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Crisis

How to Manage Your Freelance Finances During a Crisis

It’s easy to panic in the midst of a crisis. But just like anything else with your business, a well-laid plan can help you smoothly navigate it.

Have you ever heard of disaster recovery and business continuity? Basically, they’re processes that enable businesses to survive a crisis — no matter what it’s caused by: a natural disaster, economic downturn, personal emergency, or something else.

There’s a lot involved, but one of the most important parts of recovery is how the company manages their finances before and during a crisis. This isn’t just for large corporations, mind you. These practices are really useful for businesses of all sizes, from solo freelancers to enterprises.

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering what you can do to manage your freelance finances when you’re in the midst of a crisis. That’s what I’m going to lay out for you today.

 

Step 1: Contact Your Clients

Before you start crunching the numbers, you need to figure out how your business has actually been impacted. Plus, by getting in contact with your clients before you look at your finances, you can go into the conversation with a clear head and without the pressure of, “I really need this money right now.”

If the current crisis only impacts you, do the following:

  • Take care of yourself first;
  • When you’re recovered or in a safe place, email each of your clients;
  • Inform them of your status and if anything has changed with your availability to work for them.

If the current crisis impacts your clients or the globe as a whole, do the following:

  • Take care of yourself first, if you’re impacted;
  • Email each of your clients;
  • Wish them well, briefly and professionally address the crisis, and let them know that you’re still here to help if they need it (and if you’re available for it).

Here’s a sample of a “Checking in” message you might send:

Hi

,
I hope you and your family are doing well and are staying safe.
I realize that this is an uncertain time for everyone, so I just wanted to let you know that my schedule is flexible and I can accommodate whatever changes you might need. If you need to hit the pause button on our project or adjust the timeline or scope until things have gone back to normal, please let me know what I can do to help.
[Your Name]

Not only will this touchpoint help you maintain relationships with clients during a crisis, it’ll give you immediate insight into how your incoming revenue is going to change. The same goes for your clients — by reaching out in this manner, you can help them plan their own budget for the coming months or locate another source of help if you become unavailable.

 

Step 2: Take Stock of Your Cash

One of the things web designers should do to manage their freelance finances is to make regular deposits into a rainy day fund. You might hear some people say that you need three months’ of rent saved while others suggest having at least $1000 to cover basic expenses.

If you’re curious to see how much you actually need to cover expenses and how long it’ll take to get back up and running, run your numbers through Money Under 30’s Emergency Fund Calculator:

Money Under 30 - Emergency Fund Calculator - manage your freelance finances

If you don’t have a rainy day fund, then you’re going to have to look at the rest of your cash and assets to see how it can help you recover during this crisis. Here are some things to look for:

  • Money in a checking or savings account meant strictly for expenses (business or personal);
  • Food in your house that can hold you over for awhile and keep you from grocery shopping as frequently as normal;
  • Gift cards, frequent flyer miles, free hotel nights, credit card points, and anything else that can cover some of your expenses until things return to normal.

This is not the time to dip into your retirement savings or to pull your money out of investments. When you get through this crisis — and you will — you’re not going to want to start all over again replenishing these accounts. Nor will you want to pay the fees for early withdrawal when the next tax season rolls around.

It’s probably not a good idea to take out loans either. You don’t want to be stuck with an additional expense when this is all over.

If you’re light on cash, keep reading.

 

Step 3: Cut Down on All Your Expenses Immediately

Once you have an idea of how your incoming revenue is going to change, it’s time to cut back on both professional and personal spending.

If business has stopped, shut off as many business expenses as possible. Or look for ways to downgrade your plans (e.g. web hosting, app subscriptions, wifi, etc.) until you need them running on high again.

If business is operating but at a slower pace, you probably won’t be able to dig much into your professional expenses since you’ll need most things to keep going. If you absolutely need to make cuts, make a list of priorities. What can’t you operate without? Then, reduce or remove the rest.

As far as personal expenses are concerned, this is where you’re going to cut deep. Identify areas where you could start spending less ASAP. For example:

  • Dining out or ordering in vs. cooking the food you have;
  • Emotional spending splurges on Amazon vs. using what you already have;
  • Date nights out vs. staying in together;
  • Buying brand name products vs. buying generics;
  • Watching TV on cable vs. using cheaper streaming services;
  • Paying for a gym membership vs. using workout streaming programs or apps;
  • Going to a cowork space vs. working from home.

