How do I keep my business alive during the coronavirus pandemic?
We are in trying times. The past few days and weeks have been scary and overwhelming, and depending on where in the world you’re reading this from, you may be looking at far more time at home than you are used to due to regulations on quarantine and social distancing. I have been finding that I need some extra help right now staying motivated. Maybe you do, too.
When news about this virus was emerging, I’m not proud to say that I thought we were overreacting. As more information has become available and countries have created rules/guidelines for their citizens to follow, I want to encourage everyone to take this very seriously— not only for yourself, but for those who are at higher risk. We all have a social responsibility to do our part in limiting the spread of the coronavirus, and which for most of us, means staying the F home. 🙂
I have been seeing lots of posts from fellow creatives whose businesses are suffering as a result of this virus. Photographers have posted about having all their jobs cancelled that were scheduled for the foreseeable future, and others have announced cancellations of the workshops that are their primary sources of income.
The point of this post is NOT to dump bad news on you. My hope is that this, first, reminds you that you are not alone, and second, I hope that it encourages you. If this has been tough on you and your business so far, please do not throw your hands up and quit. I have never known you to give up that easily. There are always ways to pivot.
I’d like to acknowledge that this is difficult. This is not a ~love and hope will fix everything~ post (though of course those things can help). I’m not saying depression and anxiety are easy opponents either–- they’re not, and I feel for you if you are fighting with them on top of everything else. But I do believe that if you’re in a creative field, if you’ve chosen to work for yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur, that there are some damn good reasons for that! You’ve got something special, and you can’t just allow your light to go out because you are being forced to pivot. Remember that pivoting is what you’re good at.
Remember that you are still creative. I’ve found myself needing that reminder often lately. Below is a simple activity that may help you put this into practice.
In your journal, on a sheet of paper, or even in the Notes section of your phone, create a brain dump of all ideas you have about how you can use this time. Let your mind run with it, and see what comes up. Don’t limit yourself to only business ideas, but think about what would be helpful for your own self-care and well-being, and list those ideas too.
Here’s some of what came up for me:
- Contact my current & past clients and develop new offerings for them
- Pitch to new clients
- Offer consulting calls or portfolio reviews
- Go live on my channels to further connect with community
- Write blog posts
- Create new Instagram story filters
- Update my portfolio
- Update my print shop & create discount code
- Create illustrations
- Read a book
- Go for a walk outside
- Go to the beach
- Work out (stream a workout)
- Go to therapy or schedule a therapy session
- Call/FaceTime friends & family
- Marie Kando my stuff
- Relax, nap, watch a movie (I think it’s important to note that you do NOT have to be “productive” all the time. Rest is a feature of productivity and we all need space to just BE.)
2. BREAK DOWN IDEAS
Circle your most exciting idea. Break it down into doable next steps–– this will vary depending on what item you choose. The point of breaking it down is to create steps you can actually do fairly easily, and to give you a place to start. Here’s an example from my list:
- IDEA: Write blog posts
- Next step: Create a list of blog post ideas
- Next step: Create new drafts for each idea
- Next step: Block off time in calendar to write each post, allowing for breaks
- Next step: Follow calendar schedule
- Next step: Compile images that go with each post
- Next step: Schedule posts to publish
3. SCHEDULE NEXT STEPS
Working for myself from home, I find it
really helpful ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to have a calendar. Before I lived this freelance life, I imagined that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, all without wearing a bra. It turns out that is a very haphazard strategy, and not super effective for productivity in my opinion (bra still optional).
Schedule your next steps on your calendar, planner, or scheduling app. Bonus: tell a friend or colleague what your plans are so that you’ve got some accountability.
Now that your next steps are in your calendar, it’s time to follow the plan you’ve made for yourself! The idea of breaking down your goals into smaller pieces and scheduling a time to do them, is that these are doable things that help you build momentum throughout your day.
For me, staying off of social media is CRUCIAL. Seriously. I find it way too easy right now to fall into a pit of anxiety with my eyes glued to a constant stream of alarming news. My advice if you struggle with this is to stick to your schedule. Set a timer to get your projects & next steps done, and if you want to scroll through Instagram or Twitter, set a timer for that, too. If you find yourself scrolling Instagram before you could stop yourself, delete the app altogether and download it again later. Obsessively checking your feeds and the news is likely not going to help you feel inspired or creatively fulfilled! It is also not likely to get you paid. 🙂
Being your own boss has a unique set of challenges under normal circumstances. This set of circumstances is… well… another beast. Cheer yourself on as you go. Stay in touch with friends. Celebrate your wins. Root for each other.
You don’t have to stop at just one of your great ideas! Keep going. Break down your ideas into smaller and smaller steps until projects are easily doable. Babysit yourself with your social media consumption. And remember that prayer and meditation are always available to you.
The first step to finding a creative solution is being open to the possibility of one. Seek peace, cultivate calm, and remember that there is a solution.
If you’ve got anything to add, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
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Thank you! These are all good tips! Stay safe!
Love the design of your blog!
Thank you, Erin! This exercise was super helpful. Hope you’re staying healthy and not too stir-crazy 🙂
It’s definitely a tough time for so many right now. These are really helpful tips especially for entrepreneurs, thanks for sharing Erin. I hope all is well.
I have a dead time and fight with photograpy currently. i looking for inpiration for continues with my love, my work and my goals in this time. It is not easy Because the work stopped and i dont know until when. But is freelancer life. Greetings from Colombia.
Love your photos, passion and your spoken word.
I’ve had the weird experience of retiring at the end of March. It had been planned for years (I worked for a municipal government), and so I’d been prepared to spend a certain amount of time figuring out a new routine — including, not least, a new routine for my photography. I’m lucky enough to live in a suburban apartment, in an area surrounded by trees and county/city parks which haven’t closed. So long walks with the camera have been very productive for me; I’m shooting almost too much to know what to do with it all. (My main worry is running out of flash memory, ha.)
I have LOVED your “outdoors brought indoors” series on IG. Thanks so much for it, Erin. And best of luck as we move through the next few months. Safety and sanity together!
I am a 69-year-old Cuban lady who is quarantining alone in my apartment in Havana, I love photography, among the miles of beautiful things that life gives us and I have been inventing how can I take original photos from my house. Seeing your photos has enriched my chances of doing something truly creative. I have taken like 500 photos or more from my homebrew until now! All from my windows and 3 terraces. Today I eill make something inside my home!! Thank you!
I’m a teacher currently trying to engage students remotely. I like bringing in news stories that are positive to counter all the negative news. Last week I posted one of your indoor landscapes and invited students to write a sentence about it. This week I shared the CNN article showing more of your landscapes and the video of you creating the jello lake. My hope is that they are inspired in some way to see life through a fresh, albeit different, lens. What possibilities does this pandemic offer if we allow ourselves to see them?
How do you feel these days – bored?
Really enjoyed seeing you and your work on CBS Sunday Morning this morning. It’s very inspirational to see such amazing creativity amidst the worries.
Best wishes to you and your colleagues from a 68-yr-old lady in Las Vegas. (And thanks for taking the pandemic seriously.)
Greetings from Memphis (home of Elvis Presley) Tn. saw your piece on CBS Sunday Morning. Very impressive. Fabulous photography and creativity. Good luck in your future endeavors.
Love your work, thank you.