How 11 Freelancers Are Staying Strong in Uncertain Times

Freelancers are staying strong despite uncertainty.

In less than two weeks, freelance medical writer Ginny Vachon, PhD, has seen a “huge shift” in her business. A specialist in advisory boards and meetings, Ginny spends a lot of time at in-person meetings. Those meetings have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and new meetings aren’t being scheduled. Even in uncertain times, Ginny has found ways to adapt and remain a flexible, valuable resource for her clients.

By helping her clients, Ginny is also creating freelance work for herself. “I have helped a couple of my clients shift to online meetings and I have also been helping some clients identify projects that have been on the back burner for a while so that we can keep things going,” says Ginny, the CEO of Principal Medvantage, LLC. Ginny produces quality executive summaries (now from virtual meetings only!), top-line reports, white papers, and reports.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

While Ginny has plenty of work, staying focused can be a challenge. Even so, “it’s important to accept that these are the circumstances for a while, and that it is OK to experiment with different family and working arrangements to see what works best,” she says. For example, Ginny and her husband have been testing different school and work schedules to make sure their children’s education, all the household duties, and work are all managed in a way that still leaves room for everyone to stay healthy and get plenty of rest.

Ginny is keeping anxiety at bay by helping others in her community. She has taught the people in her life who are over age 60 how to shop for groceries online and has helped clients and friends who are new to working at home get set up to do this.

Accept Changes and Find Ways to Thrive

Like Ginny, most freelancers have already seen or are expecting changes in freelance work. Many of us will lose a little, some, or a lot of freelance work. Some of us will have to change the type of work we do. Some of us will find new, unexpected opportunities.

Also, we’re facing disruptions in our work lives from having kids and spouses at home. Social distancing and stay-in-place restrictions in many states mean that we can’t do the things we normally do and see the people we normally see.

And anxiety is spreading faster than coronavirus. We worry about when the pandemic will end and what will happen afterwards to our freelance businesses and our lives.

Staying Strong Despite Uncertainty, Disruptions, and Anxiety

Ginny is 1 of 11 successful freelancers who shared how their businesses have been impacted by coronavirus and how they’re staying strong and focused and keeping anxiety at bay. This is the first of 3 Mighty Marketer posts with their answers.

All of these freelancers have been impacted by coronavirus in some way and to some degree. Despite the uncertainty, disruptions, and challenges, they’re generally optimistic about the future. They are finding ways to thrive and staying strong despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The featured freelancers are:

  1. Ginny Vachon, PhD
  2. Genevieve Long, PhD
  3. Lisa Baker, PhD
  4. Mia DeFino, MS, ELS
  5. Joy Drohan
  6. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
  7. Shannon S. Hach, MD, ELS
  8. Chad Birt
  9. Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS
  10. Kristin Harper, PhD, MPH
  11. Debbie Anderson, PhD

Be Patient: The Coronavirus Pandemic Will End

“Understand that all business is cyclical and that natural disasters and emergencies do happen, but always pass. Be patient,” says Genevieve Long, PhD, a freelance medical writer for top-quality patient education and health care marketing content that helps her clients stand out. Genevieve expects to see some impact on her freelance medical writing business, but this should be “small and not long-lasting.”

As clients get used to working at home, she expects them to focus their attention more on their regular work—including work that they assign to freelancers. “As it becomes apparent we all need to stay in for a while they will flee to familiar tasks as a refuge from all that unaccustomed togetherness,” says Genevieve.

Staying Strong Despite Anxiety

Genevieve is keeping anxiety at bay by limiting her exposure to coronavirus news and taking a walk every day. “I limit myself to a hit of TV news in the evening, watching the President’s and Dr. Fauci’s briefings when I happen to catch them at lunch time, and checking the Oregon Health Authority website to get the facts on cases in my state,” she says.

And Genevieve’s using her extra at-home time to relax a bit more than usual and work on home and personal projects. “I’m enjoying the chance to spend time with my partner, binge-watching a few shows, and reading a lot!” Projects include sorting and framing photos, cleaning out her closet, and painting the ceiling in her office.

Expect to Win Some, Lose Some

Freelancer Lisa Baker, PhD, has lost some freelance work and picked up other freelance work. Lisa is a freelance medical writer specializing in publications. Like Ginny, much of her work is related to medical congresses (meetings).  She writes posters and presentations that authors present at medical congresses.

