Freelancing is already a journey into choppy waters, nevermind during a pandemic. Unfortunately, those seas will now be populated by others looking to stay in work. As a result, keeping yourself afloat will require a pretty big buoy in the form of a workable strategy.
This piece will look at the current state of digital marketing freelancing. We’ll also examine the impact of more people looking for remote jobs. Finally, we’ll offer advice and resources for freelancers who are struggling.
A Quick Look at Freelancing Pre-Covid-19
In a nutshell, the freelance market was already pretty saturated pre-pandemic. As terms such as ‘gig economy’ have meandered into the mainstream, the number of people deciding to ‘stick it to the man’ and forge their own path has increased.
According to Upwork’s 2019 Freelancing in America report, 35 percent of the U.S. economy last year was made up of freelancers. 28 percent of those workers freelanced full-time, and 45 percent of them provided ‘skilled services’ such as programming, marketing, and consulting.
In other words, even before the Covid-19 outbreak, there was plenty of competition for freelance work, especially in areas such as digital marketing. Of course, things have become a little more complicated recently.
How Covid-19 Is Affecting the Current Digital Freelance Market
Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 pandemic is causing waves of uncertainty across the globe. Beyond the obvious health concerns, there have also been massive economic repercussions.
For example, businesses that previously relied on social interaction—events agencies, some consultancy services, and more—now can’t fulfill those obligations. Many establishments have had to shutter, furlough their staffs, or attempt to find new ways to work.
Suffice it to say, several traditional wells of work have run dry (at least temporarily). It stands to reason that at least some of those who are now out of work will forge into the freelance work arena, particularly if they have transferable skills.
However, you’ll also find some trying to pick up extra cash through the same channels you may use, without the necessary skills. Quality and trust issues related to freelancers is an ongoing and vital concern, given that it affects the willingness of clients to hire out.
On top of that, you’ll also have to contend with steeper competition for the jobs that are available. With a flood of less experienced (and therefore cheaper) freelancers arriving, you’ll likely have to work harder than ever to stand out.
How to Navigate Freelance Work During a Pandemic (3 Actionable Tips)
It’s forgivable if you’re thinking the road ahead looks bleak. However, if you’re willing to shift your focus, you should be able to weather the storm. Here are three ways you can keep your freelance career alive over the coming months.
1. Keep Marketing to Succeed Long-Term
It may seem counter-intuitive, but advertising is still a worthwhile pursuit, even if you don’t think there’s anyone to market to. In fact, the numbers suggest that keeping your promotional machine working during lean times can benefit you for years afterwards.
During the current climate, this is important for digital marketing freelancers for two reasons:
- Maintaining your lead generation strategy can help you hit the ground running when business picks up again.
- You can remind your clients that investing in your services now will help them in the long run to encourage them to keep you on.
Since the influx of new freelancers will likely make it harder to pick up new leads, maintaining your relationships with existing clients is key. Some income is better than none right now, so you might even consider temporarily discounting your services. Hopefully, your generosity will pay off in client loyalty.
As far as your freelance marketing strategy goes, remember that the following channels are still open:
- Email marketing. Send your clients valuable content such as Covid-19 updates or tips for businesses to survive the pandemic.
- Social media. Stick to your posting schedule and keep driving engagement.
- Your website. Update your copy, post to your blog, refine your bio, or carry out other modifications you’ve been putting off.
While your customer base is at home, the internet is their only window to your work. If there are any enhancements you can make to your online channels, you should look to make them.
2. Catch Up on Administrative Tasks and Plan Ahead to Stay on Top of Your Game
In addition to polishing your self-promotion strategy, you probably have plenty of behind-the-scenes processes you can tend to. After all, as a freelancer, you’re basically a one-person business. There’s a lot of administrative work that goes into making sure everything runs smoothly.
This is a prime time to process invoices, get your budget in order, or re-organize your files and contacts. You may even consider sprucing up your portfolio or making a list of projects or leads you’d like to pursue. You can also look into online classes to improve or expand your skill set.
Plus, keep one eye on the future so you’re not scrambling to accommodate projects when things pick back up. Take a look at your client list and consider who might need your services in the coming months so you’re prepared to start crafting campaigns for them.
3. Leverage Your Own Expertise to Help Others
You’ll notice that we haven’t discussed where to find freelance work right now. Unfortunately, that’s an area where there are no magic answers. However, diversifying your services can potentially pay dividends.
The exact approach you take will depend on your current situation and niche. That said, there are some traditional areas to pivot to that apply even outside of the crazy global situation we’re in:
- Consulting. Many freelancers have become consultants, where their knowledge provides value for other businesses. If you have expert insight into how to help others succeed, this could be an area for you to consider.
- Mentoring. Helping businesses plan for the future and validating their decisions are two prominent needs right now. Mentoring other digital marketers and sharing your insights overlaps with consulting in some areas, but isn’t as committed to specific projects. This means you could take on more work of this nature, while maintaining your high standards.
While we’re discussing new work avenues, spare a thought for the old ones you’ve left behind. There’s nothing wrong in leveraging previous lines of work if you have them. It could even reopen connections to work with in the future.
Where to Find Assistance If Work Is Hard to Come By
Finally, let’s discuss what happens if freelance work just isn’t available. It’s unfortunately a situation affecting millions of people, although there are initiatives in place to help you out.
If income is minimal or non-existent, consider the government’s stimulus package. It’s meant to help those affected the worst by Covid-19, including small businesses and the self-employed.
Additionally, federal aid is being provided in the form of one-time payouts of varying amounts based on your usual income. Freelancers may also apply for unemployment benefits now. Although you may not necessarily be eligible to receive any funds, it’s still worth a shot.
Of course, these payouts may not come close to the income you’d have earned pre-Covid-19. However, the federal package coupled with your drive to develop other areas of your career can net you even greater success in the future.
A pandemic is not a situation most people plan for, especially one with shelter-in-place orders and furlough initiatives to contend with. For freelancers, concentrating on developing your business is still important, and could be the life preserver you need right now.