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CoronaVirus & Freelancing: How To Survive & Thrive In Crisis

On-Demand Webinar: Coronavirus & Freelancing — How To Survive & Thrive In Crisis

The world is in crisis. Freelancers are caught in the storm. To help give us all freelancers a fighting chance, I've created a free webinar on how to navigate the Coronavirus crisis.

Much of the content comes from my book, Path of the Freelancer: An Actionable Guide To Flourishing in Freelancing. For this webinar, I'm repositioning, reordering, and augmenting the content to make it more relevant to this pandemic.

In this webinar, I answer the following freelancer questions as it relates to this crisis.

  • Should you freelancer right now?
  • What decisions do I need to make now, so I can focus on acting while minimizing distractions?
  • How do I go into a wise form of survival mode to give myself the best posture for success?
  • How do I navigate my financial situation so I can be best equipped to move forward?
  • How do I, as a freelancer, leverage this opportunity to build a phenomenal freelancing long-term career?

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Coronavirus & Freelancing: How To Survive & Thrive In Crisis

Good day fellow freelancers (and aspiring ones). My name is Jason Scott Montoya and I look forward to sharing insights on how to survive and thrive through the Coronavirus crisis.

We are in a worldwide pandemic and as freelancers, this can be quite unsettling and paralyzing. So, how do we focus on what's in front of us when it feels like the world around us is in a raging storm? 

Thankfully, what it takes to succeed as a freelancer is also what you need to survive during this crisis.

Next Slide

About Me: Jason Scott Montoya

Before I dive in, let me tell you about me, my background, how I fell into freelancing, and how the crisis has affected me so far.

I'm a husband and father of five kiddos located in Metro-Atlanta Georgia. I'm a freelancing content marketer working with B2B organizations to attract visitors, capture leads, and nurture loyal customers. I'm also an author of two books, Path of the Freelancer: An Actionable Guide To Flourishing In Freelancing and my latest book which came out last year, The Jump: From Chaos to Clarity for Your Striving Small Business, and I'm a blogger at JasonScottMontoya.com.

Next Slide

How I Became A Freelance Authority: And How The Coronavirus Crisis Has Affected Me

In 2014, I shut down my marketing business of seven years. As a result of closing down my company, and a variety of other factors, I found myself in a crisis struggling through anxiety, depression, and whether I could provide for my family. 

My transition from entrepreneur to freelancer was unexpected as folks from my network sought out my contract services (before I was formerly offering them). Freelancing found me and after eight months of consistent work, I decided to embrace and master this vocational path. 

In 2015, I did just that while also mentoring other freelancers. This led to capturing those insights into my book and publishing Path of the Freelancer in 2017.

What I've realized as this Coronavirus crisis has unfolded is that freelancers are successful because they've learned to live with a mindset that a crisis is just around the corner. That even when things are good, they can quickly not be good.

But as prepared as we are, it doesn't make it easy.

As a result of the pandemic, I've faced some negative effects on my freelancing workload which are not shared to gain your sympathy but rather to let you know that as successful as I've been at freelancing, I'm not immune to the negative effects of what's happening. And they will continue for me and us all.

  • Two clients have paused their efforts entirely for a total of 20% of my monthly income.

  • Another client wants to continue using my services but is not sure how or when they'll be able to pay me.

With us only being a few weeks into the crisis, an extended stay-at-home lockdown may lead to additional cutbacks with some of my clients. Simply put, I expect it to get worse. And you should as well.

But, as we collectively face this challenge as freelancers, we don't have to stay there. We can make progress, and doing so in the crisis will provide us with the strength to truly shine when we get to the other side. While it's appropriate to recognize that no amount of preparation or planning will be enough, but I'd like to at least give you all a fighting chance to make it through.NExt 

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My Goal For Today's Talk: Equip You To Endure The Coronavirus Crisis & Succeed Beyond It

So, how do we do that? How do we face the crisis head-on without delusions or paralyzing panic, but truly lean into the uncertainty and fear we're all facing? 