The one thing you might be tempted to ditch or cut back on that you shouldn’t is health insurance. Even if this crisis isn’t one that affects you physically or emotionally, you don’t want to be left without that safety net in case something happens while you get your business back on its feet.

For everything else, make your cuts and go deep. Then, use that to create your budget until the crisis resolves and things stabilize.

 

Step 4: Negotiate with Your Lenders

There are so many reasons why experiencing a personal, professional, or global crisis sucks. But watching your bills pile up while you already feel so helpless amidst the chaos has got to be one of the worst.

Thankfully, many lenders (e.g. credit card companies, loan providers, mortgage companies) will cut you some slack during this time. You just have to be willing to ask for it.

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a lower monthly payment until you get back on your feet. This’ll give you some breathing room in case your revenue takes a dive.

In other cases, you may be able to ask for a lower interest rate or to freeze it altogether. While you’ll still owe normal monthly payments, the interest fees that stack up won’t be as devastating to deal with later on.

Another thing you can do is only pay the minimum owed each month. It’s not ideal, but it’ll at least provide you with a buffer in case you need that extra cash. And if you don’t, then you can put it towards your debt at the end of the month.

 

Step 5: Look for Other Ways to Make Money

If your business or your clients’ businesses are impacted by the crisis, you need a way to make money until things go back to normal.

As a web designer, there are other things you can do in the meantime to support yourself:

Enter a New Niche

Contact business owners in niches that are thriving during the crisis and need a website built or maintained. For example, health crises tend to keep medical equipment suppliers and pharma companies busy. If you’re comfortable building sites for companies outside your niche, it’s worth reaching out.

Become a Tutor

While you could create design or coding courses and sell them through a site like Udemy or Skillshare, it takes time to build up an audience and make good money on those platforms. Instead, use something like Tutors.com or Wyzant to share your skills with others right away.

Work as a VA

There are tons of people who need help with the technical aspects of getting online and using cloud-based services. While virtual assistant work is usually associated with doing random business support tasks, you could adapt this to your particular set of skills and become an IT assistant.

For instance, if a crisis forces people to work from home or take classes remotely, you could help get organizations set up with shared cloud workspaces, virtual conferencing software, collaboration apps, and so on.

Even if you have rainy day funds to cover you during a crisis, it might be a good idea to get another gig anyway. That way, you’ll stay busy and won’t obsess about the crisis or the impact it’s having on you and everyone else.

 

Wrap-Up

There are a lot of big decisions and compromises you’ll have to make during a crisis, but it is possible for you and your freelance business to get through it in one piece.

If you want to make it easier on yourself next time, manage your freelance finances on a regular basis — not just during a crisis. Keep costs low, income high, and your cash reserves growing at all times.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.



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Coronavirus: Managing (and pivoting) during a crisis

Creating an environment that fosters online collaboration and an efficient remote worker strategy is hardly a new concept. Whether it’s to accommodate the needs of a more diverse workforce, attract the best tech talent regardless of location or communicate with offices around the world,  flexibility and agility are ingredients to a productive digital workforce.

The need for that collaborative, mobile workforce just acceralated. The rapidly expanding impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is rewarding companies that have prepared and have the needed applications, infrastructure and polices in place. The payoff is a smoother transition during this period of crisis management. That said, few companies can be truly prepared for pandemic.

If you’re in need of collaboration tools, remote worker policies or general advice for how to manage in trying times and maintain operational continuity, check out some of the articles below. We’ll continue to add new articles to the list as the coronavirus continues to present us with what are arguably unprecedented challenges. 

Managing and collaborating during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond

How the coronavirus is changing tech and 5 things to do about it

Due to the Covid-19 virus, some tech-culture trends are radically accelerating. Others are being reversed. And it’s happening all at once. Here’s what you need to know.

4 tips for picking the right collaboration suite

Research shows that workplace technology actually impedes your employees’ ability to work in a timely manner and makes it more difficult to collaborate. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four ways to choose the right collaboration tools.

How to build a collaboration environment for a changing workforce

By 2025, most workers will be millennials. These ‘digital natives’ will have a major impact on how collaboration takes place – and it won’t involve walking next door to an office to collaborate.

Why your company needs a BYOO (bring your own office) policy

Remote work is not a trend. It’s there to stay. Insider Pro columnist Mike Elgan explains why it’s time to re-orient your organization’s thinking around workshifting and BYOO.

How to combine project management and collaboration

A look at several products that offer both chat and project management in one interface so that conversations can be turned into workflow, milestones, calendar entries and other actionable items.

