure that the bills are paid.

On the good months, it’s important to save all the extra for the slow months. Always budget for the worst. If possible save most, if not all, for your emergency fund. This is your top priority if you’re starting in the freelancing world.

Aside from that, you need to mentally prepare yourself. I thought I was ready for this to happen, but it turned out I wasn’t. I was devastated. Unfortunately, I still have this tendency to equate my self-worth with the work that I do. With one project ending, I battled with my demons. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I sulked and went on a rage. Later on, I realized that part of this ebb and flow is acceptance and letting go. It wasn’t as easy as meditating or practicing yoga. Real life can be harder than it seemed.

Getting by

To be honest, I am just starting to get out of my anxiety-ridden funk. It has been two months of sleeplessness and dealing with my demons. I have skipped dinners and gatherings with friends because I wasn’t “well.” I’ve been living in my head for too long. Then, I realized that things will work out eventually.

I am currently working on other projects that allow me to earn back the income that I have lost. I am still creating backup plans and striving to work my way out of this rut. It’s not easy but it’s not something I cannot do. I am trying to get by. I am trusting the Universe while making sure that I also do my part.

Six things I wish I did before I started freelancing

Six things I wish I did before I started freelancing
It’s been more than a year since I left my corporate job and started freelancing. I’ve had quite the adventure from having zero plans when I started to now trying to get my shit together. My life has been a crazy ride ever since but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, there might be a few changes I would have done (financially) just so I got my ass covered. If I could go back in time just to do things right, I will do these six things before I went and jumped into the freelance ship.

Have a buffer

A buffer could be an extra amount of money that you have to prevent you from overdrafting (if you have a checking account). However, you can use buffer differently as an extra wiggle room for when you have miscellaneous or unexpected expenses. How I see buffer, as a freelancer, is having extra money to cover you for a month’s (or less) necessary expenses in case the check didn’t come through yet. The problem with freelancing is that you’re not quite sure if you’ll have the same earnings every month. Every client is different. I never had a buffer and I just discovered what a buffer is this year after reading an article from The Simple Dollar. As a freelancer, this would be something great to have as a the-client’s-pay-didn’t-come-through-yet money.

Have an emergency fund

This I’ve known for years. Many financial bloggers advise having at least three to six months of living expenses as an emergency fund. The bigger your emergency fund, the better. This emergency fund should cover events, like hospitalization or when you’re suddenly out of job. The key here: emergency. It shouldn’t be touched to buy that new iPhone or that nice dress from Zara.

When I resigned, I only had a little over a month of emergency fund sitting in my bank. Though it did help a lot during my first month out of corporate, it would have been better to have more. I got lucky and found a project just a week before my last day at the office which was amazing. I also found another paying gig two weeks after that. So a few weeks in, I already had enough money for my monthly expenses. It was a miracle. Unfortunately, I exhausted all my funds at that time. Now, I’m slowly rebuilding my emergency fund (along with other savings).

Pay off all debts

I had a big sum of (credit card) debt even before I quit my job. This was the result of bad financial management in my youth, despite knowing better. My parents berated me for months when they knew of my financial sins. My mom asked me to close my accounts and I had to pay them all. Quitting my job made it worse. Without a stable monthly paycheck, it was more challenging to pay my bills. Truth be told, it was tough. On the flip side, I already paid one credit card account in full (while I was freelancing). It was an achievement on my part. Now, I’m on my way to pay off the last one.

Have a few freelancing projects before resigning

Get your toes wet first, if possible. This is probably the most important test to see if you could handle the freelance life. Make sure that you have bankable skills that you could use as a freelancer. If you know designing and graphics, you could easily find projects online for designers. VA jobs are also in demand right now and are relatively easy to get. Utilize the skills that you have and find a job that you enjoy. By trying out freelancing jobs, you can maneuver how the online industry works. It’s definitely a skill to learn as well.

Start your retirement savings

This is something that’s good to start as soon as you get your first paycheck. I just started mine, so there’s no judgment if you don’t have this bit figured out yet. Once you have your emergency fund set up, work on your retirement savings. Don’t rely on social security to get you through your senior life. No, your future kids aren’t your escape plan. Have your retirement figured out as early as possible and you’ll thank yourself when you reach that age. It’s nice to think that you have yourself covered when you’re old and gray. Some people even save up super fast in order to retire earlier than 65.

Figure out a way to get insurance

Health insurance is one of the perks of working in a company. When you’re working for yourself, you only I have yourself to rely on. Find ways to get some sort of healthcare coverage when emergencies arise. I personally opted to pay voluntarily for my PhilHealth and join a cooperative that comes with basic health insurance. This is still not enough for someone who has health problems, like me. I’m still looking into getting prepaid healthcare insurance to beef up whatever coverage that I currently have. I cannot imagine burning a hole in my savings just because I didn’t prepare for health emergencies. This also includes preparing for death, so I just started a memorial plan just in case.

Although I am currently doing all these points right now, I wish I could’ve done them sooner to prevent certain challenges in my freelancing life. I just hope some people, who have been contemplating about being their own bosses, will find this helpful. It can be tempting to jump off the cliff too soon, especially when you’re already dragging yourself to work. However, just making sure you have an extra layer of (financial) security will help you sleep soundly at night.