Perhaps one way to do this is to look at the current situation as the new normal. This is the reality we find ourselves within, so how will we build a freelancing business in this difficult context, even if no government support were to come our way? How can we adapt and take advantage of the opportunity to survive in the short term while thriving in the long term? 

My goal for you in this session is to provide you with actionable ideas for growing your freelancing business tailored to the crisis we now find ourselves within. 

This presentation file will be available on my website. You will be able to find it at jasonscottmontoya.com/coronavirus

As I go through the presentation, please submit your questions in the chat box and I'll address them in the Questions and Answers section at the end.

Without further ado, let's get at it.

Next Slide

The Eight Vital Achievements Of Successful Freelancing

In my book Path of the Freelancer, I unpack eight achievements that successful freelancers must accomplish and sustain to thrive in this vocation. For this presentation, I will walk through the eight achievements while extracting and tweaking the insights in a way that makes them hyper-relevant to the Coronavirus crisis. You can explore my book on Amazon (or my related courses on Skillshare) for additional insights and a deeper dive into these achievements.

As a quick survey, here are the eight achievements.

  1. Fully Committed To Freelance

  2. Offerings In A Compelling Package

  3. Steady Stream Of Paying Clients

  4. Active Clients Maximized

  5. Unaffected By The Roller Coaster

  6. Wise & Precise Financial Management

  7. Unified Personal & Work Lives

  8. We Share What We’ve Mastered

Let's explore these achievements and how they relate to the crisis, starting with the first.

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Achievement 1: Fully Committed To Freelance

Should I Freelance during the Coronavirus Crisis? The Pros and Cons of Freelancing During A Crisis

If there is a sweet spot between being a large business and an employee in a crisis like this, it's the freelancer. A company of one has the entrepreneurial spirit to problem solve and adapt while also spreading their risk of failure unlike a small business with many employees. So, if you're a freelancer, you're in a good vocation for a season such as this.

As I've freelanced and waded into this crisis, I see a handful of points for and against freelancing. The strength happens to also be the weakness. 

Freelancers can be more expendable than employees. One of my clients haulted all contract consultants. For me, this meant losing $1,500 per month that now needs to come from other paid client work (existing or new). 

It's also likely that many people who are fired from creative firms will increase the number of freelancers (at least in the short term) on the metaphorical street leading to more competition.

On the flip side, its possible this could be one of the best times to be a freelancer because of the diversity of risk and the flexibility of our engagements. Plus we're already used to working remotely.

Because most freelancers like myself have a portfolio of clients, one or two of them can stop working with us and we don't lose all of our income like someone terminated from traditional employment. And, because many companies can't afford to keep their staff, they still need much of the work to get done and freelancing is the natural alternative to save money (without the long-term commitment) while also getting an expert to make projects happen.

If you're already freelancing with multiple clients, I'd recommend sticking with it. If you are starting to freelance (or thinking about it), now is your opportunity to jump in with potentially little risk (but it won't be easy) .

This crisis is a great way to find out how committed you are to freelancing as a vocation. If you're oriented to make it work and find the next gig, you're fully committed to make it happen. If you're wondering about ending your freelancing journey and going to get a full-time job because of this crisis, you're not fully committed and may not have the endurance to sustain the ups and downs that are likely to come. 

Make the decision to go all in, or pull back and go a different direction. While there is tremendous opportunity ahead, it won't be easy. But, it will be rewarding. And if you need to call it quits, its best to do so quickly so you can move a different direction no otherwise you may not have the time to adapt later.

Next Slide

Achievement 2: Offerings In A Compelling Package

The second achievement sustained by successful freelancers is having an offering in a compelling package. This includes clarity on the problem you're solving and the solution you're offering to solve it. In this crisis, we need to look at adapting our offering to match the context. Freelancers that survive will be stronger for it, and better positioned when this is all over.

Deliberately Decide Now, Effectively Execute Later

As this crisis unfolds and affects us in different ways, its going to result in an emotional roller coaster. As that roller coaster ensues, its going to be challenging to do the right thing when we feel like the world is crashing down around us. Like a soldier trains in bootcamp before going to war, we need to think through and make our important decisions on how we're going to act before the wave hits us. We want to deliberately decide now, so we can effectively execute later when tensions and emotions are high. 

