Freelance Friday: Dealing with Lost Income as a Freelancer

If you’ve lost income due to coronavirus and find yourself feeling hopeless, text “HOME” to 741-741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor. You are not alone.

Happy Friday! Today, I want to talk about something that we as women don’t talk about enough. Today, I want to talk about money.

The M-word is something we tend to avoid in conversation with friends and family. We don’t want to seem rude by asking how much someone makes or how much they’re saving for retirement. But it’s important for women to have these difficult conversations. Talking about money draws attention to income inequality (how do you know if you’re being paid less than a male coworker if you don’t ask?) and allows us to make informed financial decisions for the future. Not to mention, men do it all the time!

One of the reasons I think women don’t talk about money enough, especially young women, is that we all experience some anxiety around our finances. As a freelancer, I’m no stranger to money anxiety — I even wrote a blog post on it, which you can find here. And given the COVID-19 crisis, I think many other freelancers can relate: a survey published by PR Week found that 50 percent of freelancers have lost at least 60 percent of their income (myself included). Half have even considered quitting (myself included) due to the instability coronavirus has brought to our line of work.

The challenging thing about freelancing at a time like this is that most people, well, don’t do it. That means most of my friends and mentors aren’t freelancers and can’t advise me on what to do when my work falls flat. Case in point: I asked my mom for financial advice and she told me that “grocery stores are desperately hiring!” — and while that may help me pay my bills, it won’t keep my small business afloat.

Like many of you, my goal is not for Millennial Pink Media to thrive through the COVID-19 crisis, but to survive it. So, how can you ensure that your freelancing business survives these trying economic times? Here are a couple of the things that have helped me change my perspective and refocus my energy — I hope they will help you, too!

Take Stock of Your Finances

If you’re like me and you tend to put off filing your invoices and calculating your profits and losses each month, now is the perfect time to catch up. When business is slow, you have plenty of time to spend going through your finances with a fine-toothed comb. This can also help you find places where you might be unnecessarily spending money so you can cut them out of your budget, at least for the time being. It’s time for that software you’re paying for (but never use) to go, people!

Reassess Your Business Plan

Financial crises like these can reveal important truths about our plan for the future. In my case, the coronavirus taught me that freelancing isn’t something I want to do full-time forever. While I love having a business and plan to keep it going part-time, the anxiety of my financial future being tied to the market just isn’t for me. Now, I know that I no longer want to “put all my eggs in one basket,” so to speak. I’m ready to start diversifying my income — and I wouldn’t have known that if not for COVID-19.

When you’re not doing “business as usual,” it’s the perfect time to assess whether you actually want to keep doing business as usual, or if you could benefit from switching gears. I recently saw a quote from Dave Hollis on social media that basically said “rather than wishing things would go back to normal, now is the perfect time to assess which parts of ‘normal’ are worth holding onto.” I completely agree. Now is the time to take a birds-eye view at your business and assess whether your current business plan aligns with your values — or whether there’s something that needs to change to ensure your long-term happiness.

Focus on Your Personal Brand

If you’re anything like me, there have probably been tons of business projects you’ve been putting off because you “didn’t have time.” Well, now you have all the time in the world, so you have no excuse not to do them! For me, most of these projects have to do with my personal brand. Now that I’ve defined my niche in women’s health more clearly, I’ve been wanting to give Millennial Pink Media a rehaul to reflect those changes in my brand. Since I had fewer clients and more time on my hands, I saw no reason to continue waiting for my dream life. I decided to make a change now.

Now, I’m focused on redesigning my brand and website to more clearly define myself as a content marketer specializing in women’s health. Losing clients due to the coronavirus showed me which clients I was most excited about working with, and which I haven’t really missed. If you’ve found the same, it might be time to give your personal brand a makeover — and even if you don’t feel the same way, we can all do with a little polishing from time to time!

Consider Broadening Your Clientele

At the end of the day, the most important thing is paying your bills to support yourself and your family. Unfortunately, that sometimes means doing things we don’t want to do — and for me, slashing my rates was one of those things. It physically pained me to cut my rates by nearly 50 percent during the coronavirus crisis, but if doing that was what it took to survive, then I was ready to do almost anything to ensure Millennial Pink Media made it through. Whether it’s working with clients outside your usual niche or accepting a lower pay rate, you may need to consider broadening your base to help sustain you during this crisis.

