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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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How iPhones can help manage ‘always-on’ work-related stress

The great thing about smartphones is they help you work from anywhere, but the bad thing is that this makes it quite difficult to make the separation between professional and personal life.

This is a real problem that’s creating a health emergency. Here are several suggestions of how your iPhone can help relieve this stress.

What’s the big picture?

They call it hyperconnectivity.

It means that we are connected all the time.

Work-related email, messaging and other communications happen 24-hours a day, and most everyone is anxious not to miss anything.

Not only this, but these days we all expect fast responses to electronic communications, even across time zones. We check our messages in the morning, during the day, evenings and last thing at night. Many employees now wake in the middle of the night, just to check their messages.

And it’s not good.

We’re becoming stressed out and anxious, and the poor separation between our home and working lives means many workers find it hard to fulfil their domestic obligations. Relationships also suffer from lack of communication, as working couples obsess over the next message on their iPhone. Burnout beckons.

“The competing demands of work and nonwork lives present a dilemma for employees,” says Virginia Tech’s associate professor of management, William Becker, “which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives.”

Three statistics to help prove this case:

  • Two-thirds of smartphone users can’t live without their device.
  • Data shows smartphone users check them at least 50 times each day.
  • AppAnnie’s 2020 ‘State of Mobile’ report claims we spend 3.7 hours per day using our smartphone.
  • Each interaction leaves us open to picking up on work-related business – even when it is bad for us.

In France, the “right to disconnect” has been recognized under law since 2016. It means workers can switch off from work-related communcations at the end of their working day with no fear of punishment.

Fortunately, help is already available in your Phone. Here are some suggestions:

8 ways iPhones can help manage workplace stress

#1: Use Do Not Disturb

Apple’s Do Not Disturb tool lets you silence notifications, messages and other requests, though you can enable them from certain groups of people if you wish.

Here’s my tip – I tend to use VIPs for work email and Favorites for friends and family. That’s because when you use Do Not Disturb you can configure it so you will still receive communications from your Favorites, but not anyone else. This is how to ensure your personal life is not on hold, even while you take time out from working.

Here’s how to do it:

Open Settings>Do Not Disturb, and find the Allow Calls from section. Set this to Favorites.

Now go through your contacts book, identify people you want to hear from who are not work related, and define them as such, just scroll down their listing and choose Add to Favorites. The process is a little tedious, but you only need to do this en mass once.

Now when you put your device into Do Not Disturb mode you can be confident you won’t miss messages from anyone who matters to you.

#2: Set an out of office email responder

One of the big concerns with email etiquette is the expectation to respond to messages fast. That’s fine, but other than the anxiety of being always-on, responding to important emails at inconvenient times often leads us to prepare responses that are clumsy, inaccurate or overly terse. At the same time, there’s that need to let others know their email has been received.

Why not put a little honesty into the relationship? Why not create a vacation responder email that simply tells the person who has made contact with you: “Thank you for your email. I will respond to it as soon as possible between (your normal working hours) tomorrow.” Just enable this response for your work-related email outside of working time.

Here is how to do this in some common email apps:

  • Apple Mail: You can only create an auto-responder if you use an Exchange server. Open Settings>Accounts & Passwords>tap on the account and choose Automatic Reply. Set the dates, create the message and tap Save.
  • Outlook: Tap the gears icon in Outlook’s side menu, choose your work account and create an Automatic Reply.
  • Gmail: Tap the three lines to get to Gmail’s settings, choose the account you want to set up a response for, and then tap Vacation Responder. Swipe to turn this on and then create a message.

The idea here is that you send an automated holding response to reassure the person contacting you, while also giving yourself the freedom to enjoy your leisure time. The only snag is the need to enable and disable this manually, but Siri Shortcuts should eventually spot you are doing this and may offer you a shortcut to get this task done.

#3: Use Screentime (and ration app time)

Apple’s Screentime (explained extensively here) helps users identify and control their digital habits. Available in Settings>Screen Time, it lets you analyse how long you’ve spent interacting with your device and lets you define downtime, app and communication limits.

The app is designed to promote digital health, and really comes into its own when used to manage the digital habits of children, but it can be incredibly useful if you simply want to fix your work life balance.

For example, why not define two evening hours as downtime and spent that period eating and interacting with your family? Or use the communication limits tool to prevent incoming anything during your evenings?

You can also use App Limits to absolutely prevent yourself accessing your work-related apps, particularly things like Slack, Trello or any of the other enterprise messaging apps most knowledge workers now live in.

