How writers can cope with unemployment

Aug 5, 2020

If you’re a freelancer, especially a freelance writer, you may be struggling to make ends meet at the moment, especially as pressure from the coronavirus has led to decreased marketing budgets and ad spending in many industries. In many cases, this has created a domino effect of less work for publications and, by extension, little to no work for many freelance writers.

If you’re among the ranks of those writers seriously affected by the pandemic, here are a few steps that you can take to slow down, assess your situation, and start moving in a positive direction again despite the circumstances.

Take Stock of Your Situation

The first thing that you absolutely must do is slow down and take stock of your situation. It’s the classic “take a deep breath” advice. It may sound cliché, but it can be the only thing that stops you from having a panic attack.

Sure, the situation may feel dire, and you may be nervous about how to pay the bills at the moment, but letting stress control you and giving anxiety the wheel is only going to exacerbate the situation. The truth is, you’re one of many others who are struggling right now, through no fault of your own. Rather than using the bad situation as a crutch, it’s important that you slow down and assess where things now stand. A few initial questions to ask yourself include:

● How much of your work have you officially lost and how much has merely dried up temporarily?

● Have you adapted your spending habits to float your financial situation for as long as possible?

● Are you taking full advantage of your current sources of work, even if they aren’t ideal?

● Have you cashed in on an EIDL or other government loan specifically to help freelancers?

Considering the specifics of your situation is a great way to cool off, calm any frazzled thoughts, and help you clearly decide on the best course moving forward.

Sharpen Your Tools

Once you’ve assessed your situation, it’s time to review your freelancer toolkit. If you’re an established freelancer, you likely already have your favored communication tools, cover letter templates, work organization apps, and so on. However, this is a perfect time to go over each of these to see if anything can benefit from being updated or replaced.

For instance, if your résumé is even slightly dated, it’s worth a quick review. Don’t just look for factual errors or missing skills, education, or experience, either. Consider the actual structure, length, and flow of the document. Does it use generic statements? Are your achievements properly quantified? Are there any glaring typos?

Take a similar revisionist approach to everything in your professional toolkit. Comb over reference letters, tweak cover letter templates, and review your interview tactics so that you’re in the best position possible when you go to apply for work.

Once you’ve addressed your mindset and your toolkit, it’s time to strategize how to get more work. In order to stay grounded in the new reality, it’s helpful to remember that modern careers never follow a straight line. In other words, your next step may not necessarily be predictable. Stay open-minded about job opportunities both within the writing field and without. The gig economy is a vast place, and a veteran freelancer has a natural advantage, no matter where they apply for work.

With that said, the one thing you absolutely must avoid doing is applying to each and every job opportunity you see out of sheer desperation. If you aren’t trained to write about medical equipment, don’t apply to a job that writes about medical equipment just because it pays. Make sure that you’re still aiming for jobs within your knowledge base and skill set or, at the least, within an industry that you can quickly study and understand.

Pace Yourself and Stay Positive

As a final encouragement, remember to pace yourself as you reorient your search for work. It’s easy to use the current situation as an excuse to overwork yourself, but if you do, sooner or later you’ll buckle under the strain. As you search for gainful employment, plan in regular stints of time to genuinely unplug and do nothing.

By both strategically searching for work and allowing yourself to rest, you set yourself up to keep up your efforts for an extended period of time. In addition, once you do get work (and it will come sooner or later), you’ll have enough focus and energy to put your best foot forward with your new client.

Keep Your Freelance Hopes Alive

From assessing your situation to honing your toolkit, reorienting your job search, and staying positive, there are many simple, easy steps that can get a freelancer back on their feet. This is just as true in the wake of the coronavirus as at any other time. The important thing is that you commit to taking that essential first step by slowing down and giving yourself a chance to plan your next move.

Noah Rue

Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad fascinated with the intersection between global health and modern technology.