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The last few weeks have been a stunning reminder of how quickly things can change.

We go along, soaking in the bliss of relatively uneventful living. Words like ‘social distancing’ and ‘pandemic’ not yet part of our daily conversations.

When a crisis happens, it almost always feels unexpected. (It probably wouldn’t be a crisis if it didn’t.) For a freelancer, an unwanted disruption can be especially unsettling as it rocks a foundation that is often irregular to begin with.

As a freelancer myself, I get it. And, I’m feeling it now. Those feelings of uncertainty about how I’ll get through this with my business intact. Here’s where those feelings have led me.

Difficult times encourage us to focus on what really matters, and eliminate the background noise. You can’t always control what happens, but you can usually control how you respond.

Whether the crisis is a global pandemic that impacts many people, or something unrelated and more personal within your own realm, here are steps you can take to move through and beyond difficult times as a freelancer.

How to Navigate a Crisis as a Freelancer

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Conserve Your Finances

Because freelancing can be inherently uncertain and earning sometimes uneven, it’s a good idea to budget carefully. In difficult circumstances, this is even more necessary.

A crisis that can impact your livelihood calls for taking a spending inventory to make sure that every dollar coming in and going out is accounted for.

Purchases should primarily fall under the need-to-have category, instead of the nice-to-have. I’m pretty frugal anyways, but during challenging times, I take this practice up a notch.

Tough times also remind us of the crucial need for an emergency fund and, ideally, multiple income streams. These things are important under normal conditions, but become more relevant during a crisis.

Once you’re in the middle of a crisis, it might not be possible to focus on building an emergency fund or creating multiple income streams if you don’t already have these. But, you can make a plan to work on them so that you’re ready to get started when you’re through the difficulties.

Look Ahead

It’s important to remind yourself that, whatever is going on, it’s unlikely to last forever. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the crisis at hand, that we forget about what we’ve accomplished and what we’re capable of.

Take some time to plan out the coming weeks and months for your freelancing business as if nothing is currently wrong. (You can get back to the crisis when you’re done with this exercise. It’ll still be there waiting!)

Once finished, you’ll have completed a vision plan for your business to work toward when things return to normal.

Stay in the Present

A crisis is stressful, and stress is exhausting. Being exhausted can cause you to take the focus off of your current projects, which can damage your freelancing business in the short and long-term.

While you may need to adjust how, when, or where you work in the midst of a crisis, purpose to stay focused on your current commitments. It can provide a much-needed break from the stress of the moment and will help you preserve your current progress with your clients and your business efforts.

Connect with Others

When I’ve dealt with difficult times in the past, I found that I would unintentionally isolate myself while dealing with them. Now, I avoid doing that.

During a health-related crisis, like the one we’re dealing with currently, isolation might become a necessity for some people instead of a choice.

If you find yourself isolated due to a crisis, harness the power of technology to connect with others. Tools like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams make it easy to stay connected with your clients and colleagues.

Take some time to check-in and see how they’re managing. Burdens are lighter when shared.

Be Ready to Pivot

A crisis changes things — from how we behave to how we respond.

Your ability to re-align your priorities, activities, and actions for your clients during problematic circumstances can greatly enhance (or hinder) your freelance endeavors.

During a crisis, agility is your friend. Being ready, willing, and able to pivot when requirements change is a valuable skill for a freelancer to work on when things are calm, and to execute when times are tough.

Look for Lessons

A crisis can usher in change. Change can be difficult, but it can also bring new opportunities.

As a freelancer, look for the lessons that will emerge during and after a crisis. Those may be in the form of new business requirements, revised processes, or even changes in protocols.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Have methods of conducting business changed in my field?
  • If so, in what ways?

Considering questions like these will help you anticipate the needs of your clients.

An awareness of any expected post-crisis changes can provide you with an opportunity to serve your clients better, and in ways that support their new needs.

Take Care of Yourself

In the midst of a crisis, coping with the things that a crisis often brings can be really consuming. Self-care may be way down the to-do list. But, it shouldn’t be.

Think about the pre-flight announcements on an airplane. When talking about the oxygen masks, the mandate is to secure your mask before securing the masks of those around you. There are some built-in assumptions with this:

  1. At least some people may be inclined to worry about everyone else before themselves.
  2. You will be of little help to others if you don’t get the oxygen you need first.

Key takeaway: You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. This is true for your freelance business, too.

In order to best serve your clients and yourself, be sure to eat right, rest well, and relax as much as possible during troubled times. It’s easier to take care of yourself in advance than play catch-up later.

Wrapping It All Up

During difficult times, the key to keeping your freelance business moving forward is a solid plan. Be willing to adapt when necessary and prepare for changes that will likely follow.

And, don’t forget to ‘keep calm and carry on’. This, too, shall pass.

Related posts:

How to Leverage Your Skills as a New Freelancer

7 Things Not To Do As A New Freelancer

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