Conquering Financial Anxiety (feat. Ellevest!)

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive payment for any items you purchase through my blog. Affiliate links like these help keep Lovely & Lazy alive!

In 2019, I had the pleasure of working with a client who’s a financial therapist. She uses psychology to help bread-winning women say f**k it to patriarchal viewpoints and financial anxiety.

I learned a lot from working with her, and it really made me examine my own relationship with money. For example, I have a lot of bad money habits stemming from my anxiety, as I’m sure we all do:

  • I get too caught up in the “what ifs?” to plan for my financial future by saving; instead, I just worry about it and hope it will all work out.
  • Looking at my bank statements makes me anxious, so I’m often too scared to check my account for errors.
  • I’ve even maxed out my credit cards because I thought buying something would be the “magic solution” for my anxiety. (I’m looking at you, $150 yoga pass I used twice.)

Thankfully, I also learned some ways I could reduce that financial anxiety by reading her blog and watching her videos. Combined with the research I did for this article, I’ve come a long way in the past year when it comes to understanding my money and conquering financial anxiety.

By no means have I cured my financial anxiety, but I have learned a tip or two that I think will help you get to a better place when it comes to your money! Here’s some of my best advice when it comes to reducing financial anxiety, and what you can do to better plan for your financial future….

What is Financial Anxiety?

Financial anxiety: 85% of Americans have it to some degree. But that doesn’t say much about what it is…. or why we should care about it enough to read an entire blog post about it!

About 2/3 of Americans report that money is their largest source of stress — enough so that therapists have coined the colloquial term “money anxiety disorder” to explain the phenomenon.

According to credit reporting company Experian, the following symptoms might be signs that you suffer from financial anxiety:

  • Overspending. You get stuck in a vicious cycle of being anxious about money, enjoying the release of a shopping spree and digging yourself into a deep hole of guilt (and potentially debt).
  • Hoarding. You’re so afraid of what could happen that you’re excessively frugal, to the point where you might have storage unit full of stuff you “might” need someday.
  • Dishonesty. Are you covering up your credit card bills, hiding an account from your spouse or otherwise lying about your spending or saving habits? You might be committing something called “financial infidelity.”
  • Generalized anxiety. Sometimes, our money worries can become so overpowering that they overshadow everything else in our life. You might find yourself on edge most of the time, even about things that have nothing to do with your wallet.

Challenging Your Money Worries

So, how can you get to work challenging those money worries and getting back to being your badass self? My client Lindsay wrote a blog post where she shared an exercise from her upcoming book, The Financial Anxiety Solution, on how you can challenge your fears about money.

The exercise is based in the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT — a form of therapy commonly used to treat anxiety. Here’s how it works:

Step One: Choose an anxiety-inducing thought you have about money. For example, “I’m too dumb to understand investing.”

Step Two: Examine the evidence for and against your thought. This is kind of like making a pro/con list: for example, if you previously made an investing mistake, put that on the mental “con” list. If you rocked your college finance class, put that on the “pro” list.

Step Three: At the end, reexamine your original thought. Does it still make sense given the number of pros and cons against the thought? Chances are, the answer will be “no.”

Once you learn to let go of the false, limiting beliefs you hold about your relationship with finances, you’ll soon find your financial anxiety lessened enough to start making smarter decisions with your money!

Prepping for Your Worst Case Scenario (feat. Ellevest!)

As I mentioned previously, financial anxiety often fuels our bad money behaviors; it can lead to overspending, hoarding, being miserly or avoiding planning for the future. Changing our thoughts can help change our behaviors — but so can learning to change those behaviors that are part of the cycle of financial anxiety.

One thing that has helped me tremendously in learning to tackle my financial anxiety is taking control of my financial future — and by that I mean starting an investment account with Ellevest. (I’m not paid to promote Ellevest, but I love it enough that I’d definitely take a deal! #sponsorme)

Ellevest is a financial investment app by women, for women. It offers easy investment portfolios with the option to transfer money automatically every month, helping you save without thinking about it. Plus, you can opt into their Impact Portfolio, which benefits women-owned companies to help empower women around the globe.

Sign up for Ellevest by clicking here and you’ll receive $20 in credit toward your first investment!