While I’m aware that the expectation is that employees are always available, and you will need to ensure your human resources teams are on side when it comes to using these tools to control your work/life balance, it seems perfectly reasonable employees enjoy uninterrupted time off for sleep, eats and family. Perhaps you set these systems up so you can check essential work-related communications at one specific time in the evening.

#4: Use hypnosis and relaxation apps

Who else has been thinking about why the biggest-grossing apps in the health and fitness category this holiday season were both built around meditation and mindfulness?

Everyone gets stressed in the holiday season, and by the time it happens most of us are pretty wired. It’s why so many relationships break down over the season.

A little calm goes a long, long way, while mindfulness helps ensure the personal interactions you do get time to engage in are high quality, and helps you solve problems and have ideas.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates famously spends a week or two practising mindfulness each year to help him think creatively. If it’s good enough for him, it’s probably good enough for you and your employees…

There are literally dozens of apps to help you achieve this. Calm and Headspace are two fee-based examples, but here are a few others I recommend:

And if you have an Apple Watch, use Breathe.

#5: Use AirPlane Mode (at home)

Switch it all off during the evening with AirPlane Mode.

It’s a bit of a hammer, as you’ll be unable to get online at all, but this is a great way to absolutely prevent any interruption while you spend time with friends or family.

Don’t forget that when in AirPlane Mode you can still enable Wi-Fi, calls or Bluetooth manually in Control Center.

For an even more nuclear option, why not switch off your Wi-Fi router in the evening? Though you’ll probably need to negotiate this with others in your household.

#6: Switch to enterprise social networks

I’ve mentioned these already, but it’s worth thinking about migrating all your work-related communications and team collaboration systems to enterprise-focused social networks.

These are useful not only because they usually put all the information, documents and other data you need in one place, but because they also represent safe spaces in which teams can work together, and usually also empower employees to work together in or out of real time mode.

This gives people the chance to switch off when necessary. Solutions like Jive, Slack, Trello, Yammer, Zoho Connect and others all seem pretty popular.

Enterprise policy should be improved to respect the right of employees to take time out.

The beauty of switching to use of these apps for communication is that they make it much clearer where work use of smartphones ends and begins.

#7: Control Notifications

As explained here, silencing inessential notifications and limiting the most obvious of those to the apps that really matter is a great way to place yourself in a state of digital silence.

Your attention is, after all, distracted one notification at a time. Take a look at how to control these here.

And don’t forget you have the inalienable right to switch off all notifications from all apps at whatever time you feel appropriate to you. Like meal time, bed time, movie or date night time.  

#8: Activity

Being active is a great way to ease stress and improve mental and physical health.

That doesn’t mean you need to run down crowded sidewalks knocking small children aside, head to a gym full of macho posturers in tight lycra, or do anything at all outside of your own private space.

Apple’s Activity app will track your ordinary movement, while a rich forest of apps (including the ever popular 7 Minute Workout) let you get active as and when you want to be.

So, these are a few suggestions as to how an iPhone can help you control the stresses and strains of hyperconnected working lives.

Of course, to a great extent enterprises have a part to play. They really need to ensure they break down the taboo around always on availability, as the consequences of driving staff too hard leads to various kinds of sickness, limits staff retention and generates a whole bunch of new problems that mitigate the productivity benefits of forcing employees to work 24/7.

Flexible working is great, working anywhere is fantastic, but this doesn’t mean we have to work everywhere.

And chilled out people are more productive.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Truebill can help you manage your finances—and it’s free to download

Learning how to manage your money correctly is a necessary step towards financial freedom. However, we always seem to forget about online subscription services that go unused. Perhaps you haven’t watched Netflix or forgot to cancel a one-month free trial; if you have these services set to autopay, you’ll end up wasting money on them each month. 

Let’s be honest, though. Who has the time to hunt down every payment or fee that gets charged to them monthly? This is hassle enough for a single bank account, but it’s nearly impossible to do if you manage multiple accounts manually. If you want a refined way to track and manage your finances, you can download Truebill for free and start lowering your monthly payments today.

The Truebill app provides a snapshot of your financial life. Once you sync your bank accounts, Truebill will monitor your bills and pinpoint the subscriptions you no longer use. In fact, 84% of users found subscriptions that they had totally forgotten about. You can view your personalized spending insights straight from the dashboard for a quick glance at where you can save money right away. 

