It seems funny to write about having a plan when the world is so topsy-turvy, but I feel as though I’m finally coming out of my coronavirus fog and settling into the new way of being.
The last few weeks have been a time of watching commissioned travel work disappear, feeling incredibly unsettled, feeling frustrated about chasing up late invoices, and if I’m totally honest, struggling to find the motivation to do any writing.
But, over the last week things have slowly shifted.
I’ve been on long (slow) walks with my partner and kids, collecting wild blackberries (and lots of sticks).
I’ve been spending lots of time in the garden.
I’ve been baking (and eating) A LOT.
I’ve been working on some stories where I’ve been interviewing local artisans and business owners who are doing great things amid the crisis.
So I’m tentatively developing a plan.
Because as I write this I have no work.
I’ve just filed my last article and there is nothing on my ‘to do’ list apart from this blog post.
Usually I would feel utterly panicked about not having any work lined up (which has actually never happened to me before), but instead I’m feeling kind of excited.
I love a good challenge and I’m looking forward to seeing if I can continue to earn good money in this challenging time.
I have to say, straight up, that I don’t know how this is going to play out.
Usually I’m really confident about my techniques and strategies but what we are going through is unlike anything else, so I have no idea what’s going to work.
I’m planning on trying a number of strategies and I’ll share how I go.
But I’m also very aware that I’ll only have two days a week to work as I’ll be home schooling my son (yikes) three days a week.
Do the most obvious task first
The first thing I’m going to do shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you.
It’s reconnecting with past clients.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few days because I have previous clients who I really liked working for and who paid well, but I didn’t enjoy the work.
I’ve been weighing up whether I would reach out to them to see whether they need content.
But (and this may change depending on how needy I get) at this stage I’m not going to.
I think you can look at this in one of two ways.
Not having any work means you can feel desperate, scrabble around and accept anything that’s going.
Or you can use this unusual break in your schedule to look at your priorities and really work out who you want to write for.
Now I know I say this from a privileged position of having savings and a financial buffer.
I’m very aware that I’m offering this advice while I’m also not stressed out about being broke.
But if you have the resources to take a breather for a day or two, then use that time to reconnect with previous clients who you’ve lost touch with and who you’d like to write for again.
That’s my first point of action.
Because off the top of my head I can think of four clients or editors who I have lost contact with over the past year who I should reach out to.
Look for industries thriving at the moment
All my travel writing work has disappeared almost overnight, but there are lots of industries that haven’t been as hard hit by COVID-19, and in fact, some that are positively booming.
Some of the least hardest hit industries include:
Health care and medical
Now you may look at that list and think, so what?
Maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t write in any of those areas.”
But I bet you can.
Even if you’re predominantly a travel writer or someone who writes about the arts, there are still heaps of opportunities to … (prepare yourself I’m going to say the most overused business word of the virus epidemic) …. pivot.
One travel writer I know with a background and interest in the arts wrote this article about an artist doing selfie isolation portraits.
At these times, your writing experience and ability to turn around clean copy (quickly) is generally going to be the most important thing to editors and clients.
Spend a few purposeful hours on LinkedIn, connect and reach out to potential clients.
Acknowledge that it’s a crazy time but let them know that you’re available.
This is what I’m going to do early next week.
I’m going to emphasis my PhD in social work, my health background and also the work I have done in business/finance (it’s scant, but it’s there!)
I’m not sure how it’s going to go – especially with cold emails to potential clients in the current climate – but I’m interested to see.
Open coaching sessions
Last week some of you noticed that I made a small announcement in my newsletter that my coaching sessions have re-opened.
I was planning on starting the sessions up again, so this has always been in the plan for April/May.
I’ve got four writers booked in this week and I’m so excited to get back coaching and see if I can help them get to where they want to go.
Work on resources for freelance writers
I’m in two minds about my online course – do I launch the beta or do I wait?
I know my strategies and techniques work in a ‘normal’ environment, but what about now?
So for the moment, it’s still shelved.
But part of my plan for the next couple of weeks is to work on a small set of affordable resources for freelance writers.
These are templates that I use time and again and I think lots of freelancers could benefit from them.
Take each day as it comes
Who knows what this time next week is going to look like?
All I know is that I have really benefited from having a slow couple of weeks work wise.
My little family is pretty happy (apart from the odd scrape about who gets what stick) and I’m forever grateful that we live just metres from bushland and country side.
I might be here next week saying that this was all a total flop and that I’m applying for government benefits.
