2020 is a year filled with all kinds of challenges. Hurricanes aside, COVID-19 has proven to be one challenging pandemic, not only for full-time employees but also for our workers. As was the case with the rest of the world, many gig workers were caught unaware, a fact that has seen many of them experience a very dry season.
Freelancers during the pandemic
Most companies have either cut their budgets or shaved them entirely in a bid to reduce costs in the midst of the pandemic, and the imminent recession. Being a freelancer during this season not only calls for one to manage their job uncertainty but also to find a way to handle challenges of being a freelancer, top among them being how to recoup compensation for tasks already done.
Many service providers have found themselves in a precarious situation and are unsure of how it may further impact them going forward. The following is a look at some of the challenges of a freelancer during a pandemic.
Challenges of being a freelancer during the pandemic
Coronavirus has forced many previously employed individuals to start researching on how to be a freelancer. Some of the challenges currently being faced by freelancers in this field include:
1. Health implications
The rapid spread of coronavirus has, in a way, assisted in highlighting the crucial role played by the financial system, more so when it comes to the healthcare sector. The reality is that many freelance workers don’t have any form of medical benefits, especially those enjoyed by full-time workers.
Simply put, they don’t have access to health insurance and sick leaves. What makes this a travesty is a fact that many of the essential employees who are currently engaged during this pandemic aren’t being provided with the kind of health care coverage they need.
Included in this list are the supply chain workers, grocery store workers, freelance journalists, delivery personnel, truck drivers, and food couriers. The fact that they have to move from place to place means that they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, mainly due to the demanding nature of the work they have to do.
2. Payment delays
One of the significant challenges of being a freelancer during a pandemic is having to contend with payment delays. Many gig workers have seen their payments being deferred. It’s something that is affecting all industries. A report compiled earlier this year has indicated that while domestic payments have seen a deferment of about twenty-four days, international payments are taking double the time to arrive. Initially, the deferment rate for domestic pay was nineteen days.
The report also goes further to note that overseas payments are now taking as much as twenty-eight days for them to go through. It’s a significant change for a freelancer, especially considering that by the end of February this year, the payments only used to take thirteen days to complete.
Most of the delayed payments are those emanating from clients based in Australia, the UK, and the US. Clients in Qatar and the UAE haven’t been affected as of yet.
3. Less work than before
Studies conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that there has been a massive drop in the availability of freelance gigs. As of late March, photographers, essential workers, designers, performers, and writers have experienced a drastic decline in the amount of available work.
What this means is that many of them don’t have access to paid assignments. They have, thus, had to rely on their savings, with many of them having to find alternative ways to pay their bills.
Competition has also increased in the gig economy as more people begin looking for gigs and side jobs to help them deal with the volatility experienced in the employment market.
4. Overcrowded field
Even though remote working was experiencing steady growth before the pandemic struck, the last few months have seen an increase in the number of people looking to work remotely. Some experts believe that this is something that is going to stay for a while, especially as the world tries to return to the ‘old normal.’
It’s a fact that is also highlighted by the increase in the number of people looking for “work from home” jobs on Google and other major search engines. Overcrowding in the gig economy also means that the price paid for each gig has also dropped considerably, causing most freelancers to notice a drop in their earnings.
5. Project cancellations
Most businesses have had to find ways in which they can cut costs for them to remain operational. What this means is that some projects have had to be cancelled, stalled, or even postponed. For instance, many freelance projects in Italy have been hard hit by widespread abandonment.
A recent survey shows that the percentage of suspensions and cancellations for projects commissioned before COVID-19 has risen from sixty-two per cent to eighty-nine per cent. And these are figures for the first few weeks of the pandemic.
6. A drop in the commissioning of new projects
Looking at some of the challenges listed above, it comes naturally that businesses would have to suspend all new projects. According to Naman Saragwi, the proprietor of a business management tool known as Refrens, the pandemic has led to a sixty per cent reduction in the number of available freelancing assignments.
Refrens is a tool designed to serve the needs of self-employed personnel as well as the freelancing community.
Adjusting to the ‘new normal’
The freelancing community is well-versed with the challenges associated with their line of work. Savvy gig workers have taken it upon themselves to ensure that they have contingency measures in place to help protect against such risks. But then again, the loss of work experienced by the community in the past few months has been nothing but challenging.
COVID-19 has done nothing but increase the pressures already placed on independent workers, which means that most of them have seen their problems grow. However, garnering some information on what to expect in the coming months will ensure that you are fully prepared. You can use the pandemic to come up with a more resilient system that will make it easier for you to navigate the current situation.
Moreover, you can use this time to start planning for the future, which for now looks uncertain. Incorporating the adjustments mentioned below will help to ensure that you are properly set up for the long-term, regardless of how long it takes the global economy to recover.
1. Re-evaluate your finances
While your income may have varied for the better part of last year, a savvy gig worker will try to think ahead at all times to keep their finances safe. Simply put, you need to start saving. Despite the lack of jobs, the few tasks you get in a month should motivate you to start saving for the coming weeks.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a long-term financial plan in place; what you need to do is to set aside at least two months’ worth of cash in your savings account. If this hasn’t happened yet, then it’s time that you started to make some changes in your life.
Start by making some cuts. Go through your list of current expenses and streamline where possible. Check the platforms and tools that you normally use for your everyday work and establish whether there exist cheaper alternatives.
You may be surprised to find that most of the solutions you use daily are available at a discount, more so during this pandemic. Using a systemic way to minimize your expenses may also assist in shielding you against an unpredictable period.
2. Be flexible. Understand where the industry and your business stands
You will probably never have a better time than now to take stock of what your clients are up to or even determine how this situation is affecting them and how they are doing. Go through your yearly results from Q1 to Q4 to get an idea of how much you have lost, how much the company has, and what you can afford to lose in the coming months.
Taking inventory helps you establish which clients will need to have some work done once the pandemic is over. For instance, your company might need to take on new marketing strategies in order to start gaining momentum after the pandemic. Being a gig worker means you have the flexibility to operate in all industries, without having to worry about being fixed in a single location. Ensure you open your mind up to new opportunities and take advantage of all those that come your way.
3. Reskill to survive
There are chances that there are new jobs in industries that you haven’t familiarized yourself with yet, and which likely cross all kinds of online operations. Some of these may include web administration, web development, and even content creation. There can also be new digital tools that companies are using which you should be familiar with. Learning ahead helps you impress your future clients and can give you a good head start in the race.. Try to be creative and consider exploring avenues that are likely still offering work. If need be, considering reskilling for you to survive during these harsh times and also learn how to stand out as a candidate.
Continue reading: Copywriting and Covid-19: How to keep your mojo working
While the coronavirus may have given rise to several challenges for the gig workers, if properly utilized, they can assist in strengthening and galvanizing the freelancing community. Businesses and companies across the world have no option but to learn from the challenges that they are going through. As the effects of the pandemic begin to ease, most of them will come back, aiming to become more efficient and leaner. This is sure to bode well for any freelancer.
About the author
Olivia Coughtrie is Co-founder & Director at Oriel Partners a PA and administrative recruitment consultancy based in Central London. Olivia is passionate about providing high-quality talents to businesses and best career opportunities to candidates.