A new national lockdown has been announced in the UK - if you’re self-employed, what are the most important things to be considering right now?
It’s easy to worry in contexts where we’re not in control - but keeping a level head and taking a deep breath is essential to manage the situation well over the longer term.
Take a deep breath. Any global scale scenario can cause anxiety, and as we’ve seen, people are responding in a range of ways to the threat of coronavirus - but keep a level head, and give your self some mental and emotional space to process. There's a lot going on.
Understand your finances. Look ahead and understand what your financial situation is right now, and how long you're able to work without income, or on a reduced income. Reduce outgoings where possible, look at monthly regular costs like subscriptions. Speak to any clients who are outstanding on payments.
Engage with your clients. Discuss about their contingency and continuity plans, and how they’re likely to affect your work with them. Make sure your technology and tools are setup so you can do your work remotely, especially if your client has extra security measures such as a VPN. We've also created a guide if you're new to working from home on how to work well remotely.
Be mindful of long-term stress. Even if you’re not feeling particularly worried right now, over 200 days of long-term stress, even at low-levels, is challenging and takes its toll on your ability to focus and work. Proactively invest in your wellbeing, not just when things feel bad.
Re-establish good habits. Review what good and bad habits you’ve found yourself in since March - re-establish the good ones which have lapsed, like regular exercise, and reconsider bad habits you’ve fallen into, perhaps not like setting boundaries of when you’re working and resting.
Take some time to look practically at how things might change, or need to change for your work and your life.
If you’ve been here before, you will have a better idea of what impact lockdown may have on your business this time around. Make a list of how it affected your business back in March, and consider what changes or actions you might take this time to improve things where you can.
If you’re new to freelancing or self-employment due to coronavirus, join a supportive community and talk to those who have been here before to get their experience and wisdom. Don’t do this alone.
Outside of work - you’ll know what part of the experience you struggled with the most previously, consider now what actions you can take to make sure you are better prepared for another month of more stringent restrictions, and put things in place today.
Unfortunately the self-employed have been poorly supported through the entire pandemic. Depending on your legal status as self-employed, limited company owner/employee, sole-trader, or new to self-employment, what support is available is to you can be overwhelming and hard to navigate. Fortunately, there are some good resources we signpost to:
Money Saving Expert is without doubt the clearest and most regularly updated source of information on self-employment and financial support. Their pages are here, and Martin Lewis is doing an amazing job in calling for better support for the self-employed. Put some time aside to read the articles, and understand what you are eligible for.
Dealing with Debt: If things are bad, the Money Advice Trust run a helpful service called Business Debtline, which has a whole load of really useful support guides and phonelines to help you navigate what is available. Money worries have a significant impact on mental health, try and tackle any challenges you have head on, but do it with support.
It can be hard to know where to turn when you’re self-employed - whether you’re new to freelancing or have been running your own business for years, it can be isolating. It’s important to know what support is available to you, that’s designed specifically to understand your needs as someone who is self-employed. Leapers aims to signpost to relevant support for the self-employed, as well as providing a supportive community, but there are lots of other support communities and resources.
Leapers - dedicated to mental health in self-employment with a wide range of support and resources, signposting to sector specific resources, and a supportive onilne community.
Mind - charity supporting mental health with fantastic coronavirus support resources
NHS - support and resources around staying healthy during coronavirus
We’re building a collection of supportive freelance communities at freelancefriendly.network
Should the worse happen and you fall ill - you may not being able to work and might be putting your contracts and income at risk.
If you're not able to work, but have work to be done - read your contracts, understand what your obligations to clients are if you can’t work, and discuss what might need to happen in this situation. If you have insurance, read your policies and understand what cover and protection you have in place if you’re not able to work. Indemnity insurance may cover you if your clients have an issue with you not being able to deliver your work.
Take this as an opportunity to look ahead to the future generally and look at what measures you can put in place should you not be able to work, regardless of the reason.
Start buddying up. If you’re worried about not being able to work, create small pods of people you trust that can step in to support if you’re not able. Find others with similar skillsets, and come to an agreement on how to work together and substitute for each other. Even if you don’t need someone else to step in for work responsibilities, buddying up with others if you’re isolated helps with accountability, loneliness, and feedback.
Most importantly - make sure you’re not disconnected and isolated whilst you’re in lockdown.
Share how you’re doing, ask how others are doing. The anxiety around the outbreak of the virus causes enough concern without having to hide it, so share how you’re feeling.
Connect with communities. If you’re not able to leave the house, digital communities are available to help you feel connected - whether it be Leapers, any one of the many category or theme specific communities like DITFK for freelance parents, or general freelance communities such as Independent Work. Also pick up the phone, chat with friends and family, put additional effort into staying connected to others. We're compiling a list of support groups here.
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