Can you be mobile AND secure?

Despite the security challenges mobile devices create, there is no going back. Users demand corporate access from their smartphones and companies benefit from this access with increased efficiency, better use of time and improved user experience. Here’s how to be safe and mobile.

How to develop a mobile policy

Why you need to sweat the details and avoid a far-reaching (too broad) policy when it comes to managing mobile devices. 
For Andriod | For iOS

 

Creating an environment that fosters online collaboration and an efficient remote worker strategy is hardly a new concept. Whether it’s to accommodate the needs of a more diverse workforce, attract the best tech talent regardless of location or communicate with offices around the world,  flexibility and agility are ingredients to a productive digital workforce.

The need for that collaborative, mobile workforce just acceralated. The rapidly expanding impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is rewarding companies that have prepared and have the needed applications, infrastructure and polices in place. The payoff is a smoother transition during this period of crisis management. That said, few companies can be truly prepared for pandemic.

If you’re in need of collaboration tools, remote worker policies or general advice for how to manage in trying times and maintain operational continuity, check out some of the articles below. We’ll continue to add new articles to the list as the coronavirus continues to present us with what are arguably unprecedented challenges. 

Managing and collaborating during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond

How the coronavirus is changing tech and 5 things to do about it

Due to the Covid-19 virus, some tech-culture trends are radically accelerating. Others are being reversed. And it’s happening all at once. Here’s what you need to know.

4 tips for picking the right collaboration suite

Research shows that workplace technology actually impedes your employees’ ability to work in a timely manner and makes it more difficult to collaborate. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four ways to choose the right collaboration tools.

How to build a collaboration environment for a changing workforce

By 2025, most workers will be millennials. These ‘digital natives’ will have a major impact on how collaboration takes place – and it won’t involve walking next door to an office to collaborate.

Why your company needs a BYOO (bring your own office) policy

Remote work is not a trend. It’s there to stay. Insider Pro columnist Mike Elgan explains why it’s time to re-orient your organization’s thinking around workshifting and BYOO.

How to combine project management and collaboration

A look at several products that offer both chat and project management in one interface so that conversations can be turned into workflow, milestones, calendar entries and other actionable items.

Can you be mobile AND secure?

Despite the security challenges mobile devices create, there is no going back. Users demand corporate access from their smartphones and companies benefit from this access with increased efficiency, better use of time and improved user experience. Here’s how to be safe and mobile.

How to develop a mobile policy

Why you need to sweat the details and avoid a far-reaching (too broad) policy when it comes to managing mobile devices. 
For Andriod
| For iOS



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The Lenovo ThinkPad T490s Is a Solid Laptop with an Identity Crisis – Review Geek

Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $1200+

The Lenovo ThinkPad T490s.
The ThinkPad T490s sacrifices some distinction for wider appeal. Michael Crider

When is a ThinkPad no longer a ThinkPad? As a fan of the brand, I had to ask that question to write this review of the T490s. It looks and feels the part, but mainstream compromises might put off brand devotees.

Here’s What We Like

  • Classic keyboard and TrackPoint
  • Great software
  • Manual shutter

And What We Don’t

  • Short battery life
  • High price
  • No SD card slot or Ethernet

With its unmistakable keyboard and TrackPoint mouse—not to mention the button-down looks—no one’s going to mistake the T490s for anything other than a member of the long-standing laptop family. But in shaving down its dimensions and weight, Lenovo has also removed quite a few features from last year’s model—most notably the SD card reader and integrated Ethernet port.

The result is a laptop that has more in common with mainstream thin-and-light models than Lenovo’s legendary line. These changes might appeal to the more conventional consumer. However, business professionals and heavy travelers (formerly the main market for the T-series) might find they miss the flexibility and utility of last year’s design. They’ll surely miss the extended runtime of the older, dual-battery models, as well.

Looking the Part

With an all-black, magnesium alloy and carbon fiber chassis, the T490s is remarkably understated to be so high-tech. Open it up, and you’re greeted with the updated, chicklet-style version of the classic ThinkPad keyboard (backlight optional). And, of course, the iconic TrackPoint mouse is there, with its three-button control cluster above a medium-sized trackpad. A fingerprint reader (standard, not optional) sits to the side.