“I lost some anticipated work because congresses a client was planning for were cancelled. On the other hand, I picked up a manuscript project because another client’s congress was cancelled, and they are now making it a priority to publish the research in a journal,” says Lisa.

Lisa expects her freelance work to be slower for a while. “My clients will find it difficult to plan projects in the usual way, and everyone’s lives are disrupted,” she says. If work stays slow, Lisa plans to start reaching out to past and present clients “and letting them know I’m available to pitch in.”

Staying Strong Despite Anxiety

In the meantime, Lisa is sticking to her normal work schedule and getting outside to exercise often. She’s also using her downtime to work on tasks that she doesn’t usually have time for, like posting work samples to her website, watching archived trainings and webinars, and catching up on chat boards.

“If the economy tanks and there are layoffs of full-time employees, I am optimistic companies will turn to ‘gig workers’ like me, who offer them flexibility in uncertain times,” says Lisa.

Focus on In-Demand Services

Three freelancers—Mia DeFino, MS, ELS, Joy Drohan, and JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM—say the coronavirus pandemic has had little or no impact yet on their freelance work. But they are expecting changes and are focusing on services where demand is likely to increase and ways to do more work for current clients.

Since Mia, a freelance medical and science writer, is well diversified in terms of projects and clients, Mia has some built-in protection from losing too much freelance work. Mia writes publications, manuscripts, posters, abstracts, and patient education tools for contract research organizations, pharmaceutical companies, medical communication agencies, and academic institutions.

Demand for one of Mia’s services, conference coverage, will definitely change in the wake of widespread cancellations. “It’s still to be determined how much or if clients still need coverage of virtual meetings,” says Mia. So far, Mia’s clients are telling her that most projects will only be slightly delayed.

But there’s more demand for another of Mia’s services: assisting authors with writing and submitting manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals. “Because conferences are being cancelled many clients are shifting their focus from posters and abstracts to developing manuscripts, which is a great opportunity to help,” she says. Helping clients fill the gaps left by employees having more responsibilities at home now could be another opportunity for Mia.

“Overall, I think there may be some changes over the long term, but right now my business is doing well,” says Mia.

Staying Strong Despite Anxiety

Like Genevieve, Mia is limiting the time she spends consuming coronavirus news. She waits until lunch or after work to read the latest headlines. “This makes it easier to focus on the work in front of me and to stay energized,” she says.

Mia and her husband have started to plan their garden. “This gives us a hobby to do together and something that shows progress even if it feels like there are other things that are not getting better,” she says.

Prepare for Success in the Coronavirus Economy

Joy is a freelance writer and editor in environmental, health, and agricultural sciences. Her company is Eco-Write.

“I haven’t gained or lost work so far,” says Joy. “But I am somewhat nervous that the environmental field will take a funding hit as the country gets back on its feet when this is over.”

Joy is taking actions to prepare for success in the coronavirus economy. “I’m trying to leverage my contacts in the health field and expand in that direction. I don’t want to quit the environmental/agricultural field, just make my business a bit more recession-proof by diversifying,” she says.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

Usually, Joy’s dogs are her only companions during the workday. Now, her husband and two kids are home with her. “It helps that my husband is keeping to a schedule. He sets a good example and knowing that he is working reminds me to sit down and work,” says Joy. When she needs to concentrate, Joy shuts her office door. And when she has a deadline to meet or a work call, she lets her family know so they don’t interrupt her.

Joy is doing many things to reduce anxiety, including “puppy playtime” outside twice a day with her kids and dogs, walking up to three times a day, and getting her garden and flower beds ready. She and her family watch a movie together most nights.

“I’m also appreciating how funny my kids are, especially my son (12 years old). He just does goofy stuff to make us laugh. I’m texting some of his antics to two friends who are stuck at home alone to brighten their days,” she says.

Joy’s mom lives alone so she talks with her almost every day and has her kids make cards for her mom. Her kids also play concerts on FaceTime for Joy’s mom, mother-in-law and friends.

Focus on More Freelance Work from Current Clients

It’s business as usual for JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, right now. “I do not expect my work to be impacted by the pandemic. That being said, I will check in with my clients to see how they’re doing and let them know that I am available to take on additional work,” says JoAnna. Her company, JPen Communications, focuses on health writing for patients and pet owners.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

JoAnna stays focused by maintaining her daily routine. Although she finished her client work for March early, she’s trying to be productive every day. “I am continuing to make a to-do list so that I can still have some amount of structure to my day. Having structure helps me stay focused and feel less anxious,” she says.