But I’m just going to take it day by day.
Will you let me know how your day by day is going too?
Pretty much everything you have written about resonated with me. Financially okay, teenage son doing the on-line learning thing and my masters writing course at Notre Dame keeping me busy. While sitting on the sidelines, tweeking my new website, writing a bunch of posts and holding down my part-time government job, it is probably stating the bleeding obvious that things going to be very different on the other side. Many businesses will go under, others will adapt and hopefully come out on top. I’ve spotted my a possible niche writing area that will draw on my own qualifications. It’s not the kind of writing I really want to write about but that’s okay. Nothing is forever. I’m reminded of something I saw on the evening news the other day. It was about these rugby league players who are now training as hard as ever on there fitness in anticipation of future games. As professional writers we need to keep in the game. Look forward to seeing your resources.
Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re doing pretty well all things considered. I love the example you gave of the rugby players. I can’t remember where I saw it but I did read or hear stats about freelancers who active market themselves during a crisis/low period are much, much more likely to have work when things return to ‘normal’. Take care and thanks again for sharing how things are going in your world.
I just wanted to say thank you for your honest and open posts, as always. I’ve been reading your blog for a while and always leave with ideas or new direction – this post was really helpful. I’m now writing my own ‘plan’ for the next few weeks. Thanks again!
Thank you so much Daniela. I’ll be interested to hear how your plan goes!
Thank you Lindy, it is so helpful to hear about how other writers are coping during this time. This week, after my scrambling for work has slowly tapered each week, I came to the realization that I don’t actually have time for any more work even if I found it. I have a semi-weekly article I write and that’s about all the energy I have, since my daughter is out of daycare. But because we aren’t paying for daycare, we will be scraping by okay for these next few weeks. It is hard to give up the work that I love, but not stressing over it is a relief.
Thanks for your comment Catie. It sounds like you’re in a pretty good space – it must be a huge relief not to be worried about having work but no time or energy to actually do it. Stay well.
Hi Lindy. Thanks for another thoughtful, smart, compassionate post. I’m a new subscriber to your blog — I just found it recently & enjoy your writing. Thank you for this work you do! My day to day, aside from having concerns for the world & our futures, is pretty much the same as it was. I’ve been researching publications to submit to & I’m continuing that. I’m writing a book & proposal & have a lot of leg work to find an agent, etc. I’ve always focused on my visual art, but over the last few years have been honing my writing. So I’ve sort of been in transition for a while before the pandemic. I also have a privileged position in that my husband still has his job, so I’m not freaking out. So I’m doing the work at hand with the understanding that the ground beneath my feet is shifting; I’m watching, witnessing as things unfold, & focusing on staying centered. I’m also thinking of what I can do to be useful, and so far the answer to that is to shelter in place. Wondering how we will rebuild and how my writing might be of use as we do.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment Annette and welcome to the blog 🙂 I think you’re right – what we can do to be useful? I’m so buoyed by how many writers are using their different skills to be ‘useful’. But yes, ‘sheltering in place’ seems about the most useful and important thing we can do right now. Good luck with continuing your work and book proposal. Keep well.
Enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing a window into how you’re handling the current situation. I had just started restructuring my business when this whole thing exploded, so I’m finding myself having to learn several different things at once! Mostly client prospecting right now. But I also like you thought about coaching sessions. I’ll have to mull that one over to figure out which skills I have that would work well on that kind of platform.
Enjoy your time with your family. I think as everyone looks back on this, those who took advantage of the situation to slow down and reconnect with the people around them will find they have no regret for doing so.
Thanks Sam, I think you’re right. Now that I’m juggling home schooling and work (and life in general), I’m already missing the two blissful weeks over Easter where we just stayed home, read, walked, talked and baked. Good luck with your prospecting and thinking about coaching – let us know how you go.
Thanks for your honesty and great ideas. I’ve just hit the third trimester of pregnancy, and have my almost 3-year-old at home. I’m finishing up a larger writing project and two graduate classes. By early May I’ll have nothing lined up, I plan to start maternity leave early. Give myself time to rest, work on some professional development, and just write for fun. Maybe I’ll get crazy and work on some website updates I’ve been meaning to do. But, like you pointed out for yourself, I’m set in the financial sense. My husband is still working and we knew I’d be slowing down around now for the new baby. Timing is everything.
Sounds like your third trimester is the perfect time to be resting and writing for fun, Catherine. How exciting to be welcoming a new little family member into your life. I hope it all goes well.