Many freelancers have experienced a drop in income during the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown. Maybe you’ve lost your contract-based role or seen less requests come in and more clients bail out. While there is some government financial support available to freelancers in the UK (you can read about it here), you might not be covered by the scheme or able to wait until June for a back-payment if you’re losing money right now. So, here are eight things you can do to improve your finances until the work rolls in again, four on paying less and four on earning more.
1. Reduce your personal spending
The first thing to do, perhaps unsurprisingly, is cut back on what you’re spending. For most people, a drop in outgoings during a lockdown is inevitable as you won’t be going out. However, you still need food and essentials, and you still need to pay your bills. The good news is you can ask for a mortgage or rental payment holiday from your provider, as approved by the government. You can also take the time to check you’re on the best tariffs for utilities, broadband, TV, and mobile—and switch to cheaper ones where possible. There are even cashback websites like Quidco that pay you for switching.
2. Reduce your business spending
It’s also likely that your business spending has reduced—what with no travelling to client meetings or working from coffee shops. However, there may be business expenses that you can cut down on, whether it’s software that you’re not using or services you’ve signed up for that you underutilise. If you usually work in a co-working space, contact the provider to ask for a payment freeze until it’s open again.
If you’re struggling to pay your suppliers, ask them for flexibility in your payments—they might agree rather than losing your custom entirely. If you pay for the services of other freelancers, such as proofreading, could you pay using your skills instead of money, for example, by offering marketing support to them in exchange for their services?
3. Get tax help
In the current circumstances, the government has offered special measures to help freelancers with their tax. This includes the potential for instalment arrangements for tax payments, the suspension of debt collection proceedings, among other things. HMRC have launched a new helpline for people who are concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus. You can check out their website or give them a call on 0800 024 1222.
4. Ask for support
Thankfully, there are many people who are willing to help upon seeing the difficulties that freelancers are facing. You may be able to ask for donations from clients or the public so you can continue providing services in the future. Some organisations have set up crowdfunding campaigns like this one to support freelancers. You can also ask your clients whether they’d be willing to buy “vouchers” for the future, when you can provide your services again, maybe offering a discount to retain their custom. If necessary, you could offer flexible payment schedules to reduce the risk of losing clients.
5. Change the format
If you normally do your freelance work in person, such as coaching or personal training, consider whether you can switch the format to online sessions, webinars, or workshops instead. There are plenty of free apps such as Zoom or Skype that you can video call your clients through. Plus, there are online conferencing facilities that enable you to deliver classes to multiple people. The current circumstances mean we all have to be more creative in how we deliver our services to clients and shift more work online.
6. Offer something new
If you can’t move your freelance work online, think about the other ways that you can pass on your knowledge, skills, and experience while your workload is reduced. For example, could you write a short e-book and self-publish it on Kindle? (As a book editor, I can help you do this and will be offering a free short course.) Or could you create an online course teaching people your skill? Could you up-skill other freelancers in exchange for learning their skill, so you can offer more or complementary services?
7. Take up a side hustle
While your freelance work may have started as a side hustle, there’s no reason why you can’t have a side hustle as a freelancer. If there are skills you enjoy but don’t usually have time to pursue, such as design or photography, you could set up a service offering on Fiverr or another platform, sell your photographs on Shutterstock, or offer additional services that are in higher demand at the moment. Then you can return to your main hustle when things go back to normal.
8. Look elsewhere
While your freelance workload may be reduced, there are lots of temporary jobs in high demand at the moment, such as delivery drivers, shelf stackers, supermarket staff, and care workers. If you’re struggling to find freelance work, you could considering taking a temporary job to pay the bills until you can continue to provide your normal freelance work.