As the world came to a halt during the Covid 19 Pandemic, freelancers were left asking the question: What’s in it for me? Caught off guard like the rest of the world, freelancers were facing a particularly dry season as companies adjusted their budgets and pulled the plug on big budget projects amid an imminent recessionary period. It was horrendous enough for full time employees, and imagining life as a freelancer, was very scary.
Freelancers of all sorts were and are still facing the most difficult time in modern history. Even though they contribute a considerable amount to the economy, their work is considered as a hobby till the real thing comes around. The biggest concern of this “storm of awfulness” was the financial instability that it was going to bring in the near future. Self Employed people and freelancers were getting ready to saddle up, because the next couple of months weren’t going to be easy and the future was bleak.
And then something very unexpected happened. As the world shifted to a virtual workplace, there was a spike in the number of freelance jobs in India. The world saw the Rise of the “New Collar worker”. Coined by IBM’s then-CEO Ginni Rometty in 2016, the term “new-collar” work blurs the line between “white-collar” and “blue-collar” jobs and refers to developing technical skills needed to work in today’s IT industry in areas such as cybersecurity, application development and database management, and cloud.
“Companies are now much more used to having a virtual workforce, and traditional boundaries between full-time employment and freelancers will blur,” said Richard Lobo, executive vice president and HR head at Infosys. “At Infosys, we have been using freelance talent for quite some time. We use this talent pool either to meet variations in demand or to fill in positions that need specialized skills,” he said. A number of Online Gigging Job portals have seen a drastic increase in not only remote projects but also registrations by professionals which was probably because of furloughs and job losses.
Sunit Sinha, managing director, strategy & consulting – talent & organization, Accenture in India told the Economic Times that, “As the demand for skilled talent goes up and companies adopt new and more digital ways of working, this employment model and the gig economy is likely to see an upswing in the coming years,”. However, this applies to a very selective range of professionals mostly working in internet business companies, IT, ITES, startups, hospitality, quick-service restaurants (QSR), retail and logistics etc.
But what about the rest?
What about freelancers who fall under the outrageous “non essential job category”? The Artists?
Photographers, Writers, Illustrators, Makeup Artists etc. are experiencing a dramatic decline in the number of assignments and are out of work. With events and gigs getting cancelled they are left dipping into savings. Even though Freelancers are often aware about the risks and job uncertainty that comes with this line of work, the loss of work in the past couple of months has been devastating. It might take another 5- 6 months to fully regain momentum and this might be a good time to re evaluate and assimilate adjustments to your work life. Here is a List of things that you can do:
Re Adjust your Hustle
Pandemics often lead to a rise in new startups and job opportunities. Keep a lookout for new ventures and pathways that provide viable options of income. You may need to reevaluate your skill set to suit different pathways. Remember you need to “first Survive and then Thrive”.
If you are an Illustrator or Graphic Designer, look into Companies in the publishing sector. Publishing Houses have swiftly shifted to producing e-books on a large scale, so they continue to sponsor illustrators, writers and graphic designers for the same. There may be a matter of contention regarding the budget but it is a still a better option than not getting paid completely. Similarly there are a number of other work sectors who are functioning virtually. Those are the Pathways that you need to look into. I would also recommend Independent Artists to take this moment to set up Print shops which can be very advantageous for the future. And while you are it, learning new skills/ software will also prove extremely helpful for the future.
If you are a photographer, find innovative ways to continue to work like organizing FaceTime shoots and other forms of remote photography. It not only opens up opportunities to work with models and clients from anywhere in the world, this is also cost-effective for photographers, and has a negligible ecological footprint, unlike many fashion shoots in exotic locations. Look into other pathways related to you field of work like retouching, editing, photo research etc.
If you are a writer or content generator, and direct client work has dried up look into agencies because even though the content has changed to go with the times, there are more and more people online, so there is a lot of scope for work. Rita, a freelancer said that while she’s moderately concerned, she hasn’t seen a dip yet that falls outside the norm. “Last week, I had almost no work. This week, I’m overloaded again. It’s about the same as usual; feast to famine and back every other week.”
As businesses adapt to remote work, they’ll find that freelancers are an excellent and cost-effective resource they can turn to for a variety of jobs they may have relied on in-house, salaried workers for. There is work, but you must be extremely flexible enough to go out and build relationships to find it.
Network the crap out of this situation and I cannot say this enough. Get aggressive about Marketing yourself. Freelancing is largely dependent on networking and meeting the right people is extremely vital for growth. Even if they there aren’t any job opportunities available at the very moment, many companies and organisations are creating a pool of collaborators and freelancers for upcoming projects after things starts gaining momentum again.
Review your Finances
As companies start cost cutting and delay payments, be prepared to cut back on expenses. If you are a full time freelancer you are already aware of the risk of financial instability that comes with this line of work. So you should have enough money saved up to get through the couple of next months till things get better. If not, take your finances into consideration and cut back considerably. If you have money saved up and if it is possible, this is also an ideal time to invest in online businesses as they are the ones flourishing.
In conclusion, don’t panic. Every year there is a specific period of time where work flow surges very low. So we know this is going to be over very soon and there is going to be a tomorrow.