During rough patches for any freelancer (or self-employed person), when finances are tight or business is slow, we can start to feel disappointed and defeated. But in the middle of a global pandemic, it is clear that we’re all struggling, no matter the size of our operations. A solopreneur is in the same position as a large company when the economy has come to a grinding halt. In a world where so much is out of our control, one of the most empowering moves you can make is to take action. Let’s talk about specific actions you can take, using financial, health (mental and physical), and remote work resources to keep you moving forward so that you can come out of this time of global pandemic on top.
Below are a handful of resources that you can use to get the help you need during the pandemic. In addition to financial resources like emergency funding options, we’ve also included resources to help you cope while taking care of your physical and emotional wellbeing.
What to Do if You’re Not Feeling Well
The COVID-19 outbreak is no joke. If you’re not feeling well and a cough has you scared, the last thing you want to do is start Googling your symptoms. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional to get advice on next steps.
It won’t be easy because our health system is overwhelmed right now, but keep pressing (you’re worth it!). And don’t listen to social media updates proclaiming some random oil can cure anything; rely only on reliable sources like the CDC which offers steps to take when you’re sick.
Pro tip: “Suffer” is not one of the steps – take your health seriously.
Getting Control of Your Finances
There is nothing more insulting right now than someone asserting that if you’re struggling, you should have saved more. It’s not helpful advice when you already ate through your savings to pay for your housing this month after no clients paid. Although it’s a great time to review your future finances and start new good habits (and maybe download a budgeting app or take a webinar on personal finances). Let’s try to stop the financial hemorrhaging with this resource list that can help you right now.
1. Talk to your bank(s).
The bank is not going to call you or offer help as they’re inundated with calls. If you have a mortgage, contact your broker – there are refinance options (at historically low interest rates) or forbearance options (wherein current payments can be skipped and rolled on to the back of the loan). Call your lender for similar options on auto, personal, and business loans. Hit pause or defer where you can if this option makes sense for you.
Additionally, some banks are offering immediate, low-interest rate personal loans (a better option than not eating), so call to inquire as not all banking websites have the current options made public.
2. Apply again.
If you applied for any relief or loan already, apply again. The qualification criteria and options are changing frequently, and a “no” a month ago could be a “yes” today, so don’t get too discouraged. Try again.
3. Review all of your bills.
Right now, you’ll be frustrated by impending bills, but it’s a good time to review all bill options, not just calling providers and asking for a pause, but looking at what you’re overpaying for and potentially switching. For example, moving from Sprint to Google Fi can save some people a ton of money.
Cancel or pause any memberships you don’t absolutely need (like the gym, where you can’t go right now anyway) and pare down what you can (perhaps your auto insurance has all of the bells and whistles, and only needs the bells right now).
4. Take advantage of Buy Nothing groups.
If you haven’t heard of the Buy Nothing Project, it’s a worldwide social movement where local groups create gift economies. People participate in these groups to get rid of things they no longer need and get things they do need for free. Each group is hyperlocal (think your neighborhood, not your city), and there is no exchange of money for goods. Just neighbors helping neighbors get what they need.
Find your local Buy Nothing group, and participate in gift exchanges if this is something that appeals to you. If your tv just went out, you can put out a request in case someone has an extra sitting around to gift to you. If you just rage cleaned your pantry and have 10 vases with no home, put them in your group for free, and let someone pick them up from your patio.
5. Points, perks, and cards.
Have old gift cards sitting around? Now is the perfect time to locate them and use them.
Check your credit cards for any points that can be used or converted into gift cards that could be used. If your cards offer you the option to earn cash back on purchases, you may want to use any cash back you’ve acquired to pay down your credit card bill.
You can also dig into any perks that may be available to you. For example, Amazon Prime has tons of perks that can use in place of other services you pay for like Prime Video and music services.
6. Take advantage of freebies.
Numerous companies are offering free business services temporarily to help remote workers, freelancers, and individual artists back on their feet. Check out nearly 200 of them here – from Microsoft to Adobe to Dropbox.
Loans and New Government Programs
You may worry that because you don’t have a bunch of people on payroll or that you don’t have an LLC set up that you’re not eligible for any assistance, but that’s not the case. Many efforts have been made to reach the freelance community as well. The resources below are available to freelance writers and artists of all disciplines who need financial assistance while work is slow.
The CARES Act (“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act”) passed on March 25th and opened a number of doors for the freelance world. But if you’re vexed that you can’t find the open doors, that’s because the wheels of government don’t move quickly, so several options (which we’ll talk about next) are not equally available across America. But you need to make sure you’re in line for funds if you want them – apply for the SBA COVID-19 Disaster funds now.
Lenders will most likely be your current banker. The Small Business Administration will be sending money through the banks for most of the programs. It’s time to gather as much of your paperwork as you can for the anticipated application process. One of the best guides around is from the proverbial horse’s mouth: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship’s Guide to the CARES Act and the Small Business Administrations (SBA) Guidance and FAQs.
When you’re ready, here are some to resources that might help:
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Application Form
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Information Sheet: Borrowers
- Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Emergency Loans Small Business Guide & Checklist
Corporate Funds for Freelance Writers
Some corporations with deep pockets are looking to earn some cool boy points right now by offering grants to small businesses and freelancers (which are the ultimate small businesses). Here are just a few:
- Facebook says they’ll be offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 small businesses. They haven’t started issuing grants, but you can currently sign up for updates.