On top of saving you money on unused subscriptions, Truebill will help you manage your budget by automatically setting aside funds for savings and by categorizing your expenses, so you’ll know exactly where your money is going each month. 

A lot of money-tracking apps provide these features already, so what makes Truebill special? For one, Truebill will negotiate lower prices for you. This means that if one of your expenses—such as a cell phone or cable bill—is too high, Truebill will save you money. Truebill will even help you score a refund if your cable company has an outage, so you don’t have to pay for a service you can’t use! 

Truebill makes it easy to track your monthly budget and lower unnecessary payments. Download Truebill for free today and learn about how you can save money here.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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5 Apps Better Than Browser Bookmarks to Manage Tabs and Save Links for Later

Bookmarks are great to save links for later, but they do tend to pile up into clutter. These smart apps will help manage bookmarks better than the built-in browser feature and even get you through your read-it-later list.

There are still several dedicated apps that do a great job of syncing bookmarks, like Pocket for saving links to read. What we’re focusing on here is managing and organizing those bookmarks, or even the tabs open in your window.

1. Qlearly (Chrome, Firefox, Opera): Trello-Like Bookmarks Organizer

Qlearly organizes bookmarks in columns and cards like Trello

Qlearly is one of the most powerful bookmark organizers out there. If you have a large number of bookmarks to sort through, and regularly use bookmarks for research or study, this is the extension to get.

It turns folders into Kanban-type boards, displayed as columns next to one another like in Trello. You can move any link from one to the other, or open an entire board in one click. Each board offers plenty of options, like bulk-editing the saved links, moving them around, and even adding all open tabs to a board.

Qlearly is looking to be more than just a bookmark organizer. On any board, you can add notes or tasks, which can remind you why you saved a page or tell you what you need to do next.

Grab the Qlearly extension as well to instantly save the current tab or all open tabs to any board of your choice. It’s fantastic! The free version has a maximum of 15 boards.

Download: Qlearly for Chrome | Firefox | Opera (Free)

2. Freezetab (Chrome): Choose Which Open Tabs to Bookmark

FreezeTab lets you choose which open tabs to bookmark in a quick and easy way

When you have a lot of tabs open but want to bookmark only a few of them, you need to manually go to each tab and bookmark it. Freezetab makes this process much faster and easier.

The extension gives quick options to bookmark all tabs, current tab, all tabs right of the current tab, all tabs left of the current tab, or to select multiple tabs manually. You can also use the above options to close multiple tabs without saving them.

Saved tabs become groups which you can then rename. FreezeTab has similarities to OneTab, one of our favorite Chrome extensions to manage tab overload. But where OneTab works for all open tabs, FreezeTab gives you more customization and choices.

Download: FreezeTab for Chrome (Free)

3. 30DayBookmarks (Chrome): Temporary Bookmarks That Are Auto-Deleted

Most of us have a bad habit of bookmarking a link but never getting around to deleting it. And that’s why, over time, we build up a cluttered bookmarks folder. If this sounds all too familiar, you’re in luck. 30DayBookmarks will auto-delete those saved links after 30 days.

The extension is available for Chrome only. It looks much like the “favorite” icon, but you’ll be able to distinguish it as black when inactive and red when clicked. You’ll need to get accustomed to clicking this instead of the regular bookmark icon, and there’s no keyboard shortcut either.

The links you save in 30DayBookmarks aren’t added to your Chrome bookmarks, so you won’t be able to access them on your mobile or other devices. Right-click the extension icon and click “Show bookmarks” to find your temporary list. Each link shows when it was saved, so that you know when it’s going to expire.

Download: 30DayBookmarks for Chrome (Free)

4. Mailist (Chrome, Firefox): Pocket Alternative for Read-It-Later Bookmarks

Mailist sends a weekly newsletter with five random links from your read it later list

Do you also keep bookmarking links to your “read-it-later” list and never get around to it? You’re not alone, there are millions of us. Mailist believes it has a good solution to make you go through that list.

You can import existing bookmarks from your browser, and get the Mailist extension to add new links. Once the list is populated, the app sends a weekly newsletter to your inbox. The developers say the reason you don’t get around to that “Read it later” list is that there isn’t a reminder to read it. That’s what this email does.

In the email, you will find five random links from anything you’ve saved. If you click a link to open it, that counts as it being “read” and it won’t show up ever again in emails. The link is still stored in the “Read” folder of your Mailist account. Next week, you’ll get another five random links, with none of them repeating.