The T490s keyboard, TrackPoint mouse, trackpad, and fingerprint reader.
The unmistakable ThinkPad keyboard now includes a fingerprint reader. Michael Crider

With the laptop open, take note of the thinner bezels. The webcam on our review unit is equipped with an optional infrared sensor for Windows Hello and similar security tools. The standard 720p webcam has a manual shutter you can slide over for peace of mind. The 14-inch screen is standard 1080p resolution with just 250 nits of brightness—disappointing, but fairly normal for the T series. A brighter, sharper screen is available as an upgrade, or you can opt for the multi-touch. The base screen is nice and matte, which is all the better for traveling. The speakers are surprisingly loud, but less than clear, as bottom-firing types tend to be.

The webcam on the Lenovo T490s.
The webcam gets a manual shutter for privacy. Michael Crider

The bezel and body aren’t tiny by any means—certainly not when compared to more svelte, stylish laptops. But the 0.63-inch-thick machine weighs just 2.8 pounds, placing it among the lightest in Lenovo’s lineup. It’s just thin and skinny enough to slip into my Peak Design messenger bag, which is designed for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That’s a definite improvement over previous members of the T4XXs family.

The Mystery of the Vanishing Ports

On the right, there’s a single rectangular USB-A port, a Kensington lock slot, and a spot for a smart card reader most people won’t even recognize (the reader hardware wasn’t there on our review unit). The left side is where most of the “port action” is, with two USB-C ports arranged in a specific way to enable access for Lenovo’s first-party dock. A standard USB-A (3.1) and HDMI port, and a combined microphone/headphone jack round things out. Power from the 60-watt adapter can go into either USB-C port.

The side of the T490s with the adapter plugged into one of the USB-C ports.
The ThinkPad T490s charges via USB-C, from either port. Michael Crider

What’s that weird trapezoidal port awkwardly hanging off the second USB-C hole, you ask? It’s a proprietary spot to stick an Ethernet adapter since the chassis is no longer tall enough to handle a standard Ethernet cable. Last year’s T480s had a neat sliding port that collapsed when not in use. But the T490s can’t be bothered with one, and you have to pay extra for the proprietary dongle adapter if you don’t have a USB-to-Ethernet tool already. Presumably, the proprietary port is there for better dock compatibility.

The SIM/MicroSD card tray on the back of the T490s.
A phone-style combined SIM and MicroSD card tray is on the back of the T490s. Michael Crider

Another notable omission from last year’s revision is the full-size SD card slot. To most, that might seem like a trivial exclusion in the days of insanely powerful phone cameras. However, for me, it makes the T490s more cumbersome on a conference trip, as the SD card slot is the fastest way to get show floor photos off my mirrorless camera.

The T490s does have a consolation prize in the form of a MicroSD card slot (or tray, rather), which is the sole feature on the back of the machine near the hinge. To get to it, though, you need a SIM extractor pin because that’s also where the SIM card lives if you upgrade it with an LTE wireless radio. For either SD or MicroSD, the easiest option is to carry an extra adapter—yet another dongle.

Pricey Power

Our review unit has an 8th-gen Core i5 processor, a generous 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage space. With no other upgrades, the cost on Lenovo’s online store at the time of writing is $1,380 (it’s $1,200 with the same processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage). Prices on Lenovo’s site are always a bit fluid, though, thanks to constant coupons that can shave off hundreds of dollars from the somewhat unbelievable list prices.

Device specifications of the T490s base model.
Our review unit has some small upgrades over the base model, like double the RAM.

This is all pretty standard for the T series, and fans are willing to pay a premium for the T490s’ tough chassis and compatibility with Lenovo docks. But it’s worth noting that Dell’s highly-regarded XPS 13 (certainly one of the models Lenovo was eyeing when it slimmed down this year’s revision) starts at $150 less. That’s with nearly identical starting specs, a much brighter screen, and a slightly sleeker, lighter build. And if you don’t mind getting something bigger with a plastic or aluminum body, you can find similar specs in laptops that are hundreds of dollars cheaper.

However, the T490s handled my usual work duties with aplomb. Intel’s latest laptop processors can churn through dozens of Chrome tabs and Photoshop projects with ease. The internal fan activates only when more processor-intensive things, like YouTube videos, are active. The fan runs at medium volume, but with so many fanless designs out there, you might notice it more.

The 16 GB RAM upgrade—for a reasonable $136 surcharge—gave all of those programs room to breathe. This is good, since it’s soldered into the motherboard and can’t be upgraded further unless you spring for an i7 processor. Enterprising people can access the M.2 SSD since the bottom of the chassis is surprisingly easy to open, with just five Phillips-head screws.

