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Freelancing during COVID-19

2020 has been a weird year, there’s no doubt about it.

I’ve heard mixed opinions, particularly when it comes to working. For some, furlough has felt like one long holiday: beers, sitting in the garden and still getting paid. For others, it’s resulted in a loss of belonging, as well as incomprehensible stress, particularly with finances.

In my situation, it’s been the complete opposite. I’ve been working – pretty solidly – since lockdown started, and let me tell you something, it’s been an experience to say the least.

Before lockdown, I was in Malaysia, travelling. In all honesty – I didn’t think coronavirus was a problem and felt deeply offended when my boyfriend and parents told me that I needed to “come home immediately”.

I hung up on FaceTime and thought they were being dramatic (which by my standards, is saying something, as I’m the most dramatic person on earth).

I was freelancing whilst I was away, but only a few hours a week as I was travelling and didn’t want the pressure of working full time whilst also trying to ‘find myself’ in the depths of South East Asia.

My reality of hostels, £1 beers and reading a book at the beach all day was quickly shattered, and 24 hours after that FaceTime I had to abandon my flight to Laos and board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Gatwick immediately.

In 24 hours my work evaporated into nothing, as understandably clients that I was working with had made considerable drawbacks due to Covid-19. I then realised that something clearly wasn’t right.

24 hours, three flights, a delayed layover and a dozen screaming babies later, I was home. I was relieved that I was no longer on a plane and in close proximity to a shower, and it felt good to be reunited with my boyfriend and family.

Three days later, we went into lockdown and I realised if I didn’t find some work quickly, sh*t was going to get real.

That time period was really scary and worrying, as I’d gone from living a completely free life to feeling like a bit of a prisoner. I didn’t qualify for the self-employment benefit so knew that I needed to get myself into gear and find some projects to get my teeth stuck into.

Fast-forward to today, and I feel grateful (and relieved) to say that the last four months have been the busiest and most rewarding months for my work. I’ve said this to a lot of people over the last few weeks, but I think Covid-19 showed businesses that specialist freelance talent can go a long way.

A lot of businesses were forced to adopt a remote working model, a model which was often frowned upon – a model whereby freelancers flourish.

I do think pre-Covid there was an underlying negativity toward freelancers. However, something that we’re used to is ambiguity, erratic changes and complicated tasks.

Finally, I can’t speak on behalf of all freelancers, but in particular as a writer I’ve noticed that Covid-19 has forced a lot of businesses to be honest about their online presence and how they communicate about several issues.

Cancel culture is real, and I’ve cringed at company statements and behaviors online which have inherently damaged them – potentially forever. So many companies are being mindful of how they communicate online, particularly in their written word.

However, it’s not been sunshines and rainbows, and freelancing during Covid-19 has also been draining, emotional and challenging for my mental health – which I guess is the point of this article.

I’ve had to awkwardly stand my ground on day rates and turn away work because if I’m being really blunt, I’m not a charity. I’ve got bills to pay.

I’ve felt really isolated from my friends and family who are either all furloughed or out of a job. This might sound ridiculous to some, but after losing my client base overnight initially I knew how damaging it felt to not work for that period of time.

The last thing I then wanted to do was complain to my friends about how busy I am with work – because there are so many people out there who have been financially and emotionally robbed from Covid-19.

I’ve had days where I couldn’t get any work done because I felt exhausted from the country’s response to a global pandemic, but had to still ‘get on with it’ because I didn’t have a choice.

There’s also been days where I’ve been filled with anxiety and dread, and working unfortunately doesn’t eliminate those feelings.

I think the point that I’m trying to make is there are always two sides to how people are feeling, and what you see at surface level is the tip of the iceberg.

I thought that earning money and working would distract me from what was going on in the world, when in reality – it’s all I wrote about. At times it was cathartic, but other times it has felt suffocating.

After experiencing both, I honestly don’t think that you can compare being employed to being unemployed during Covid-19, as both come with their positives and negatives.

It’s important that we all check in on each other – and take comfort that at least we’re all in this together (I had to get a High School Musical reference in there, humour is my way of coping).

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to work and add value during this time, but I’m also really excited to take some time off and sleep!

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