Freelance life in the midst of a pandemic

Freelance life in the midst of a pandemic

The last three months have been a pretty long year. 2020 has thrown us a ton of curveballs and it seems like there is no end to it. I hoped that this year would be smooth but it was definitely otherwise. There have been quite a lot of big catastrophes and sad news. The biggest so far is the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Cebu (and in some parts of the Philippines) added strain to the already tense freelance work life that I had.

I have been very anxious in early March when the virus started to spread in the country. It is unsettling to know that we’re fighting an invisible enemy, a virus that kills. There have been a lot of casualties and the worldwide economy is taking a hit because of the pandemic. With this unusual turn of events, my anxiety was through the roof. I found myself crying in the middle of the night unable to contain my fears and emotions.

The current life

I have one project (with a Luzon-based startup) that’s currently on hold because of the ECQ. It was an understandable move. With the quarantine set in Luzon, the business was on its knees. It would be futile to keep continue marketing when your target audiences are still trapped in their homes with limited funds.

I see other foreign clients taking a big hit because of the pandemic. Sales were down and some of the businesses were halted. This heightened my anxiety levels. It can be nerve-wracking to think about what the future holds, especially for industries and businesses that are tied up to my freelance work.

The ECQ also tossed the routine I had. I used to work out regularly for an extra boost of serotonin, but gyms and studios are closed. You can also find me cooped up in a cafe in the afternoons trying to get work done, but dining in is no longer allowed. I am still grappling with the loss of structure and I’m trying to put back the pieces. I am a creature of habit and this made my life really difficult.

The good thing is, I am still working on a few projects that are enough to pay for the essentials. With one project gone, I am forced to prioritize important line expenses. It is not so bad but, it is kind of crippling.  With what’s going on, now is the time to have more than extra dough. This would help ease anxiety and provide a little bit of financial security. This is also the time to minimize unnecessary expenses and save because the future might not be what we expect it to be.

How I’m coping

Although I lost one big project (for the meantime), I am still working and I have money set aside. I am grateful that I still earn and have projects because some people have it worse. I see other freelancers post their woes about clients who have paused contracts because of the crisis. Although I am lucky, the fear is still lurking. The pandemic just started and I really don’t know how the economy will fare in the coming months.

With this, I am putting myself out there. I am applying to projects and looking around for new freelance opportunities. This is not the time to be complacent unless you’re set for six months or more. I try my best to reply to messages and invitations and always look into the possibility of getting some work done for others. On the bright side, I am blessed to receive interview invitations and seasonal projects here and there. It is something I am thankful for. I have new projects that are about to commence in the coming weeks. However, I don’t want to rest on my laurels.

I recently opened up to a freelancer friend regarding my worries about the possible recession (or depression). She said that this will be the time our emergency fund will come in handy. It’s going to be a matter of feast or famine, so we need to readjust our priorities. This really struck me as the most honest piece of advice I’ve ever received recently and I’ve adjusted how I view my expenses in the past few weeks.

Refocus

We are definitely living in an uncertain time and this might be the new normal. It is easy to be stuck in a loop of anger, fear, and anxiety with what’s going on. However, I decided to take hold of the things I can control, like showing up for work every day and putting myself out there by sending emails and proposals regularly. It can be challenging especially when all that you see are bad news. I used to get worked up by the little things but I cannot constantly live in anger and anxiety.

The freelance life is not easy, especially with the pandemic. The risk is doubled. Everything around us seems so fragile. What’s important is making sure that you focus on what you can control and learn to reprioritize the more important things in life.