This is an adaptation of a blog post that appeared on the Freelance Heroes website. They’re a great resource for freelancers at any time – not just at the moment.
Earlier in 2020 I had pondered writing a few different blog posts. How hard freelancing can be, how it’s difficult to keep your own business visible when you’re busy focusing on doing just that for everybody else, how even when you think things are going brilliantly, as a freelancer or business owner things can so easily be flipped on its head.
I never got round to them, then suddenly the arrival of Covid-19 meant all of them were more relevant than ever. Suddenly, all the plans I had, to-do lists, plans and strategies for clients, strategies for my own business were rendered null and void. In one fell swoop, the arrival of coronavirus changed everything in so many ways. And not just once, but day by day, making it hard to plan and even harder to catch a metaphorical breath as the world became unrecognisable.
When businesses face tough times, communication is so often vital. Yet simultaneously tough times mean tight budgets, which means cutting things that aren’t seen as necessary – like PR and comms. I get it and while I may want to argue for why this shouldn’t be the case, sometimes it really is ‘just what it is’.
That said, as Covid-19 became more of an ongoing crisis that a short lived disaster relegated to our memories, many businesses were forced to shift their offering and those kind of shifts could only ever be successful by gaining support, telling people about them and ultimately making sales. I’m proud to have been involved in some of these new steps by businesses, and even in helping launch new businesses themselves during such difficult times.
However, for those who haven’t necessarily started doing anything different but are holding on and hoping to reopen or restart trading again, I’m of the view that visibility remains important. With that in mind, I wrote a few tips for Freelance Heroes on how business owners might want to stay visible and keep things ticking over, even when it seems like the only option is to shut up shop and go home. They are not exhaustive, and many may already have done them, but they may prove helpful and possible food for thought.
I’ve seen it a lot. Of course, it’s important as a business owner to have to take decisive action in unprecedented times, especially when you’re faced with your revenue falling off a cliff. But maybe take two minutes to think it through – if you think you might be planning to launch something new or pivot your business, bear in mind you’ll want to communicate that either through traditional PR or social media, so don’t drop all of that only to start again in a few weeks.
Yes, it feels a bit strange staying visible, on social media or in some other way, when you can’t do what you do whether that’s feeding people, clothing them, cutting their hair, or anything else. I have had some clients tell me it’s hard to stay active online when they ‘don’t have anything to say’, but if you suddenly disappear from view this can arguably be as damaging as staying visible but perhaps altering your message.
Of course, nobody needs a ‘hard sell’ right now, but engaging with current and potential customers and clients isn’t just about that, and shouldn’t be either. For a lot of them, your online presence isn’t always about them buying stuff off you – it’s about them feeling part of a community having that suddenly disappear as well as everything else can count as yet another loss.
From engaging with people online to sharing good news stories, championing other freelancers, or even offering your own bits of advice, there’s lots you can do to stay visible and it really will count.
Look for PR opportunities
Okay, it can feel a bit wrong promoting your own business in the midst of a global pandemic but nobody is going to give you a hard time for trying to survive.
At times like this, the world of media shifts up a gear and there are often opportunities to share your stories – especially if they’re related to the subject that is front and centre in the media. Whether you’re pivoting your business, helping people, or providing expert comment unique to your sector, there is most likely a journalist somewhere out there looking for your story. Search out those opportunities and you’re finding the perfect way to get your name out there.
Sounds simple, right? Yet it’s so often easy to retreat into a bubble – especially when you’re quite literally being told to lock yourself away and not speak to anyone. But you can still keep in touch with people. With your customers, as per the suggestions above, but also with your team and those you hire to help you.
As I mentioned, I completely understand why some small businesses have to rein in the spending at times like this. But it’s always wise to talk things through and perhaps discuss where things are going, where they might go, and what steps could be taken in the future. That way you’re not cutting all ties, only to restart them again, or stamping on months – possibly years – of great work. Which leads me on to….
The importance of relationships
One of the things I have always put at the heart of what empr does is to build relationships with my clients. PR can often be a long game, and I like to build firm, long-term relationships with the businesses I work with so we can achieve great ongoing visibility and coverage for them, rather than one hit wonders.
It’s at times like these that the value of those relationships shines bright. Whether it’s working together in a different way, planning for the future, coming up with ideas together or just offering support at an incredibly difficult time, they really do count.
Similar to the above, but don’t rule out working together with other businesses. I believe in this all the time as it is, but opportunities for collaboration may emerge unexpectedly when the whole word is turned on its head. As client’s demands change and people pivot their own businesses, other freelancers may be looking to bring you on board or to commission work. In turn, maybe you need some help on something you’re doing. Now, more than ever, sticking together could help all of us.
Look out for new business opportunities
At one point in all this, I had just about convinced myself nobody anywhere was commissioning any kind of work, then out of the blue was asked to do something for a business that is using this period to really invest in what they’re doing. It was unexpected but a great opportunity and has led to what is likely to be an ongoing relationship. So yes, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are unexpected wins to be had.
Use the time wisely
Things may slow down, that’s inevitable. I’ve had weeks that have been far quieter than usual. But you can use that time to work on your own business, whether that’s compiling a database of all your contacts and clients, updating your website or planning for the future. All of it will help, and it’s the kind of spare time that you probably rarely have and may never get again.
These are just a few ways you can look at keeping your business visible during difficult times. To discuss PR services, copywriting, or any other comms-related work please don’t hesitate to contact me on email@example.com