Approach Adaptation

As freelancers, we need to be quick to adapt to the situation. The type of adaptation required is going to drastically differ based on the type of freelancer you are. Those that will require the most drastic change will be those most severely affected by the social-distancing and shelter-in-place directives. 

If there is a way you can pivot your offering to go remote, online, or in ways that comply with the most severe social lifestyle directives, you'll be best equipped to respond to the uncertainty and change that is coming.

As a freelance content marketing specialist, my ability to do my work continues. The limitations is on the ability of my clients to pay me. But, as part of my adaptation, I've put together this and other webinars to help freelancers and small business owners while also promoting my books and courses that generate income in the midst of this crisis. 

With one of my clients, they are pivoting towards offering a service to help companies get loans from the impending government legislation. They are doing this with the hope that some could become clients now, but with the realistic expectation that they are planting seeds for six to twelve months in the future. When we recover, those companies that they planted seeds with and survived will come back and hire them to grow their business. This may not be the appropriate strategy for you or you if it is, you may want to limit it. But, it does illuminate their creativity in adapting to the situation.

It's hard for me to know exactly how you can adapt your offering, but you need to seriously explore it. And, if you've been wanting to make a change for some time but have held back or have not been ready to flip the switch, now is your time. Do it!

Payment Terms

If you have clients that want to work with you and are willing to pay you, but just aren't sure how, consider offering different payment terms. Instead of the normal prepay or net-10, do a series of micro-payments or a payment plan. Get creative and find ways to make the financials work for both you and your customer. 

Be careful not to stretch yourself too thin with any one client that owes you a great deal of money. While we hope and expect they will pay us eventually, if you place all your accounts receivables in one business and they fail, you won't get anything when we as society recover.

Be Ready To Work More & Less

There are going to be waves of work during this crisis. There will be weeks where we have too much work to do and other weeks where we have nothing to do. Be ready to work hard and long during the weeks you have paid projects because its only a matter of time before you don't. Lean in when you can, and rest and release when there are breaks.

If your freelancing client workload as not yet been affected, its likely that being downstream is delaying what will eventually hit you. Lean into your current paid work now and do as much of it as you can. Get paid as much as you can soon. When the pandemic waves start hitting, some clients will pause out of panic and you may be stuck in limbo. Do what you can to prevent this.

When you have less to do and the energy to follow, consider blogging, podcasting, or Youtubing as a way to build your brand and generate traffic and leads.

Next Slide

Achievement 3: Steady Stream Of Paying Clients

The third achievement that successful freelancers sustain is creating a steady stream of paying clients. When there is not a crisis, this is often the biggest pain point of freelancing. In the Coronavirus crisis, this is going to be even harder. Those that have been freelancing for some time and have a network of people and past customers will fare best as you'll have many folks you can reach out to directly. 

Starting a new relationship with someone during this time is going to be challenging, but if you can offer free support and help to those in need, you can make it happen.

Stay connected with your customers, past customers, prospects, and contacts

Do not go dark on communication. Stay connected with your customers, past customers, prospects, and contacts. Followup diligently. 

I have a client who has not responded to my emails for two months but I knew once this crisis unfolded it was going to affect their business and they needed to get an email campaign out to their database. I emailed and text the idea for a few weeks, and finally they responded and we executed the project. 

Right now, everyone is focused on their crisis, so you must be more assertive than you might normally approach the situation. If you can find ways to provide value by sharing resources and links, that can make it easier to continue following up.

Get creative with your sales and marketing efforts

Any crisis has a way of sharpening our focus, and with a sharper message, we can pierce through the noise. If you're to get new customers, you'll have to lean into approaches you've done in the past that have worked or explore new ones you've been resistant to. 

If networking was your way of building relationships and finding customers, you'll have to find a way to do that networking online. Perhaps you could hold some digital networking events. I've never done Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or video on Linkedin. Now is a time I'm exploring these options.

Rainmakers, customer referrals, and friends

Rainmakers are people who trust our work and refer customers our way. Raving fan customers also drive referrals our way as do friends and family. 