The free version of Mailist is good enough already, while the paid version gives you more control by creating custom folders and choosing which ones to get newsletters about. It’s a great alternative for Pocket


5 Better Alternatives to Pocket That Bookmark Anything for Later




5 Better Alternatives to Pocket That Bookmark Anything for Later

Pocket has long held the crown of being the internet’s best digital bookmarking service. But is it time to scrap it and search for better read-it-later bookmarking alternatives?
Read More

and other services like it.

Download: Mailist for Chrome | Firefox (Free)

5. Prism (Chrome): Visual Bookmarks With Auto-Updated Screenshots

Prism turns bookmarks into visual thumbnails with auto-updated screenshots

Prism has a unique take on bookmarks. You won’t see a long list of all your links here. Instead, you see screenshots of the article in little windows, much like what many New Tab pages are. Because of that, Prism can turn into a much more useful tool than a regular bookmark organizer.

You could bookmark the homepage of your favorite websites, set them to auto-update screenshots, and thus get a God’s eye view of their updates without visiting the page. You can organize them in different boards too. So you could have one board for news websites, and in one glance, you can see what everyone is talking about.

Admittedly, Prism’s thumbnail-style view makes it less useful for a folder with hundreds of bookmarks. But there is a robust search engine to quickly find something you’re looking for.

Download: Prism for Chrome (Free)

How to Clean Up and Organize Bookmarks

Over the years, you have probably saved so many bookmarks that it’s difficult to manage them all now. You probably aren’t even sure why you saved many of them in the first place. So now it lies as a humongous cluttered pile in your browser.

Well, there’s a way you can finally sort it out. Check out our guide featuring five steps to clean up years of bookmarks


How to Manage Years of Browser Bookmarks: 5 Steps to Tidiness




How to Manage Years of Browser Bookmarks: 5 Steps to Tidiness

Have hundreds or thousands of bookmarks that you need to get under control? Follow this step-by-step process to get organized.
Read More

so that it’s tidy, manageable, and organized. You’ll be done with the whole process in less than two hours.



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How to Manage Your iTunes Store and App Store Password Preferences

Password Settings screen for iTunes shown on iPhone
Khamosh Pathak

Apple makes it easy to download an app or to rent a movie on your iPhone or iPad. But what if you want to change the default password behavior for App Store and iTunes Store? Here’s how to manage your password preferences.

Turn off Touch ID and Face ID for App Store and iTunes Store

If you’re using any modern iPhone with Touch ID or Face ID, you won’t be prompted to set your password preference in the App Store app. Touch ID and Face ID will override your previous preferences (if any).

As such, if you don’t want to be prompted for authentication for buying apps, you’ll still get a Touch ID or Face ID prompt. The only way to access those password management settings is to first disable Touch ID or Face ID authentication for the App Store and iTunes Store.

To do this, open the “Settings” app and go to the “Face ID & Passcode” or “Touch ID & Passcode” section, depending on your device.

Click on Face ID and Passcode section from Settings

From the next screen, enter your lockscreen passcode to authenticate.

Enter Your Passcode

Here, tap on the toggle next to “iTunes & App Store” to disable Face ID or Touch ID authentication for App Store and iTunes Store.

Tap on toggle next to iTunes and App Store

Once you do this, Face ID and Touch ID will be disabled for the App Store and iTunes Store. You’ll have to enter the password every time you buy and download apps. You can learn how to configure those settings in the section below.

Manage Password Preferences for App Store and iTunes Store

Once Face ID or Touch ID authentication is disabled, a whole new Password Preferences section will be unlocked. To find this, go to the top of the Settings app and tap on your name.

Select your name from the top of Settings app

Here, select the “iTunes & App Store” option.

Select iTunes and App Store from your account page

Tap on the newly unlocked “Password Settings” item.

Tap on Password Settings

You’ll now see two sections. In the “Purchases and In-App Purchases” section, you can switch to the “Require After 15 Minutes” option to stop the App Store from asking you for your password or verification every time you buy an app or an in-app purchase (until 15 minutes passes).

Change the password settings for App Store

In the “Free Downloads” section, you’ll find the “Require Password” feature. You can disable it If you don’t want to be prompted for a password every time you download a free item.

Toggle the Require Password setting

Once you’ve configured the settings to your liking, just go back and start using the App Store and iTunes Store to download apps and make purchases. You won’t receive prompts to use Face ID or Touch ID anymore.

RELATED: How to Speed Up Face ID on Your iPhone





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