Also, JoAnna is using her downtime to do business administrative tasks that she usually puts off, like cleaning out her email and organizing paper and electronic files. Like many freelancers featured in this post, she is taking walks (long walks) to get fresh air and exercise. JoAnna is also catching up on DVR with her husband and reading a lot.

Expect Less Freelance Work Followed by (Probably) More

Shannon S. Hach, MD, ELS, expects a slight, but hopefully temporary, dip in freelance work as clients adjust to life in the coronavirus economy.

“I think that business will rebound quickly as companies shift to even more online educational and conference options,” says Shannon, a freelance medical editor (BELS-certified) and owner of STAT Editing. Shannon helps her clients deliver flawless medical content. She works with medical communications agencies; continuing education developers; pharmaceutical medical affairs, sales training, and marketing divisions; medical device companies; and other healthcare organizations.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

With Shannon’s husband now sharing her office and her kids at home, Shannon has come up with new ways to focus on her freelance work. “I use earbuds with relaxing music to keep me focused. I work in slightly smaller chunks of time to be able to be present for my family,” she says.

Getting outside to work in the garden or go for a run helps Shannon reduce stress, along with quilting and knitting. “All of these things reduce stress, but most importantly, I’m staying virtually connected with my faith community, praying, meditating, and remaining full of hope and joy,” she says.

Embrace Unexpected Opportunities

Freelancers Chad Birt, Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS, Kristin Harper, PhD, MPH, ELS, and Debbie Anderson, PhD, have all gotten more freelance work recently. Chad and Kelly have both gotten new work related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chad is a B2B and B2C medical information technology and finance writer (B2B means business to business and B2C means business to consumer). He’s gotten some new assignments to write about the coronavirus pandemic. “With so much bad information out there, I’m thrilled to be able to provide clear, concise and easy-to-understand content,” he says.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

But Chad is preparing for the possibility of less freelance work from his current clients. “I’m continuing to pitch, pitch, pitch. I know many companies are freezing their budgets, but even if they can’t use my services now, I want to make myself available in the future.” He’s also taking a white paper course on Udemy to learn a new skill.

Outside of work, Chad’s getting out into nature. “I’m lucky enough to live right on the Columbia River so there are plenty of trails that aren’t packed with people,” he says. Chad takes at least one walk every day.

Help Combat the Coronavirus Pandemic

By editing an emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 rapid test kit to be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Kelly is doing her part to help combat the virus. She did have one editing project presented, then cancelled, since the project was editing a poster for a conference that was cancelled. But other than these two projects, it’s mostly been business as usual for Kelly’s company, Bookworm Editing Services. As a medical editor who specializes in formulary dossiers, standard responses, slide decks, posters, and manuscripts for companies in the pharmaceutical industry, she has enough variety to keep things interesting and herself busy.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

Kelly enjoys having her husband home working with her, although it can be distracting. “I think of it like a co-working space. I have a lunch buddy now and someone to rant to in the middle of the day, but there is a bit more distraction, as he gets to rant, too,” she says.

Keeping to her normal work schedule has been helpful during the week but weekends were harder at first. “Once I thought of something positive I could do with the time on the weekend, I am feeling better,” she says. Since she no longer has to spend time preparing for conferences, Kelly is using stuck-at-home weekends to clean her office and work on home projects.

Prepare for Success in a Possible Recession

So far, business has been booming for Kristin. “The last two weeks were quite a bit busier than I would have liked!” says Kristin, a freelance medical writer and owner of Harper Health & Science Communications, LLC.

Kristin writes clear, convincing, and competitive grant proposals, continuing medical education (CME) activities, and journal articles. She works with pharmaceutical companies, CME companies, research institutions, public health foundations, and other clients.

The biggest change Kristin has seen so far is all of the cancelled travel. “That’s been a huge disruption for my pharma and CME clients, and it has resulted in a few projects that we couldn’t finish as intended because they involved presentations at cancelled meetings,” she says.

But her clients are finding ways to work around travel restrictions, like doing meetings online. “As freelancers, we’re used to doing things online. We all have to be flexible with one another in these strange times,” she says.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

Kristin knows that her business may stop booming, especially if the country goes into a recession. “I’m reading a book called Rock the Recession in the Freelance Success book club, to try to think about some of the things I can do to recession-proof my business in the coming months,” she says.