Stay connected with these people who have helped drive leads your way historically. Figure out ways you can stay connected with them and provide them value. 

One simple way to do this is to connect with them all on Linkedin and then stay active on the network. 

You could also reach out directly and find out how the crisis is affecting them and if there is anything you can do to help.

Be known as the go-to for your specialty in this crisis

In a crisis, people want to follow those who are confident and effective. As much as we all may be shaking in our boots inside, we all have the choice as to whether we let that paralyze us or activate us. Be bold and stand strong. 

For me, I want to be the go-to freelancer for content marketing, but in this situation I want to be the one you go to in the midst of a crisis because not only do I deliver solid work, but I also emanate a confidence and reassurance that helps others around me perform at a high level when the storms around are raging.

Next Slide

Achievement 4: Active Clients Maximized

The fourth achievement, and possibly one of the most important ones during this crisis is maximizing your existing client engagements. Like I said, it's hard to build trust in a crisis with strangers, but there are customers we've already done that with who we are and can continue to serve. Don't discount the paying clients. They will be your lifeline.

No Strings Personal Relationships With Customers - How Can I Help?

Lean into the existing client relationships and how you can help, even beyond the payment you might get for any work done. 

Stay in open communication and continually offer ideas, resources, and opportunities that will provide value to them. 

And, don't be afraid to go personal, even when you've resisted it before. Ask people how the crisis is affecting them, and how they are doing right now. 

This is a challenging season and delivering value in our service is one thing, but being a great friend may be more important.

Do the right thing and the money will follow. But if it doesn't you can at least leave a positive legacy behind in how you treat others.

Find Ways To Transition Your Project Into An Ongoing Engagement

If you're working with an active client right now on a finite project, look around for other opportunities that would help them or their business. Locate that next project with them before you finish the one you're working. Build a string of projects that will lead to them working with you perpetually. 

This approach requires way less energy and time to do than landing a new customer.

In Certain Cases, Be Willing To Say Yes, When You May Have Said No

Perhaps there are certain size/types of projects or clients you'd rather steer away from. In this crisis situation, it may make sense to take some of those on rather than taking nothing on. If you do, consider throwing out a higher price, or asking for a large deposit before beginning. Make it worthwhile, but also be open to the idea.

On the size side of things, every project matters. The ones you have, whether they pay you 1% of your income or 40% of it. They will all add up and over time, you won't regret stewarding them all with excellence.

Also, be willing to do some types of work outside of your freelancing to help bridge the gap. Perhaps you'll need to deliver pizzas or boxes for a a few days per week to make the finances work out.

Next Slide

Achievement 5: Unaffected By The Roller Coaster

Instead of being anxious for the roller coaster to come, get excited for the adventure. it's better than living a boring life!

With that said, you definitely want to surround yourself with the proper support to handle the roller coaster, especially the emotional toll it can quickly take.

Plan For When Your Work Has Slowed Or Stopped Completely

Like I mentioned earlier about deciding before things unravel and potentially creating through blogging, podcasting, or Youtubing, figure out now what you're going to do so when the lag times come, you're not wasting time figuring it out. You can simply get to writing or recording. 

Or, perhaps it's volunteering somewhere, or helping your community in some way.

Go create, that is unless you need and want the rest when the lulls happen.

Lean Into Your Relational And Emotional Support System

Whether its a weekly zoom call, or touching base with a friend each day, stay connected with your friends and family, especially during this time when we're living in isolation. 

It's going to be a roller coaster and we can't do it alone. We need others to share our burdens and unload when appropriate. 

If you don't have this, start building it now and you can start by asking people for a favor or doing something to help others. That will kick into gear a relational cycle of reciprocity which helps cultivate solid relationships. 

When You’re Paying Work Is Still Flowing, Save Your Money

While you have paid client work growing your bank account, save as much as that money as you can. Live minimally and keep your life basic. We're in the endgame now, so we need to act like so when we need those funds later, we've got them.

Slide Skip

Achievement 6: Wise & Precise Financial Management

The sixth achievement is geared around wise and precise financial management. Most of the fruit of doing this is going to come down to what you've done historically before this crisis began, but there are a few things to lean into that can help make a difference.

