Hardly anyone is hit harder economically by the coronavirus than freelancers, some might say. In Austria, at least, we enjoy much less financial security and cannot apply for unemployment support like people who lost their jobs due to the crisis, for example. If I cannot work anymore and don't make money, I am simply screwed. Especially my friends in the entertainment area are hit hard, as God only knows how long it will take until concerts, plays, musicals, operas, etc. can take place again.
But I don't want this post to be about the dire situation for freelancers, as I think the coronavirus can also be used as an incentive to explore new territory and get creative when it comes to making some extra cash during these times. A friend of mine in the theatre business has started online tutoring and fills out paid questionnaires for studies to cover the time, and my father posts regular Yoga videos to keep it afloat.
Now, to my situation. As a freelance writer, I am probably better off than many other self-employed people, as I already worked from home pre-coronavirus; however, my two biggest clients are, sniff, sniff, in travels and entertainment. So, great....no work coming from there. My other big, big client is a hotel, so it'll be a while before updating their English content on their website will be a priority, too.
Initially, the lack of work really freaked me out, not only because of the financial challenges, but also because it stripped away a direly needed day structure that was pivotal to keeping me going mentally. Having struggled with depressive episodes in the past time, sitting locked inside all day with no deadlines to adhere to and unwanted, unlimited freedom of time is not particularly beneficial. However, they say when one door closes, a window opens - or when all the clients for travelling information and band profiles cancel their orders, companies need you to translate the latest coronavirus measures for their staff.
The great thing about coronavirus-related content is that it is time-sensitive, i.e. you can ask for a much better rate as you have to work fast. Starting with one, I contributed to a few companies and updated their coronavirus information sheets and/or translated them. Even though the virus has still punched a considerable hole into my monthly income, I was able to keep some work going.
My second strategy was going back to tutoring. With schools closed, there is high want and need for online tutoring and help. With my degree in English and a wealth of experience in the teaching department, it was definitely a safe option, but I daresay most people with some skill in a specific subject can apply to the hundreds and thousands of online teaching classes and get some extra money in. This opportunity even led to me designing a Harry Potter-inspired day for students when they return where different stations relating to the various Hogwarts subjects will be set up in different rooms - a dream come true.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want to brag how versatile I am? Well, maybe partly, but the point for me is that I still try to see the positive in this situation and prevent myself from yammering helplessly about something that simply cannot be changed. The German neuro-scientist Gerald Hüther writes in his book #EducationForFuture that what essentially will become the next step of evolution is the distinction of people who are versatile, adaptable and become, therefore, indispensable; and the people who only say "This will never work", "It's always been done like this, so it cannot change", etc.etc. (this is wildly paraphrased, but please read his book. It's in German, but fantastic and worth learning the language :-)). In short, there are the people who always see the proverbial glass half full or half empty and, according to Hüther, only the first ones will endure in the long run because they can adapt to the ever-changing world.
Over the past weeks the coronavirus has been in everyone's mind and conversations and I couldn't help noticing how different people reacted to it. Sure, some were hit much harder than others, but the amount of complaining and useless yammering (partly from me) struck me as a hard contrast to how my father reacted, for example. My father works as a masseuse in a luxury hotel, so he couldn't have had it worse, pretty much. He is still out of work and doesn't know how it will continue in the future, yet he still looks into the future with a positive mindset. When we met a few days ago he said, "you know, maybe I don't even WANT to return to the hotel. If it comes down to it, I will see this as an opportunity to find something where I am needed even more." Having written that, my parents, specifically my father, is a true chameleon when it comes to shaping his life. He's been a religion teacher, school founder, yoga teacher, concert singer, masseuse and trekking instructor (and maybe I've forgotten some jobs on the way). In short, he's incredibly versatile and because he's embraced so many opportunities in his life, he doesn't need to be scared. He knows everything happens for a reason and it always turned out to be good.
When your skills and mindset make you irreplaceable, you become a unique asset wherever you go. Because I branched out during my twenties and embraced a number of opportunities, I have emergency assets I can fall back on in this difficult situation, and I always - always - believe it is never to late to embrace such opportunities - even if a global pandemic "forces" you to take them up.
In a nutshell, we are all exposed to situations we cannot control - that may be a global pandemic, the death of someone we love, an accident, or an illness that forces us to change paths. Either way, I want to choose to see the stones thrown into my path as opportunities, if possible, and create a positive mindset that can keep me afloat mentally and, ideally, financially, too. And speaking of finances: I feel blessed to live in a country like Austria where billions of Euros are pumped into keeping the economy afloat. Here you also find links to the Austrian Härtefallfond, if you live here, as well as the Future Fund in Great Britain. And, to navigate the conundrum with funds and measures granted in the US, you can visit the very helpful article on Honeybook.com called Self Employed Unemployment and Coronavirus Stimulus Package: Everything You Need to Know.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.