Design Domination Podcast Episode #59: Managing Your Freelance Business During the COVID-19 Crisis

Managing your freelance business during the COVID-19 crisis—and any crisis for that matter—is vital. We need to learn from this and stay level headed, focused and innovative to help our clients and our own businesses. We also need to be empathetic and understanding. How can we continue to serve them? How can we help them with new and unique needs they may have now? How can you continue running your business? How should we react if they start cutting out our services? How should we react if they ask to delay projects?

First off, I want to say I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. This is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone, some more so for others.

The world’s in a panic at the moment. But we need to learn from this and stay level headed, focused and innovative to help our clients and our own businesses. We also need to be empathetic and understanding.

How can we continue to serve them? How can we help them with new and unique needs they may have now? How can you continue running your business? How should we react if they start cutting out our services? How should we react if they ask to delay projects?

Reach Out to Clients

One thing you can do is reach out to your clients, who are most likely having to work from home. They may or may not be well versed in working remotely. If they don’t know which tools to use, which programs, then they may spend time they are already limited with looking up different things and not sure which ones to use. As may be the case for you too, they may have less time because they are having to work and take care of children who are at home too.

One thing I did, which was very much appreciated by my clients, was send out an e-mail with a list of resources for them. They found it thoughtful and helpful. I am sharing that exact e-mail with you. I suggest you add to it anything else that you find relevant based on the services you provide.

Manage Your Business/Help Clients Manage Theirs

Some things I included in that e-mail can help you with your business too. I’ll go over them.

Scheduling Meetings

I recommend Calendly, which is free and easy to set up.

Hosting Conference Calls or can help.

Hosting Video Meetings

Zoom and Skype are great for hosting audio-only or video meetings. Zoom is free for 2 people with unlimited time, and then up to 40 minutes per meeting with 3 or more people. Both also let you type in messages in a chat as well.

These will help you work remotely with your clients, but help them work remotely with their coworkers as well.

Zoom has a great article to help get set up and up to speed quickly. The Verge has an article about how to hide a messy background in your video meetings, which is a quick how-to of setting a virtual background.

Sharing Files

For storing files in the cloud, Dropbox and Google Drive are easy to use. If you need more Dropbox space and can’t upgrade to get more, you can send clients a referral URL so that you can get more space. Also, you can check out to see what you can do to get more space.

To share large files without storing them in the cloud, you can use WeTransferHighTail and Send Files Securely.

Managing Projects

At this time, it may be harder for clients or for you to stay on top of deadlines and invoicing. If you don’t have a system in place already, check out TrelloAsanaPlutio or Pancake.

I’ve been using Pancake for 3 years and have sung its praises a few times. It manages mostly everything in my business and it’s only $149 one time. It also gives you the capability for support tickets and a client portal, so clients can send you files through it, and comment on them, and you can send back files that way as well. That helps with the file sharing too, but it does so many other things.

Scheduling Projects

For scheduling projects on a calendar, check out Google CalendarTeamUp or Airtable.

Getting Electronic Signatures

The need for electronic signatures has increased. If clients are not working in their office, they may suddenly be faced with needing to get signatures electronically internally and not know what to use. You may also need to send them an estimate or contract to sign and maybe they aren’t sure how to best do that. If they are working from home and don’t have a printer, how are they going to send that back to you?

Make it easy for them. You can help them get things done and help yourself to take care of business with e-signature tools such as HelloSignAdobe Sign or eSignGenie.

Another one I like that is proposal software is Better Proposals. That will also handle e-signatures with contracts and proposals.

Sharing Passwords

Sharing passwords might be something that your clients will need to do amongst each other remotely and then possibly with you, especially if you’re logging into websites, social media accounts…

It’s crucial to not ever e-mail passwords. Instead, check out a password manager such as LastPass1password or Dashlane. Set up an account and input the account credentials you have and then those can be shared securely with others whom you select or they select.


If you are familiar with any of these tools, you could make a quick Loom video about any of them to help them get set up or tell them how to use them and send that over to your clients. I’m sure they would really appreciate that.


So what can we do to help clients protect their income—as well as our own income? How should we react if they start cutting out our services? How should we react if they ask to delay projects?

Some clients may feel the need to cut corners, and that’s  understandable, but what if you can help them increase their revenue at this time?

I recommend getting on a call and strategizing with clients. If they have always been mostly an off-line business, how can you help them now to have more of an online presence, so that they can maintain or bring in more revenue?

Some questions you could ask clients are—and these are courtesy of my UK friend, Mike Killen of Sell Your Service:

  • Who were your top-paying clients last year?
    • How much did they spend?
    • How often did they buy?
    • What did they buy?
  • What was your top-selling product last year?
    • How many people bought it?
    • What was the average price?
    • How much revenue did it bring in?
  • Of those top customers, were there any products they didn’t buy, that they could or should have?
    • What are those products?
    • What are their prices?
    • Why should they buy them?
  • Of those top-selling products, are there any customers or leads who didn’t buy who could or should have?
    • Why didn’t they buy?
    • Why should buy?
    • Who should we talk to?

Then you can ask them if they’d like your help with this, and you can think of some ways to help them do that and send them an estimate, reiterating how this will help them.

If you offer clients any service on an ongoing basis, Mike Killen’s got a script for how to respond to clients who might request cancelling ongoing services.

Ramp Up Your Marketing

Fortunately for us, our businesses are already online, but we can use this as an opportunity to get in front of even more people, since so many are now at home and therefore may be spending much more time online.

You can create content pertaining to how clients can help their businesses and how you can help them do that. Write blog posts; write LinkedIn articles; share them on Facebook and Twitter; create posts, carousels or videos for Instagram; put a video on your website, etc.

Learn Something New

Something else you can do, if you have some downtime, is to learn a new skill or dive deeper into an existing one. Now could be a great time for that, so you can be up and running later on with this new expertise.

Check out some courses on SkillShare or LinkedIn Learning. There’s a lot of variety there. Also check out these courses from Ryan Deiss at Digital Marketer, which they’re offering free through the end of March (and possibly longer).

In addition, there’s The Futur, and they just temporarily reduced tuition on their courses.

And I recently opened enrollment on my first course, a website accessibility course. If you do any web design or development, my course will help you understand accessibility, which helps you gain a competitive edge on other web designers and developers. Most of them aren’t having this conversation with clients. Plus, creating accessible websites can help protect you and your clients legally. It can also help them reach more customers, which is highly beneficial, especially right now, because what’s good for accessibility is really good for SEO.

Get Financial Help

Let’s talk finances. If you’re dealing with financial issues as a result of the coronavirus, check out these lists of financial aid resources from Millo and Freelancers Union.

Meet Personal Needs

For your mental and physical well-being, make sure you are getting some exercise and eating healthy to help you manage stress, and be sure to schedule times for lunch and breaks. I am horrible at that. I need to work on that. Having worked from home for the past 16 years, I understand it’s easy for the line between “home” time and “work” time to be blurred.

Also, be sure to engage with other creatives online and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Ways I Can Support You

I hope these resources will be helpful to you. I really want to do my part to help you during this time. One way I can do that is by saving you time and money while helping you add value to your clients’ branding work over the long run. So I am offering 50% off either version of my brand style guide template through April 4 (and potentially longer) with code march.

I’d love to hear from you and how are you dealing with this situation. Please feel free to reach out via e-mail at and let me know how I can help support you.

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