• Advocacy

What the pandemic has confirmed about freelancing

When the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic in March, business people across various industries and full-time employees were a worried lot. Indeed, we saw furloughs, job losses, and income drops among many people. Even the almighty Bitcoin tanked!

As expected, many people thought the freelance industry will also follow the downward spiral.

And while some freelance industries have suffered tremendously, we have also witnessed the opposite in some industries, like health, SaaS, and marketing. They have experienced an upswing, while other freelancers have pivoted to keep their income steady with coronavirus-related pitches.

This got me thinking: The coronavirus has exposed these five things about freelancing and freelancers.

Many freelancers rely on freelance work for all of their income.

A careful look at some tweets from journalists, editors, and other freelancers from various publications confirms this. The coronavirus has exposed the long-existing patterns of freelancers lacking a second source of income.

The truth, is the virus has shown us we cannot rely on one source of income whether or not you are a freelancer! Diversify your work by selling products on eBay, farming, teaching, or writing a book.

It’s OK to be a jack of all trades.

Tourism, hospitality, and the transport industry were the hardest hit by lockdown measures that led to closures and job losses. Freelancers who specialized in these niches experienced a sudden drop in income as businesses in these sectors cut spending and projects.

Many in these industries have had to seek alternatives, and figure out how to use their existing skills in new fields and industries. Some marketing agencies recruited writers who could write across different sectors.

The pandemic has proved that as a writer or freelancer, it makes business sense to work in different niches. If one goes south, the other is there to help your stay afloat! It's time to wear the badge of "Jack of all Trades" proudly.

Freelancing is a good hedge during hard times.

Raise your hand if you have not had an unemployed person or a laid-off full-timer come to you to learn how freelancing works? During the pandemic period, we have seen a huge surge in the number of people coming to freelance for the first time.

The rising embrace of remote work as a way of reducing the spread of the virus had the effect of convincing many former full-timers that freelancing could be just as viable as a traditional career. With staggering unemployment rates, many people turned to freelancing for a sense of control.

Many freelancers turned to this work due to a personal hard time - juggling family obligations, health struggles, or their education. Now that we are experiencing a global challenge, that flexible value of freelancing has become clear to all.

We value freelance work, but we won't pay a fair price for it!

Some truly outrageous freelance job postings have been circulated lately, with clients looking to pay a fraction of a cent per word for written projects, below minimum wage for hourly work, or even requesting work done for free. Freelancers know these exploitative jobs are nothing new, but it seems that the pandemic has emboldened more clients to devalue their freelance work, even as they increase the amount of their business is done by freelancers.

Many people still consider freelance work to be a casual or part-time activity. Yet, compared to other jobs, freelancers do more work.

Freelancers need more social support.

Freelancers had little to no support before COVID-19. They were essentially invisible to politicians and big companies in terms of economic policy, not to be counted in the GDP figures.

Now that more businesses are recognizing that freelancers are an integral part of their operations, we need more than just the one-time inclusion of this workforce in the CARES Act and the pandemic unemployment assistance program. This is the time to stand united with freelancers.

We can’t deny that over the short duration of the pandemic, several new programs have been extended to freelancers. But their implementation has been abysmal. As more people join the freelance workforce, the need to increase welfare and support for freelancers is no longer an afterthought but an obligation.

The most important thing that I have discovered thanks to the pandemic is that it has brought some reprieve and respect to freelancers. Now, I can walk around with my head high and proudly tell whoever cares to listen that I am a freelance writer without being looked down on.

Derick Okech Derick is a disciple of digital content, knowledge, imagination, freelancing,and Python programming language.