Freelance work ups and downs during Covid-19

I’ve been a freelance writer since 2014. I do mainly business journalism, plus writing copy for websites. I have three main clients and two intermittent ones, plus I might get one or two pieces of work a year from one-off clients.

When Covid-19 hit, I had no idea what this would do to my work. I was very lucky. Two of my clients actually gave me more work and one gave me the same amount. This was especially lucky because apparently I’m not actually self-employed, although that’s what I always tell everyone I am.

When I started doing freelance work, the ‘safest’ option was to set up a business, so I’m actually director of my own company. Which consists of just me. That was the safest option until the chancellor announced support for self-employed people, which didn’t include those who were directors of their own companies. So I couldn’t have claimed any support if I’d needed it.

As the summer wore on, the smallest of my three clients gave me less work. And I started to feel the loss of the two intermittent clients, who I hadn’t heard from since the start of March. The money might have been irregular and intermittent, but it was still there some of the time. And all of a sudden it wasn’t.

By the start of September I was worrying about how little I was working. Not only did I need to pay myself, but I knew I had to pay my corporation before the end of the year.

I’ll be honest though, if I’m only working two hours a day, I don’t have a problem with filling the rest of my time. I actually start to enjoy it and it’s good for headspace, even if I am worrying about where the next bit of work and money is going to come from. I always go for a walk in the afternoon. I absolutely love reading and will devour books when I have the chance. Occasionally I will even watch a bit of TV. I watched I May Destroy You during quiet work days and was looking forward to watching a true crime series about Harold Shipman.

Then at the start of October, my smallest client suddenly gave me six pieces to write for the month – compared to one in September and two in August. Then a week later, one of my intermittent clients came back. Another week later and I picked up a new client – referred by the smallest client. Then my other intermittent client came back. She didn’t give me work – she actually referred two of her clients to me that she no longer had the capacity to support.

Remarkably, during October, I very nearly earned enough to pay both my salary for the month and my corporation tax. In the space of a few weeks, I’ve gone from not enough work to almost too much. I know these things don’t last forever. the new clients might only stick around for a month or two or they might be with me for years. (My two biggest clients have both been with me since 2014).

Either way, having more work is a nice problem to have. So I’m going to embrace it and work hard for as long as it lasts. Hopefully I can go at least a couple of months without worrying where the work and the money are going to come from.

That true crime series will have to wait a bit longer though…

Working, Freelance work, Work at home

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Working for yourself is so unpredictable isnt it, my hub, like you, is a director but in a company that indirectly supplies to hospitality so he has been impacted, and in the no work times was able to furlough, indeed is still part time fuloughed due to work nose diving. At least the company can chug along till hopefully better times.

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    • Sorry to hear that it has hit your husband’s business hard. Thank goodness he has been able to furlough. It has been a huge help to so many people and has definitely helped prevent a lot of redundancies and stopped a lot of companies going out of business. I really hope your husband’s business bounces back in the spring.

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  2. I was so pleased to read this, I knew you were struggling for work for a while and it’s great to see that things have picked up for you. It’s very hit and miss here but we’re managing and I think that’s all we can ask for at the moment.

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    • Thank you, it is such a relief! I will make the most of it for as long as it lasts. Glad to hear you are managing, that’s definitely as much as we can ask for at the moment.x

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  3. I am glad it has picked up for you. I am really struggling but could take much cheaper jobs but luckily my husband earns enough that I don’t feel the need to do that. I feel I should leave those for people who really need to take them. I hope your work continues to be busy enough but that you get to watch your series soon.

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    • Thanks very much, it is such a relief to be busy again! I don’t suppose it will last forever, but I will enjoy it while it does. That’s nice of you to leave those jobs for people who need the money more.
      I think it might still be a while before I watch that series though – it might be one for the Christmas holidays, before everyone else gets out of bed!

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    • Thanks very much. It was a bit of a worry, but I was also starting to get bored and demotivated. It’s definitely better to be busy and working hard!

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  4. That is amazing news, well done you! It is so hard being self employed and like you say, unpredictable at the best of times. You have really made it work for you and I am glad that you have managed to recoup your losses for the year.

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    • It is a huge relief that I’ve managed to keep working and I’m so glad that my clients have trusted me to keep working for them at a difficult time for them too.

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