Freelancers in PR and marketing face some of the most difficult financial times ever due to the COV1D-19 epidemic. Businesses worried about their own survival have slashed their freelance budgets. In addition, former full-time employees are entering the freelance marketplace as PR and marketing agencies lay off staff. Freelancers in a crowded field will begin accepting lower fees. Some freelancers also expect harsher terms and more late payments, following the pattern of the 2008 recession.
“The current crisis has transformed ‘net 30’ into ‘net whenever,’” John Forberger, a public relations freelancer, told Digiday. “Companies are aiming to stay afloat — they don’t keep emergency funds for freelancers.”
Recommendations for Freelancers on Surviving Turmoil
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes financial benefits for freelancers such as loans and unemployment benefits traditionally reserved for salaried employees. Wading through the application process and obtaining funds before they’re depleted is challenging. The second wave of funding should become available within days. Freelancers can apply through their bank. It’s best to get into the queue early.
Winning grants or loans requires top-notch research, organization and tenacity. Keep track of all of your responses in a separate document, so you can repurpose that text quickly, Meredith Noble of Learn Grant Writing told Fast Company.
Review expenses to find where you can reduce spending. “Do everything you can to increase cash savings and liquidity to prepare yourself,” Boneparth told Money.
While financial planners generally recommend building a reserve of at least three months of living expenses, many freelancers find that difficult to accomplish. Consider tapping retirement funds only as a last resort. “People take the biggest step backward when they start to erode long-term savings for the sake of survival,” Boneparth says, noting that early withdrawals bring tax penalties.
Focus on planning and administrative tasks.
Take advantage of free time during this downturn to tend to “the nuts-and-bolts side” of your freelance business, advises Jennifer Mizgata at Fortune. Focusing on planning and administrative tasks now can build the groundwork for future work. Catch up on any lingering invoices. Organize your email and other digital files. Update your contacts. Brainstorm a list of potential clients and projects. Update your website. Complete online training to update your skills. Stay in contact with your professional friends and colleagues.
Pursue new avenues of income.
“I’m seeing freelancers being very creative,” Rafael Espinal, president of the Freelancers Union, told Money.
To determine new avenues of income, consider your current client base, the needs you’ve filled for them in the past, and how you can be of help in other ways. If you’re a freelance writer who writes regularly for a company’s blog, propose crafting a newsletter on COVID-19 developments that can reassure their clients.
Strengthen you contracts.
With clients more likely to pay late, now may be a good time to strengthen contract clauses. Clearly define cancellation and rescheduling policies in business owners’ contracts, advises Oz Alon, co-founder and CEO of HoneyBook. Include interest rates for late payment. Also consider clauses that protect you if you cannot perform services due to unforeseeable events, like epidemics. In addition, a safe working environment clause gives you the right to discontinue service in unsafe conditions, such as an area affected by a communicable disease.
Bottom Line: The coronavirus has eliminated work for many PR and marketing freelancers. Freelancers can survive these difficult times by applying for government loans and unemployment benefits, by proposing new work assignments to existing clients, and by strengthening work habits and networks.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.