My freelancing journey began several years ago. Just as I was reaching the end of my stint as a terrible bartender in a village pub, a kindly patron offered me my first copywriting gig. Since then, I’ve been freelancing in the communications and writing world, whether full or part-time.

I’m far from alone — in 2018, 2.9 million Canadians were self-employed, and it’s been predicted that freelancers will make up 45% of Canada’s workforce by 2020.

Despite the numbers, freelancing can be a bumpy road. This holds especially true as we’re faced with the economic uncertainties of COVID-19. While we’re doing our part to support our communities by #FlatteningTheCurve, it’s becoming more important than ever for freelancers to evaluate finances, familiarize themselves with the digital tools available, and solidify an online presence.

Photo by Christina @ / Unsplash

Here’s four steps to kick-start the process:

Know which supports exist. There’s a lot of information out there, and many organizations serving businesses are taking the lead in consolidating resources (in Ottawa, these include Invest Ottawa, Ottawa Board of Trade and more). The federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides support for self-employed workers — and here’s a comprehensive list of dates for your CRA commitments as a freelancer.

Revamp your website. Now’s the time for that dreaded SEO audit (something that’s been on my list for months), checking your site speed, fixing those broken links, updating your services and sharpening your copy.

Create tiered packages. As client budgets become constrained, instead of charging X dollars for one blog post, can you offer three at a discount? Once you have an idea of your packages, make yourself a Canva template for branded assets.

Ask for testimonials — and referrals. Got a happy customer? While being mindful that everyone is going through a busy time, you can ask them for a short quote and headshot for your website. Bonus points: let them know you’re accepting new clients.

As you continue on your freelance journey, remember to be gentle with yourself and others. COVID-19 has shown how connected we truly are. Ask for help and offer support where possible — we can only get through this together.