The bottom of the T490s.
The bottom of the case can be removed easily, but only the SSD can be upgraded by the owner. Michael Crider

This laptop isn’t meant for intense media creation, but it could get through massive Photoshop documents with just a little waiting. It’s not meant for gaming either but, on a lark, I installed Overwatch—a fairly tame title by modern graphical standards. At low visual settings and 720p resolution, the integrated UHD 620 GPU managed 30-50 frames per second. That means low-intensity 3D gaming only, although it can handle any 2D game just fine.

No Long Hauls

The battery test was the part of this review I was most interested in, as this is the first ThinkPad I’ve tried since Lenovo got rid of the much-loved dual-battery system. That option had a 3-cell internal battery with either another 3-cell removable battery on top, or an extended 6-cell for truly epic battery life. It’s why my reliable old T450s still travels on occasion.

The back of a Lenovo T450s with its 3-cell battery and the T490s sitting next to it.
My reliable T450s can be equipped with an extended battery in addition to the 3-cell internal. Michael Crider

Like most ultraportables, the T490s only has an internal, 3-cell battery (57 Wh). Also like most ultraportables, it’s not equipped for marathon work sessions. I got between six-and-a-half to eight hours of battery life at 50 percent screen brightness. However, my workflow relies heavily on the battery- and RAM-munching Chrome browser. Still, I find Lenovo’s claim of “up to 20 hours of battery life” laughable.

To make up for this, the included 60-watt charger refills 80 percent of the battery in an hour. That’s nice, but given the option, I’d rather deal with a little extra thickness and weight if it makes this machine more reliable when I’m away from a power outlet.

The Soul Still Burns

This review might sound like a series of nitpicks about a ThinkPad shooting for more sales with a more generic design. (I admit, this disappoints me). However, using it for work has had some definite highlights.

The keyboard is as solid as ever (a worthy point, considering how poor and unreliable Apple’s MacBook keyboards have been of late). As I’m a certified keyboard snob who travels with a dedicated mechanical ‘board, this is no small point of praise.

I’m not a TrackPoint fan, but those who rely on this input system will find it comfortingly familiar.

The keyboard settings menu in the Lenovo Vantage software.
ThinkPads have almost zero bloatware, and Lenovo’s included management program is useful.

I was even more impressed with the software. Lenovo has stripped out most of the junk Microsoft unaccountably stuffs into Windows 10. The only obvious “bloatware” I found was a 16-kilobyte shortcut to Microsoft Solitaire.

Even better, the Vantage software Lenovo includes is useful. It allows you to customize the keyboard quickly, and swap the top row of function and hardware controls, or the Fn and Ctrl buttons in the lower-left corner. Formerly, these options required a dive into the UEFI/BIOS control panel. You can also define the F12 key as a quick program launch, website, or key sequence macro. Impressive!

The ThinkPad logo on the T490s.
It’s a solid laptop, but ThinkPad die-hards might be turned off by its inflexibility. Michael Crider

This comfortable, laser-focused work experience is undeniably appealing—exactly the sort of thing ThinkPad buyers crave.

But it’s hard to ignore the sacrifices made in port offerings and battery life versus older models. That, coupled with the T490s’ expense versus similarly-equipped laptops from the IdeaPad line and other vendors, get it only a tepid recommendation for die-hard ThinkPad lovers, who need more portability than flexibility.

Rating: 7/10

Price: $1200+

Here’s What We Like

  • Classic keyboard and TrackPoint
  • Great software
  • Manual shutter

And What We Don’t

  • Short battery life
  • High price
  • No SD card slot or Ethernet





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The 1970s Oil Crisis In The United States Introduced What Automotive-Related Change?

Example of a right turn sign reading "After stop, right turn permitted on red"
Crispy1995/Shutterstock

Answer: Right Turn On Red

Although U.S. drivers take turning right on red lights for granted these days (outside of the few areas where it remains restricted), historically, right-turn-on-red wasn’t widely adopted outside of sparsely populated areas in western states.

All that changed when the gasoline shortages of the 1970s left the U.S. government reaching for any solution that would increase fuel efficiency and cut down on consumption. Federal Highway Administration sponsored studies revealed that allowing right-turn-on-red when traffic was clear reduced the waiting time by 9 to 30 percent based on traffic conditions and, as such, actually made a pretty significant dent in the amount of time drivers spent idling.

By early 1980, all fifty U.S. states had adopted right-turn-on-red regulations and what was a driving curiosity forty years ago is commonplace today.





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