- Verizon will be funding grants of up to $10,000 to total $2.5M and they’re looking to serve entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses and other enterprises in historically under-served places who don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital. (The next application round opens on May 14th.)
- Hello Alice is offering $10,000 emergency grants to be distributed to small business owners impacted by COVID-19.
- Goldman Sachs has committed $300 million to support communities and small businesses, including $250 million in emergency loans to small businesses.
- JPMorgan Chase has committed millions in aid, with $8 million set aside for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
- Google is giving small businesses $340M in ad credits for Google Ads. Small businesses that have become active advertisers since the beginning of 2019 will see a credit notification appear in the next few months.
- Listen up, ladies, the CEO of Spanx is personally giving out $5,000 grants to female entrepreneurs.
COVID-19 Emergency Resources Specifically for Writers
Although they’re typically smaller amounts of funds, there are a handful of COVID-19 emergency resources available to freelance writers to help pad the financial blow of the global pandemic. (Please note that as time goes on, some of these COVID-19 resources may close applications as they exhaust their funds.)
- PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund says that they know writers may “no longer have access to any of the ways in which they have supported themselves,” and they are offering $500 to 1,000 grants.
- International Women’s Media Foundation: COVID-19 Relief Fund is offering up to $2,000 grants to women-identifying journalists who have faced significant financial hardship, lost work, or were recently laid off.
- Freelancers Union: Freelancers Relief Fund offers up to $1,000 grants per household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs. (Update: As of 5/6/20, applications are currently temporarily closed. But you can sign up for updates for when they open again on the site.)
- Shade Literary Arts: Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund is raising funds to give out $100-500 to queer writers of color hit hard by the pandemic.
- The Haven Foundation Grant Program was set up by Stephen King to offer financial assistance to help established freelance artists, including authors and screenwriters.
- The SFWA Emergency Relief Fund is set up to help science fiction and fantasy writers pay for items not covered by medical insurance.
Finding More Work During the Downtime
You’re already probably looking under every rock for more work right now, and there is a chance you’ve lost clients and work. There’s no shame in hustling for in-between work, and we won’t assume you haven’t already. But there’s a chance you haven’t heard of one or two of these options!
- WriterAccess is hiring – Join WriterAccess, now a five-time honoree of the Inc 5000 List of fastest-growing businesses in the US. You can learn how it works for writers, editors, content strategists and translators, and why we’re the best marketplace on the planet to earn the best pay.
Additionally, it may be difficult to find traditional full-time employment right now, but there are many remote work options to consider:
- We Work Remotely is one of the largest remote work sites around, and we’ve noticed it’s absent from “work from home” scams, featuring high-quality employers.
- Remotive offers jobs in software development, customer success, design, marketing, sales, product, and more.
- Remote.co has a wider array of options than most, including healthcare, so if you write in a specific niche, there could be unique options available there.
- Working Nomads is a job search site that has tons of fresh listings, across a diverse array of sectors.
- Jobspresso calls themselves “xpertly curated remote jobs in tech, marketing, customer support, and more.”
There are so many great niche communities on Facebook and LinkedIn – we recommend searching for “[Your City] Freelance Writers” or “[Your State] Freelancers,” and searching for combinations that lead you to established groups that are already talking about jobs. (They may even have more great leads on COVID-19 resources for freelancers!)
COVID-19 Resources for Coping During the Pandemic
You’re human, right? We thought so. Because you’re human, and living during a global pandemic, you’re under pressure right now. Mental health challenges that already exist can be amplified during high-pressure times like these, and anxiety and depression can hit anyone under these conditions. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention suggests we take care of our mental health by taking the following steps:
- Separate what is in your control from what is not.
- Do what helps YOU feel a sense of safety.
- Get outside in nature – even if you are avoiding crowds.
- Challenge yourself to stay in the present.
- Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. (Read more here.)
In addition to the pressures of anxiety from these challenging times, many folks are struggling with working remotely, so taking a pause to consider these processes can be helpful. (Hello Alice offers an in-depth guide for remote work).
If you’re extroverted and struggling with social distancing, there are plenty of community video meetups to keep part of your soul soothed. If you belong to a writer’s group, association, or workgroup, ask around for where the Zoom meetups are, they’ve become very common.
As mentioned previously, controlling what is within your control can have a tremendously positive impact on you. If you were considering certification or more education, much of it is temporarily free, so look again and take advantage of whatever you can to make YOURSELF more valuable. Don’t make it your full-time job, because let’s face it, the payoff isn’t immediate and food is pretty useful.
You’ve Got This
COVID-19 is particularly tough on freelance writers, but digging into the new financial relief options available from the government, private entities (like large corporations), and funds specifically for writers, this ship won’t sink.
Taking time to review your finances, looking into remote work options, and pausing to assess your remote work set up (new or old), and tending to your mental health will all add up to a meaningful future wherein we all still get to be writers!
This list of COVID-19 resources will empower you to take action in a time that makes many feel powerless.
But you’re not powerless, you’ve got this!
Have any hot leads on other COVID-19 resources for freelancers? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to add them here.