The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantines are affecting everyone, freelance editors included. Even if your daily routine has changed for the better—I can’t cry about not getting up at 5 a.m. to take my son to school—there is emotional fallout from all this. And there will be an economic fallout sooner or later.
We might all feel the effects, but by taking stock now, smart freelancers will be better prepared for what’s next.
Take Care of You
We’re all distracted right now, even if we’ve been working from home for decades. Grief expert and founder of Grief.com David Kessler told Harvard Business Review that we’re grieving in a lot of ways. We’re grieving the loss of normality and connection. We’re grieving anticipated loss of safety and even death.
“This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively,” said Kessler. “We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
So we’ve got to take care of ourselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
First and foremost, allow yourself to feel your emotions. Instead of pushing the feeling aside, take a moment and let it flow. Take a day or whatever your schedule allows and allow yourself a useful bout of depression.
Strive to eat healthy and get enough sleep to keep your body healthy, but don’t sweat the occasional comfort eating.
With spring emerging in the northern hemisphere, many folks are trying to get out for walks. Getting outside for 20 minutes a day can really improve your mental health, as well as your physical health. Just remember to exercise social distancing. Be the one to step out of someone else’s way when you pass.
If you usually work out at a gym or studio, check out online classes they’re offering. It will feel familiar and you’ll be supporting your local community. I’m desperately missing my yoga studio, and I’m grateful that they now have a small library of videos, as well as some live “coffee chats” scheduled so we can see each other.
Or use your health tracker’s fitness program. You’ll be building on an existing habit and you may find they’re offering discounts. Fitbit, for example, has extended its free trial of the premium program to 90 days.
But don’t stop with the basics. Dig deeper into self-care, scheduling time to do so. Here are a few things to try:
Meditate or pray. Silencing the noise in your head can help you feel calmer and think more clearly. Calm is a popular app for mindfulness, and Mindful.org has put together some resources. If you have a prayer routine, amp it up. Check in with your faith community for more ideas and prayers.
Write it out. Take a few minutes a day to write about what you’re feeling and observing. It’s a great way to feel your feelings.
Do something creative. Knit, sew, bake. Make a birdhouse out of a milk jug. Dig out those adult coloring books. Sing. Dance. Write a three-minute skit and film it with your family or housemates. It doesn’t have to be Art with a capital A. It doesn’t have to be pretty or useful. You can even throw out the results. The goal is to shut off the thinking mind and tap into the creative mind.
Check in with family and friends. Video chats are great for connecting with our loved ones. Have an informal chat or make it an event. I’ve heard reports of book clubs and poker games. My older son’s writing circle is now meeting by video, and my younger son is creating an Easter egg hunt in Minecraft for his younger cousins.
Create at-home events. Dress up and get out the good china for dinner, whether it’s a special meal or just the same old, same old. Have a family game night or read a book aloud. Take turns coming up with an event for everyone.
Clean and tidy. Cleaning and tidying can be cathartic. They take us out of our heads, put our bodies to work, and create eye-pleasing results.
Take Care of Your Business
Taking care of yourself gives you something to put into your business—and now’s the time to put in your best. As brand expert Martin Lindstrom wrote recently, “In times of need, you can really make a difference—and your customers will notice. In difficult times, you can cement a lifelong relationship.”
Check in with your clients. Some clients may need more help during the quarantine, some less. This might be a good time to remind them of your other services. Maybe they need someone who can draft customer emails for them or write a blog post. If they can’t use you right now, let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready; you can even offer to follow up with them in a month or so.
For clients who owe you money, you may want to inquire about changes in their payment process. Some clients may not be able to send you a check until they’re back in the office. You might offer other payment options, such as PayPal or TransferWise, or a revised payment schedule.
Consider, though, whether you can afford to keep working for a client who can’t pay you. Everyone needs a little wiggle room right now—and that includes you. Do you want to give everything away or wait six months to get paid?
You may also need to adjust your work schedule because of the new normal. If you find yourself distracted or overwhelmed, consider asking for deadline extensions. While some projects will have to stick to their original schedule—or even move an accelerated one—your client is likely to be as distracted and overwhelmed as you are. More so if they usually work in an office. Tackle deadline adjustments sooner so everyone can plan (and breathe a sigh of relief sooner too).
Plan for the Future
Especially if you’re experiencing a slowdown, this is a great time to tackle marketing projects you’ve been too busy to start. Or to launch that online course. Or to write that blog. Whatever the project, keep working on your business. This won’t last forever and you’ll want people to be ready to hire you when that day comes.
I started writing my blog again and am launching an email newsletter, two things that have been on my to-do list for a while. I’m also planning to offer short training and informational webinars to my audience.
Social media is a two-edged sword at the best of times, and these days it can be especially challenging. Focus the time you spend on social media to be where your clients are and offer them something helpful.
You can also use this time to do some training of your own. ACES has a healthy library of online training, as do some other professional organizations. Think about software, as well. Now might be the time to conquer Word macros or learn your project management system better.
Look for Assistance
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all in the same boat and many organizations are eager to help. The Small Business Association is providing extra guidance and loans—including for sole proprietors and independent contractors. And for the first time, U.S. freelancers can apply for unemployment.
Being a freelancer during a crisis can be frightening, but so is being an employee. The difference is freelancers have the power to make decisions that work best for them and their clients. Take a deep breath and make plans to get through today and thrive tomorrow.
Header photo by Wim van 't Einde on Unsplash.