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5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Survive in the Age of COVID-19

While there has been a general lack of data on the impact of COVID-19 for writers, it is clear that freelance writers have been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Take the airline industry as an example:

Available data shows that four of the five biggest inflight magazines have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If major magazines like Delta Sky and Southwest, reputed for paying writers a minimum of $1 per word, have had to shut down due to COVID-19, you can only imagine what it means for smaller players.

The impact of COVID-19 extends beyond just the airline industry; the travel, hospitality, education, tech, transportation, and real estate industry are just a few of the major industries affected — and many of the magazines and publications that pay writers in these niches have had to put things on hold due to the pandemic.

Writers in Charge’s recent survey that assessed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the freelance writing industry has been very revealing. Some key highlights include the fact that:

  • 71 percent of freelance writers have lost business due to COVID-19
  • 58.7 percent of freelance writers have had projects postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19
  • Clients are simply refusing to pay 48.8 percent of freelance writers due to the pandemic

freelance writing business lost to coronavirus

If you’re a freelance writer, or a writer in general — what do you do to survive at a time like this? Here are five ideas:

1. Acknowledge the crisis with existing clients and adjust your communication

One of the mistakes you can make as a freelance writer is that of pretending that the COVID-19 crisis does not concern or affect you in any way.

Don’t do that.

COVID-19 has so far infected millions and killed almost 200,000 people at the time of writing this, and it is present in practically every country of the world… so there is the very real possibility that your client has or will be affected by this pandemic.

If you haven’t already, you should acknowledge the potential impact of this pandemic on your clients’ lives or businesses; if they are not physically affected, their business most likely is. Acknowledge this and suggest ideas on how their business can thrive (by pivoting, by focusing more on a particular aspect that is needed at this time, or by adjusting their messaging to their customers to show how they’re dealing with this).

2. Consider offering a discount or adjusting pricing till the crisis is over

It is understandable that a lot of businesses are very careful about spending money right now; nobody knows how serious COVID-19 will become and when it will end. There are also fears of long-term economic effects that will result from the pandemic. Clients might be hesitant to spend due to this fact.

As a freelance writer, make your clients an offer that they can not refuse; offer them a discount, adjust your pricing, or give them a deal to incentivize them to give you more work for as long as the pandemic lasts.

3. Pivot your freelance writing business till the crisis is over

One of the biggest hospitality companies in the world, Marriott International, has complained about losing as much as 90 percent of its income in its most profitable regions (such as the U.S.) due to the coronavirus. While that’s scary, it is unfortunately the new reality for organizations in certain industries.

Not all industries are equally affected by COVID-19. Some — such as travel, airlines, hospitality, and tourism — are deeply affected, while others — such as healthcare and food — are thriving and growing.

In the industries affected, most organizations have lost more than half their income and won’t be coming back up any time soon. Trying to continue to market yourself as a freelance writer in these industries at this time will be an exercise in futility.

There are two solutions to this problem.

Solution #1: Pivot:

Look for industries that are thriving and get into them.

For example, companies that are into remote work software are thriving right now; start paying attention to companies featured in lists of remote work tools and compilation of COVID-19 work from home resources as potential clients to pitch and reach out to.

Solution #2: Work on your messaging:

While your clients might have been affected by COVID-19, they probably have other product lines or categories that are being ignored but will thrive during this time.

For example, restaurants are deeply affected by COVID-19 related shutdowns. This does not necessarily mean an end to business however; if you have a client in the restaurant industry, you could highlight the growing interest in home delivery and pitch yourself to help create marketing content to grow this new arm of their business.

4. Double your marketing efforts

A lot of organizations are simply not in the mood to do business as usual at this point. This is understandable, and you should expect fewer responses from the businesses you are pitching.

The solution to this is to double your marketing efforts. Increase the number of cold pitches you are sending, start responding to more job boards ads, and start reaching out to more potential clients than you were before the pandemic.

This is the time to increase your marketing efforts, not reduce it.

5. Start saving up a percentage of your freelance writing income

Do you know the freelance writers that will be most affected by this crisis? It is those without savings.

If you do not have savings as a freelance writer, or a rule to be saving as a freelance writer, it is not too late to start now.

In fact, this is one of the best times to start saving as a freelance writer.

While many freelance writers are already groaning from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the reality is that things are likely to get much worse. Experts have been predicting a recession for a long-time now and indicators are showing that COVID-19 is likely to be a trigger for one of the greatest recessions the world has ever experienced.

What this means for freelance writers is a long period of uncertainty, and things are likely to be more painful if you do not have savings. So put in a lot more time marketing yourself and earning more right now using the tips I already provided. Work extra and earn a lot more than you need, and start saving up right now!


Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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