freelancers cope covid-19

How Freelancers are Coping with COVID-19

Even before COVID-19 struck, a 2019 study found that more people than ever before view freelancing as a long-term career path. The flexibility, ownership, and specialization are just a few of the attractive characteristics of freelancing; plus freelancers are active in a number of industries ranging from tech, finance, retail, and education. Freelancers also span a variety of roles, including those in engineering and architecture, where professionals in the industry tend to hire freelance architects and engineers to outsource their work. However, in the wake of the pandemic, freelancers are finding ways to cope with COVID-19.

The current pandemic has swiftly forced people around the globe to work from home, as well as led to the equivalent of 195 million jobs being wiped out. Within that figure, many companies have canceled freelance contracts in attempts to cut overall costs. And while markets are undoubtedly shaky at the moment, other companies are actively pursuing hiring freelancers.

The hope is that freelancers can replace full-time staff and be more cost-efficient, supplement critical skill sets, and be a way to harness international talent. In the midst of such uncertainty, here’s how freelancers are coping with COVID-19.

Utilizing support systems

Freelancers, like other roles, can take advantage of support systems that have emerged as a direct result of the pandemic. Whether financial aid, advice or new vacancies, there is a wide range of help available.

For example, the US government is providing $2 trillion worth of stimulus checks for most taxpayers, while the UK is offering a grant to cover 80 percent of freelancers’ average monthly profits.

Elsewhere, online communities are playing a big part in supporting freelancers. PHLEARN is an educational platform hosting tutorials about creative software and also has a marketplace to sell freelance work online. Freelancers Union is an organization that has information on health insurance for freelancers, plus has virtual networking events and training. And Kickstarter also has a page of resources for freelance artists, legal advice, and guidance for non-profit organizations struggling in COVID-19.

Alternatively, specialized freelancing platforms are helping candidates target specific verticals better. Freelancers are saving time in their job searches, have a higher chance of applying for appropriate roles, and are accessing contacts and leaders in niche spaces. Such platforms are valuable to get insider knowledge around company policy changes and realistic compensation expectations too.

Offering new value

Another way freelancers are coping is by reassessing their value proposition in the shifting markets and offering ‘essential’ services rather than ‘luxury’ ones. Tasks like helping with press relations and internal communications for companies that have made drastic changes have been in higher demand. Writing copy for companies that are moving online is popular too, or applying for new forms of funding, such as the IDA $5,000 grant for architecture, and the Isle of Man Government £3,000 grant to support local businesses, including construction workers.

At the same time, freelancers are revising their rates to retain existing clients and be conscious of tougher economic constraints. In some cases, freelancers are ‘back-loading’ contracts, meaning clients pay a reduced amount in the short-term, and then compensate for the discount towards the end of contracts.

Protecting payments

While freelancers are reconsidering their prices, they are equally taking steps to secure project payments. More and more people are clearly defining the canceling and rescheduling policies in their terms and conditions, as to protect themselves from big losses. These contractual clarifications include enforcing retainer payments, which can normally be terminated within a 30-day notice period – so both sides have some allowance.

Likewise, freelancers are creating online resources like an FAQ page on their website updating clients on any professional changes. Social media posts and blogs are also acting as platforms for freelancers to specify their approach to COVID-19; for example, notifying people of increased rates, limited time, or higher selectivity with projects.

Moving forward

Flexibility, knowledge, and community has given freelancers an advantage in COVID-19 – they are familiar with working remotely and managing their projects, so are more coveted by businesses entering the remote work space for the first time. And although freelancers have been hit hard by the pandemic, they are learning to be savvier in how they protect themselves financially. Not to mention, there is potential to see more freelance applications surface as people begin to prefer having multiple sources of income.

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