How Writers and Creators Keep it Together When their Income is Halved
If you’re a writer, creator, or freelancer right now, I get it. You’re probably scared. Incomes were halved almost overnight–even eliminated. And although we have no idea where we’re headed in the next year or so, these uncharted waters don’t have to mean the end of your side-hustle.
If you’re a writer or creator, you’ve got a baked-in gift. You have the power to create something from nothing.
…and right now is a time of a lot of nothing.
While you can’t eat ideas alone, economic downturns are a great time to test your ideas. If you find a market for them now, while customers are more-squeezed than ever, you’ll thrive when the economy rebounds.
What you can’t do, is give up.
There’s no room for quitting. if you’re lucky you still have your health and the health of those around you. If you’re fortunate, you’ve got a place to work. Warm and dry. Away from crowds and mischief.
While we can’t control most of the world outside our little working space (no matter where that is), we can control the work we choose to do, even when the world fights against us.
How to Keep it Together
The first step is to take stock in what you do have.
What projects still produce revenue for you? What customers continue to bring in sales?
When you know your current baseline (not that it won’t change) you’ve got a place to start. The sky doesn’t fall at once in most cases. Lately, the sky seems to be falling at a slow roll.
The second step is to allow yourself to feel the current discomfort, but not for too long.
Give yourself permission to completely freak-out for ten minutes. Allow your brain to go in all the dark corners and worst-case scenarios. My guess is all those scenarios are happenings outside your control.
Most writers and creators will allow this feeling of despair to overwhelm them and take-over their current work. For awhile, I felt the same way. Like the world was inside-out. I allowed myself to feel what happened. I took stock in what I do have. Now I use that information for the third step.
The third step is to use the overwhelm and chaos as fuel to get to work.
Before the current health scare the economy hummed-along as if nothing could stop it. We bought like drunken sailors. Real estate was rising. The stock market has been crazy. Now, we’ve been corrected back to earth.
A lot of people will lose their jobs (even their homes), but you don’t have to be one of them.
Where to find New Income Streams
Millions of people are stuck home. Not just in the US, but globally. We’re ordering more goods, food, and services online than ever before. My family has been ordering groceries online, then picking them up in the store parking lot.
Your creative business may be in the prime position to capture this new pivot.
It’s not as if we we’re ordering online before. Almost everything is purchased online. However, if you have the ability to sell your work (and scale it) to a mobile, world-wide audience, independent of a physical delivery system (i.e. digital goods), you’ve got yourself an insurance policy.
- Maybe you were a speaker in your pre-virus life. While you won’t be speaking in public anytime soon, you can start a free YouTube channel and publish snippets of your old talks on a scheduled basis. Traffic from your channel can link to your paid books, courses, or remoter services.
- Maybe you were a fine artist pre-virus. While you can’t visit gallery openings and visit clients in-person, there’s no reason you can’t take ‘virtual’ appointments. Not only will this save you time and keep you safe, it also opens your audience to a more-global scale.
- Maybe you were a teacher with a physical class. Let’s say you taught guitar lessons and lost all your physical students. Now is time to film your lessons: beginner, intermediate, advanced (even specialty types of music). While you may not earn as much per student, you can multiply your efforts and earn money even when you’re not teaching.
No, not every business can operate remotely.
This will be a painful transition for many (but not impossible). We’ve got more remote working tools than ever before. Take your knowledge and re-box it into a remote package.
While you may no longer be able to operate with a physical presence, your intellectual capital hasn’t gone anywhere.
Cut-Down or Shut-Off the Noise
While it is important to stay informed, there’s a large gap between enough information and a fire hose of negative content. Remember that news outlets and marketers are all struggling to keep customers. One of the best ways to get your attention is to shock you into reading (or watching) their content.
Negative stories can paralyze your ability to move forward with your business.
I urge you to limit your content consumption about the virus, to a bare-minimum, and only from trusted sources. Spending three hours reading horror stories will wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.
Slash Prices Until Your Tribe Has Money Again
If you’re fortunate to continue to make sales, your tribe is still hurting too. While I don’t usually advocate deep-discounts, it may be the time to do so. Banks and schools are pausing loan payments. Landlords are pausing rent.
Your customers still have money, although it may be drastically reduced.
We have to be more careful where we spend it. We focus on living first, and spread from there. If you can lower your prices, while keeping your customers, this may be the right time to show your support for everyone’s plight.
The entire world faces the same problem right now.
Your situation is the same as millions of other writer/creator-business owners. We’re all scared. Our sales have plummeted. If we want to position ourselves to thrive once the virus lifts (and it will), treat your tribe right during their darkest moments.
Remember, humans are incredibly resilient. We also have short-term memories when it comes to the past. If you treat people well when their down, they’ll begin spending as soon as they’re upright again.
Look for Additional Ways to Serve the Customers You Keep
While you may lose many customers during the pandemic, you won’t lose everyone. Find additional ways to help the people who stick with you. Some people will be unscathed. Many of your customers won’t have a significant change in their livelihood.
Reach out to the people you serve and ask them, “How else can I help you?” “What do you need right now, maybe I can help you get it?” How can you become a connector? Maybe you can’t solve the problem directly, but you know someone who can. Goodwill Capital goes a long way. People are reaching-out to help each other more than ever before.
The referral you make today might triple itself in value tomorrow.
In addition, ask your tribe for their help, in whatever way they can. Maybe someone in your tribe knows someone who knows someone. People want purpose. Purpose is a human need, not a want. Look at all the people spending 12 hours a day sewing masks for no pay. This is purpose. Purpose helps our mental health.
If you reach out to your tribe, even asking for volunteer service, you’ll be surprised with how many takers you get.
What might feel like a ‘free’ ask to you, could feel like a gift of belonging to a greater cause, for someone trapped in their home within nothing intellectual to do.
Never Stop Growing Your Tribe
Even if you make few sales right now, you can’t slack on growing your tribe. These are the folks you serve. Your tribe is the long-game and the ultimate insurance plan against major catastrophes.
It’s important that every indie business owner have a way to reach their best customers (beyond social media).
You don’t own your social platforms. Many of those companies could fold during a pandemic. They’ve got gigantic levels of overhead. What if you lost your entire social media influence? What would happen to your business?
When you build a tribe, you’ve got a list you own. We’re talking email.
No matter where you live, or what happens to your social media following. One mistake on social can cost you your audience. When you’ve got a tribe you control, there’s more room for forgiveness.
- Run ads to join your email list (if you’ve got the capital). Ads are cheap right now
- Post to social daily, but use your social posts to encourage readers to join your list
- Write articles and stories in places where you readers congregate. Use each story to encourage readers to join your list
- Start a short, regular podcast with a call-to-action to join your list in every episode
- Start a YouTube channel, giving similar advice you give in your written content, always with a call-to-action to join your list
Use your automated email series to do all the heavy-selling.
This way you can sell in a measured, tested way. The email list is the center of the dartboard. Use all your content to traffic people towards your list.
You will make it through this and come out the other side stronger. Sometimes the worst happenings amplify the parts of our business we should’ve fixed a long time ago. Now is your chance. Now is your time to thrive once we’re allowed to go outside again.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.