7 Actions Freelancers Should Take to Survive Coronavirus

Ensure that you take these steps to insulate yourself against COVID-19-related profit loss.

It pretty much goes without saying, the coronavirus has taken the world by storm. More than 166 countries and territories have been affected across the globe, and incidence rates are increasing everyday. As government leaders encourage social distancing and businesses close their doors, we are seeing our daily lives change in ways many of us have never seen before

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting workers in America in many ways. Employers are directing their employers home, or worse, laying them off while we wait for the crisis to ameliorate. While traditional workers are adjusting to new realities, freelancers and virtual business owners are having to alter their courses too

If you’ve visited our online community before, you know that VBO Nation is all about supporting freelancers and VBOs with everything from advocacy and resources to reports and courses. And we’re not going to drop the ball here.

If you’re a freelancer who’s wondering how you’re going to stay afloat during this difficult time, you’ve come to the right place. Here are seven actions freelancers should take to survive the associated challenges of coronavirus: 

  1. Review your cancellation and rescheduling policies.

Many businesses are having to cut back on operations during this outbreak. Since they can’t do as much business as they’d normally do, they can’t bring in as much money as they normally would, so they’re going to be looking for ways to cut back on projected expenses. What this means is that a lot of your clients may cancel on you on short notice

To prevent your financial loss, legal experts emphasize the importance of clearly-outlined rescheduling and cancellation policies in your contracts. Generally, 30 days is the industry standard for which clients can cancel or reschedule a project. You’ll definitely want to take a look at your contracts and ensure they include such language. 

  1. Update your contract with legal clauses that will protect you.

If you find that you’re unable to perform services less than 30 days in advance because of an unforeseeable or unavoidable event — like, say, a pandemic — you should add these clauses to your contract to protect your business:

  • Safe Working Environment clause: It reserves your right to end service in the event that an unsafe condition arises, for example, being in a communicable disease-infected area. 

  • Force Majeure clause: Borrowed from French, this clause means ‘superior force’. It excuses you from rendering services outlined in your contract because of an unforeseen, impossible or unavoidable event. 

  • Failure of Company to Perform Services clause: This one clarifies the procedure you will use if you are unable to perform your services. 

  1. Communicate with clients to manage expectations.

Depending on your VBO Niche and the nature of your business, you may be significantly hindered by the coronavirus pandemic. Or, if you’re like the majority of VBOs, you work from home via the internet and are free to continue business with little interference from what’s going on. In either case, it’s a good idea to reach out to clients during a crisis to address concerns and ease uncertainty

Find time to schedule a call with your clients and talk them through how the pandemic will impact the business they have with you, if at all. If clients have to cancel on their end, having clear communication will increase the likelihood of them rescheduling the service in the future.

Proactivity is key here. Don’t leave clients in the dark. Anticipate their questions and concerns and have answers to help both parties arrive at an agreeable solution. 

  1. Make use of financial aid.

The federal government recently announced that companies that have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis will be given $50 billion in low interest-loans. The Treasury Department is also deferring tax payments with no interest or penalties for certain businesses and individuals who have been negatively affected. 

You should check your local municipality to see if they’re offering financial aid to help small businesses. New York and other cities have provided no-interest loans and grants to small businesses amid this crisis. Freelancers can see if they qualify through their city’s Small Business Administration office. 

  1. Use retainers, not deposits.

No matter what, if a client chooses to cancel a project with a freelancer or VBO, even with 30 days notice, freelancers and VBOs are still entitled to any payments that were initially described as a nonrefundable retainer. Be clear to use that language in your contracts. Some states require people conducting business to refund deposits if the services have not been delivered, but if you use a retainer, you’re far more likely to keep the funds. 

  1. Use other VBOs and include that in your contract.

Having a network of professional support is crucial to your business preparedness. During crises, you may not be able to meet every demand on your own. That’s why it’s so important to build your VBO network. 

Hire other VBOs when you need extra support during trying times, but be sure to account for this possibility in your contracts. Upfront communication and transparency fosters a healthy, happy working relationship. And during times of uncertainty, clients want certainty in their business dealings. 

  1. Continue to follow guidance from government and the CDC.

This last piece of advice isn’t so much about your business dealings but about your safety. Stopping the rapid spread of the coronavirus comes down to two things: not getting infected and not infecting others.

Continue to practice social distancing. Many freelancers and VBOs are already used to working from home, but you still may need to make adjustments. If you’re used to meeting with potential clients in your area over lunch, you’re going to have to settle for phone calls and video chats for the time being. 

Listen to the guidance from your mayors, governors and the president, and follow guidelines put out by the CDC. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your face. Stay home if you’re feeling unwell. Avoid large gatherings of people. And maintain a six-foot distance from others as much as possible. We will get through this together if we all do our part. 

Chantel Baul

I’m a skilled communicator with more than four years’ experience in digital and print content creation, who has a keen ability to adapt messages for diverse audiences. I have demonstrated proficiency in editorial writing conventions, social media strategy, brand reputation management, and interdisciplinary collaboration. I’m a driven and progressive researcher with an aptitude for storytelling. I'm also a proud Public Affairs Officer in the United States Army Reserve.

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