While these are “trying times,” as freelancers, we’re “already pros at working from home. We haven’t been thrust into a situation we have no familiarity with, like so many employees have,” says Kristin. “Think of the things that you do have some control over.”

Focus on Past Prospects

Debbie, a freelance medical writer and instructional designer, has been staying busy and expects more work from her past networking. Her company is DGA Medical Communications.

“It seems like I am swamped with people calling up for work from the past. This week alone, I’ve had two calls from people I have met at a past meeting I went to last June. It is a strong reminder to network, network, network,” says Debbie.

But in-person meetings and conferences where Debbie was supposed to present have been cancelled or turned into virtual conferences. “I was a little bummed as I was hoping to gain business and have that open some doors for me,” she says.

Staying Strong Despite Disruptions and Anxiety

“Take one day at a time and see what happens. There is no point in worrying about something you can’t control,” says Debbie. “Do the best you can.”

Debbie is enjoying the extra time with her family, from sitting around the dinner table talking to cleaning the garage. “These are not bad things and it gives us a chance to reconnect,” she says.

Staying Strong Despite Uncertainty, Disruptions, and Anxiety

Despite the uncertainty, disruptions, and challenges, freelancers can survive and thrive in the coronavirus economy. We’re luckier than employees who have suddenly been told to work from home because we’re already set up to do this. And as Kristin says, “we don’t have to worry about finding out we are unemployed with little notice—because we have the power to make our own work.”

Look for and embrace opportunities. Be positive, keep working, and focus on what you can control.

“It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone. This pandemic is affecting all of us. Lean on your friends and family. If you don’t give up, the projects will come,” says Chad.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be doing 2 other posts with advice from these freelancers in the Mighty Marketer unsettled times series:

  • Helpful Tips to Focus and Keep Anxiety at Bay
  • Opportunities for Freelancers in Unsettled Times.

Also see last week’s post for 4 Practical Ways to Thrive in Uncertain Times.

Stay strong!


Learn More About Staying Strong in Uncertain Times

About the Featured Freelancers

Listed in order of appearance in this post.

Ginny Vachon, PhD

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer posts featuring Ginny:

Want to Make More Money? Fire Bad Clients

How to Be on the Right Side of the Red Velvet Rope

3 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals from Your Clients

Genevieve Long, PhD

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer posts featuring Genevieve:

How to Win High-Paying Clients with Your Freelance Website

Why You Need to Have an Email Newsletter

How to Grow Your Business with the Help of Other Freelancers

Lisa Baker

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer posts featuring Lisa:

Why You Need to Use Direct Email: What 4 Freelancers Say

What You Need to Know About Gratitude and Freelancing

Mia DeFino, MS, ELS

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer posts featuring Mia:

How to Be on the Right Side of the Red Velvet Rope

3 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals from Your Clients

Why Other Freelancers Should Be Your Best Friends

Joy Drohan

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer post featuring Joy:

The Surprising Thing That Will Get You More Freelance Work: Follow Up

 JoAnna Pendergrass

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer posts featuring JoAnna:

Being Resilient Helped JoAnna Pendergrass Overcome Setbacks and Make More Money

How to Supercharge Your LinkedIn Profile, with Free Checklist

How to Be Active and Effective on LinkedIn Even if You Hate Social Media

Shannon Hach, MD, ELS

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer post featuring Shannon:

How More Confidence Helped Shannon Hach Unlock Freelance Success

Chad Birt

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer post featuring Chad:

Do You Want Better Clients? Do What Chad Birt Did

Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer post featuring Kelly:

How to Be Active and Effective on LinkedIn Even if You Hate Social Media

Kristin Harper, PhD, MPH, ELS

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer posts featuring Kristin:

How Kristin Harper Shows She’s a Professional with Her Freelance Brand

3 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals from Your Clients

How to Be on the Right Side of the Red Velvet Rope

Debbie Anderson, PhD, MS

Website

LinkedIn profile

Mighty Marketer post featuring Debbie:

How 2 Skeptical Freelancers Find Trustworthy Help

How to Supercharge Your LinkedIn Profile, with Free Checklist

Content from The Mighty Marketer

4 Practical Ways to Thrive in Uncertain Times

11 Ways to Keep Anxiety at Bay and Focus on Freelancing