Send Invoices Promptly - Send Reminders

If you're one to struggle with sending invoices at all or sending them late, now is the time to get disciplined about getting paid. Days are going to matter in this pandemic so you want to make sure you don't make things worse than they would already. 

Send your invoices out and reminders for late payments. Don't be afraid to ask for money owed. If there is an issue with getting paid, you want to know as quickly as possible so you can respond accordingly.

Get Larger Deposits Before Starting Work, If You Can

If you can, and if you need it, get larger deposits before you start work. While I recommend staying flexible, there is risk in doing too much work for a customer and not getting paid. I work in batches of ten hours and get paid net 10. I could start asking for half of the batch payment upfront and the offer half at net 10. Or I could not do a subsequent batches until the first is paid for. Some of your ability to be flexible is going to depend on your financial situation.

And if you owe money or need to pay vendors and software companies, the worst thing you can do is go dark. Stay in open communication and if you can't pay or need to do a payment plan let them know quickly. People and companies are much more flexible with those who keep lines of communication open versus those who close them off.

Next Slide

Achievement 7: Unified Personal & Work Lives

Keeping our personal and work lives in unity during this crisis season is going to be challenging. Although, it could also be an opportunity to take it serious for those of you who are workaholics. To help us, there are four ways we can make the most of this.

Responsive Personal Budget - Survivor And Achiever Budgets

Build a responsive budget right now. 

Create your survivor's budget. The least amount of money you need to survive and pay your essential bills. 

And, create an achiever budget which allows you to give generously, save abundantly, and live comfortably. 

Based on how your month's income goes, or what you anticipate in the next month, change your spending habits to the appropriate budget. 

You can also create an in between budget from the two that is not as severe but still reserved. 

When you're making money you can spend more, but when your income dries up, you need to know quickly how you're going to respond. The responsive budget is th way to do it.

Communicate With Family And Close Friends Along (Wins, Losses, Needs)

As you have needs personally or as a freelancer, let the people around you know. 

Don't surprise someone with the fact that you can't pay rent the day its due. Know and let people you care about in on this well before it happens. 

Time is your friend to get help and make a difference. 

And, if you have wins, share them. In a season of crisis, we need to celebrate the good and be grateful for it as well.

Rhythms Of Rest & Release

Don't get too consumed with saving the world, or stockpiling so much that you start to lose yourself. Build into your life rhythms of rest and release so you can do your work with a sound mind and energized body. Work diligently and embrace opportunity, but don't burn yourself out unless you plan time to recover. Otherwise, you may end up in a cycle that puts you in a worse place than you started.

Consider creating a work schedule of when you work and when you don't so it doesn't take over your life.

Live Healthy

And finally, focus on staying healthy with your diet and exercise. Drink tea over soda, especially immune system boosting drinks. 

If you destroy your self trying to survive, there's no point in surviving! Live healthy and be aware of your body's needs.

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Achievement 8: We Share What We’ve Mastered

This is a tough season and we cannot do it alone. Help others as much as you can (or as time and money allows). 

This is the spirit of the final achievement of successful freelancers. 

It's a big part of why I'm doing this and other webinars. I want to take what I know and have experienced and share it with others so they can better prepare and respond when things do get challenging.

Next Slide

Wrapping Up The Eight Achievements

Those are the eight achievements of successful freelancers tweaked for this Coronavirus crisis situation. 

You can explore them and related resources further on Path of the Freelancer dot com. The website also has a freelancer directory, so I recommend adding your free listing as one way to promote yourself. 

You can also dive into the book available in print or Kindle on Amazon or check out my related Skillshare courses.

Do the right thing and the money will follow. But if it doesn't you can at least leave a positive legacy behind in how you treat others.

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Coronavirus & Freelancing Q&A

I'll go ahead and spend a few minutes answering questions you've input into the chat. Feel free to add more now.

Please do reach out to me directly if you have questions, comments, or stories.

Thank you for attending this webinar and I look forward to hearing your stories of success in the midst of this crisis.

Tags: Coronavirus

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