The problems posed by Covid-19 are vexing enough for full-time employees, let alone for gig workers. Caught off guard like the rest of the world, freelancers are facing a particularly dry season as companies adjust their budgets and shave costs amid a pandemic and an imminent recessionary period.
In addition to managing job uncertainty, freelancers are also experiencing other issues, including recouping compensation for work done, as well as handling sickness without zero coverage for medical expenses.
Given the precarious situation many freelancers find themselves in, how will it further impact them and what are the measures that these independent professionals can take to safeguard themselves against the uncertainties lying ahead?
Impact Of Covid-19 On Freelancers
Cited briefly earlier, the impact of the Covid-19 crisis can be condensed into three broad areas:
- Implications on health: The spread of Covid-19 appears to have highlighted the importance of financial support, especially in healthcare. It is no secret that most independent workers do not have many benefits that full-time employees do, including sick leaves and health insurance. This is a travesty because many essential workers engaging in active – but thankless – work during this time are not given proper health cover.
This includes grocery store workers, delivery personnel, food couriers, truck drivers, supply chain workers as well as freelance journalists. Flitting between places, they are seeing more demand in their services, putting them at risk of contracting the virus.
- Delay in payments: As companies scramble to trim costs, payments to gig workers are being deferred in a lot of industries. According to a report, while domestic payments have been postponed to 24 days (from an average of 19 days earlier), it is much worse when it comes to international payments, which are taking twice the usual time.
- Work drying up: The same report quoted above claimed a 60% drop in new freelancing assignments as of the last week of March. Compared to essential workers, gig workers in other fields fall at the other end of the extreme. Writers, performers, designers, photographers, among others, are seeing a dramatic decline in work and are thus, out of paid assignments. Largely reliant upon savings, they are struggling to pay bills today.
How Gig Workers Can Survive Covid-19 Crisis
Freelancers have always been familiar with the challenges that come with their work arrangements and have taken appropriate risks, but the loss of work over the last few weeks have been overwhelming. With Covid-19, the pressures on independent workers and their problems have only been exacerbated.
However, with little knowledge about what to expect over the coming months, one must use this time to be prepared. Treating this as an opportunity to build a more resilient system to get through the current situation, as well as an uncertain future is the need of the hour. Incorporating these adjustments could also change the way they work in the long-term.
Re-evaluate Your Finances
Your income may have varied from month to month, but if you were thinking ahead, you already have enough money saved up to get you through the next few months. Regardless of your long-term financial plan, always have six months’ worth of cash in the bank. If that is not reflected in your current financial situation, cutting back immediately is critical.
You can do that by analysing all your recurring expenses and streamlining it where you can. Revisit the tools and platforms you use for your work and explore cheaper alternatives. Many of these might also be offered on discounts during the current crisis. Reducing your regular expenses in a systematic way will help you shield yourself against a dull professional period.
Understand Where Your Businesses/Industry Stands & Be Flexible
There probably will never be a better time for you to take stock of your clients’ situation and gauge how it is affected by the crisis and how it is handling it. The Q4 results will give you a fairly good idea of what losses the company is looking at, and how much business it can afford to lose in the weeks and months ahead. This will help you do an inventory of which clients may have work down the line.
As freelancers, you have the flexibility to move around without being rigid about the industry you operate in. Be open to opportunities whenever they arise to tide over the lack of income.
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Reskill To Survive
These new jobs may be in industries you are not familiar with, and could be across a wide gamut of online operations, including content creation, web development or even administration. Be creative and explore avenues which are still providing work, and reskill accordingly.
While you may be used to hustling between assignments one after the other, freeing up your schedule leaves room to learn more skills. Some of these might be relevant to you right now, and you could turn others into lucrative opportunities in the future.
Be On The Lookout For New Investment Opportunities
If you have saved up enough in your emergency fund and are in a position to make new investments, there are a host of new opportunities you could profit from. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, some industries are actually surging. This includes major retailers, online business providers, as well as producers of medical equipment and online entertainment.
While some of these spikes may be short-lived, there will be some that could become sustainable investments during – as well as after – the current crisis.
Harness Your Current Network
The current crisis has revealed just how interconnected and vulnerable we all are. Do not fight the urge to look for support if you need it. Your network of clients and colleagues will emerge as an invaluable resource in this time. Many may be facing similar challenges, and some would be able to help you deal with it better.
Even if it means no immediate job opportunities, they could refer you to someone who could be helpful in the future, in addition to providing you with the much-needed support.
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Anu is a writer who stews in existential angst and actively seeks what’s broken. Lover of avant-garde films and BoJack Horseman fan theories, she has previously worked for Economic Times. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org