Y’know that scene in the Wolf of Wall Street when Leo is throwing cash off the side of his boat? Yeah, that’s me. Except I’m not on a boat, I’m social distancing and trying to use less toilet roll. Same same or nah?
As many freelancers or small business owners may know, the Coronavirus hasn’t exactly been kind to our finances. The fear of what’s to come, more than anything, is causing clients to cancel projects left, right and centre. Of course I’m aware that others are in far worse positions – this is just about me sharing the situation I’m in and giving you a peek into what it’s like running side hustles during uncertain times. I want to be real with you and talk about all aspects of running a side business. This is the real, the scary and the uncertain. So, in the name of transparency, I thought I’d share more details on the financial impact of the Coronavirus I’ve experienced so far.
Our household income
My partner’s income was cut to half, so he’s bringing in substantially less ($70K down to $35K). Luckily, our mortgage and bills are only about 45% of our income, so we have a little wiggle room there with me still earning. It will mean tightening our belts a little, and adjusting our financial goals for 2020 to recoup the losses.
Before Coronavirus hit, we were on the cusp of a very successful refinance as our apartment had gone up in value. We were set to free up $10K of cash, reduce our monthly payments by $300, and get a $4000 refinance rebate. Thanks to the virus, the bank backed out and slashed $100K off the value of our property – which is 25% of what we paid for it. Brilliant.
Loss of freelance work
I work with a couple of clients on monthly retainer work, where I support them with content and copywriting for a fixed fee each month. Unfortunately, one has already been paused until we know more about what the longer term effects will be, so that’s $300 gone from my forecasted income. I’m concerned about another, which brings in around $500 per month – but I’m trying to be positive until I get that concrete answer.
I’ve also been in talks with a business owner about holding some workshops for his employees, but we’re postponing all plans until further notice.
Losing work stings particularly badly when groundwork has been done already, but it hasn’t got to the point where the project has been completed – and you don’t then know if it ever will.
Loss of pet sitting income
Travel bans and health concerns are understandably causing people to change their travel plans – and no holidays means no need for pet sitters! I’ve had $1000 worth of cat sitting work cancelled so far, with about $200 of remaining bookings over the next couple of months expected to follow suit. It’s looking like these travel restrictions will continue for some time, so I can reasonable expect zero income from my pet sitting biz for a good 4-6 more months.
Loss of investment value
As you’ve probably heard, the share market has been goin’ down and yelling timber, and boy can I feel it in my Raiz portfolio! I’ve only a small amount invested at the moment, but in the space of 1 month my portfolio has dropped $250.
You can read about why I’m continuing to invest through the downturn here.
Loss of brand collabs
I do the occasional brand collaboration on my blog and Instagram, and while I didn’t have anything concrete in the pipeline, everything has been paused for the foreseeable future.
One of the most irritating financial outcomes of COVID-19 has been not getting paid for work completed before the virus even affected anyone. Companies are being very tight with cashflow, meaning I’ve been waiting on about $2000 for months.
How to handle income uncertainty
I’m of course not ignoring the fact that this income is additional to my salary – I understand others are experiencing far more hard hitting cuts. That’s not to say I hadn’t forecasted for this income and somewhat allocated it to certain areas of my life, though. Handling uncertainty around income can be tricky, but I’ve taken it upon myself to be more upfront in my approach.
To those clients who hadn’t contacted me asking to pause or terminate their work with me, I sent an email directly asking if they could foresee any changes. I gently explained that I understand it’s a difficult time for businesses, and transparency around any expected cuts would be much appreciated. Not only did I get some clarity and/or reassurance, it helps me with forecasting my income for the coming months and consider how careful I need to be, any changes I need to make, and also how much help I can offer to others.
In terms of my day job, I did the same with my employer. I asked if we should be worried, and he gave me an honest answer. He expects we’ll be okay, and not to worry too much. That put my mind at ease and allowed me to waste less energy stressing and catastrophising (one of my specialities!).
If you’re concerned about your income, opening up the conversation if you feel comfortable or able to do so can alleviate many of your fears. I really hope these challenging times facilitate more open communication between employers and employees about things like this. I’ve also been lifted by the support I’ve received from clients who aren’t forced to cut back, offering the potential for extra work to bridge the gap. Likewise, I’ve connected with other freelancers and business owners in similar positions, and we’re all out to support each other and share our opportunities.
If you too are experiencing income uncertainty, I feel you. Slide on into my DMs if you want to chat! Keep your head up and plans in place, and trust that this too shall pass, and bigger and better things are on the horizon.
Thank you as always for reading. Stay well, stay positive, and stay considerate.