Over the past few weeks, I have seen countless posts from the self-employed sharing their knowledge and tips on working from home – something they are well versed in. The situation in which we have found ourselves is going to be a huge challenge for those that have always been office based, who now have to work at home and all that that brings: the kids screaming and bouncing around to their Joe Wick’s PE lesson whilst you are on a conference call; the dog barking for attention; the cat sitting on your laptop refusing to move; and your other half having a meltdown trying to keep some semblance of a routine for all, whilst the family juggles homeschooling and realises they don’t know how to do year 3 maths anymore.
Many self-employed folks are used to this kind of situation and have some golden tips to help. But in turn, I was thinking about how there is little guidance out there on how businesses can help the freelancers, contractors and self-employed that they have come to rely on.
Whilst I appreciate that this is an unpredictable and unexpected situation that no-one could account for and businesses are struggling, there are some things you can do to help those that are not going to be guaranteed 80% of their wage, who get no sick pay and have worked hard for your business as if they were an employee.
So, here’s my tuppence.
Pay outstanding invoices
An ongoing bugbear of freelancers is that it is often an uphill battle to get paid. But that invoice currently sitting in your account manager’s in-tray could mean the difference between your freelancer’s business surviving this pandemic. They have done the work, so please pay them asap. Also…
Be prompt with any incoming payments
In a similar vein, if invoices continue to come in and you have some work still going to freelancers, please pay them promptly to avoid adding undue stress at this time. I for one am going to reduce the payment terms on my invoices from now on to try and make sure the money is coming in more promptly.
Promote their services
Whether or not you can carry on using their services at this time, you can share their links as wide as possible and refer them to your colleagues/friends/family as someone out there might be able to pass some work their way.
Please consider this for anyone you know that is self-employed – whether it is your mate Dave who fits bathrooms, your hairdresser’s sister’s Yoga business or Uncle Tony’s gardening side hustle – if you see any post from the self-employed, do them a favour and just hit share.
I have had some work from unexpected sources this last few weeks from clients recommending me and it has been a lifesaver and a weight off my mind, so share, share, share wherever you can.
Make the most of the downtime
If your business can afford to – make the most of this quiet period to do a review of your branding, content, website and promotional materials. Enlist your copywriter, web designer, content designer or whoever else you use and get everything up to scratch so that when we get back to reality/normality, you can hit the ground running and show how you have made great use of this time.
Maybe get them to write a catalogue of blog posts for future use, articles you may want to publish, create some social media imagery, etc. Whatever will help you in the (hopeful) surge when life resumes and could be a lifeline of work for a freelancer right now.
Though freelancers may be well versed in working from home, as with everyone else, they will also be struggling with the added demands of homeschooling or having their other half now loitering around not knowing what to do with themselves and causing bother (not speaking from experience there, obviously, if the better half is reading this).
So, you may find that they are happy to continue working but may have to work in small bursts around running a PE lesson, walking the dog, trying to work out what the hell a subjunctive clause is and feeding everybody at the right times. Or maybe even work after the kids have gone to bed. We all need to be flexible in these times, and likewise, they will need to be flexible with you.
Keep in touch
If you plan to continue using their services as soon as everything is back to normal, make sure you let them know, and maybe think about still checking in with them during the downtime. If you usually catch up once a week, continue to do so. Us freelancers are all about building relationships and making contacts, so it would be much appreciated. Grab a brew and get on Skype to have a natter. It doesn’t even have to be work-related chat; we are all stuck at home and it is important to keep in touch with the outside world. You’d be surprised how many people check in with me just to see how my rabbits are doing, they have established quite a following!
Enlist their help to get your business online
If this whole crazy situation has made you realise that you need to plan for the future and make sure you get your business firmly established online, there are many fabulous freelancers waiting in the wings who can help you do so. After all, they have done this for their own business, and usually helped many others do so, so use their expertise. They are eagerly waiting to share their wisdom.
If you need any recommendations for something in particular (getting a website, social media content, aligning content, the logistics of setting up a business, etc) I have many lovely connections who can help, and obviously I am here.
Drop me a message if you want to pick my isolated brain.
Helen Hill is a self-employed Learning, Content & Graphic Designer at Unlikely Genius Ltd. She has been working in content and learning design for five years, combining the skills gained during the previous nine years working as a graphic designer, a lecturer in further education and developing literacy and e-learning in schools. Unlikely Genius is based on the principles of ensuring the user comes first, communicating in plain language and making content accessible to all.