EDIT 3/15/2020: This blog post on coronavirus business advice will be updated as new resources and information is made available that can help you. I've recorded a podcast episode addressing these points + new insights.
The last few days and weeks have been unusual for creative entrepreneurs; the coronavirus has started to affect creative businesses in every single industry. This blog post & podcast episode will help guide you on how to navigate the coronavirus and your business, with sound advice and resources.
Whether you're a solo-entrepreneur or you manage a team in your business, life has started to change little by little—and we can expect things to keep changing.
I wanted to offer some insights and resources for small business owners and creative entrepreneurs who find themselves wondering if their business will survive the coronavirus.
HOW THE CORONAVIRUS IS IMPACTING CREATIVE BUSINESSES
We've found ourselves in a unique moment—where we not only have to consider our personal health and wellness—but we are seeing the widespread ramifications of a pandemic affect our businesses in a very negative way.
Coronavirus is changing things.
Things are closing. Events are being canceled. People are wary of spending money. You may have already experienced jittery customers or loss of revenue.
If you are in the events and/or wedding industry, you've seen the ramifications manifest in real-time. I've heard from countless event pros that their clients are panicking and looking for reliable guidance on what to do next.
There is also the impact of closures and restrictions that have sent the events industry into crisis mode. How can a wedding next week for 250 people be produced when there is a ban on events of 250 people or more?
Take a breath. It sucks, I know. But there are some things you can do to weather the storm—and prepare for the next one that will ultimately come around.
GET YOURSELF A COMMUNITY
Now, more than ever, a community of supportive entrepreneurs will help ease the tension and give you confidence. As a business mentor, I can tell you that helping the women I serve through this time is my number one priority.
Lean into your local community/colleagues for advice and support. Whether that's Tuesday's Together, your business coach/mentor, or a niche Facebook community—seek advice and guidance from your people.
Getting through this time will take the efforts of communities—neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, and entire countries who look out for one another. The same will be said for all our creative businesses. We'll need the support of our communities to help us navigate the unique challenges that we may face because of the coronavirus.
LEAD WITH EMPATHY & GENEROSITY
Clients are naturally going to be jittery, unsure, and maybe even panicked. There are a lot of uncertainties, and this is an opportunity for you to lead with empathy. And a steady hand.
Your customers may ask to cancel their contracts. Is that in their best interest? More often than not, it isn't. Most of the time, postponement is a better and more sensible route.
Instead of accepting that cancellation, consider what you can do to help your customers. Lead with empathy and treat people the way you'd want to be treated if you found yourself in this situation (which, sadly, is the case).
We're mostly service-based businesses, and helping people is what we do. I know I speak for all of us when I say we're not about to abandon our customers when they need our guidance and support the most.
I am seeing this in real-time with some of the companies I work with. Honeybook has sent out an email to all it's users, AND it took steps to put together information and educational resources (I've linked the below).
Loom, the popular screen recording software, cut its prices in half for all users through July and gave free users more options.
ConvertKit has started a fund for its users to help them pay for childcare, groceries, and living expenses.
There is a lot we can learn from the three companies above. Listen. Be understanding. Empathize. Find ways to help your customers, whether it's deferring payments or allowing them to circle back to you in 30 days.
KNOW YOUR CONTRACT
Now is the time to know your contract front-to-back. While you can't make changes to existing agreements, you can prepare your contract for future events that are similar to the coronavirus.
You also want to understand, fully, what your contract states as it relates to pandemics, cancelations, and refunds.
Force majeure clauses are not as easy to invoke as you might think. According to legal experts, you need to show evidential proof that you tried to find an alternative to fulfilling your contract—and that's not always so easy to prove in a court of law
I'll leave this to the legal experts to explain better. There is a webinar resource below for you to check out from Paige Griffith, a lawyer for online businesses. Her presentation was fantastic and answers all your legal questions about coronavirus and your contract.
CHECK YOUR STRESS
I know it can be hard to do, but you need to keep watch on your own stress levels. Especially when it comes to the hard decisions your clients have to make.
As you navigate cancelations, it's your job to weigh the pros and cons for your customer—especially the risks. But you must remove your emotions from the final decision, as it's not yours to make. It is your customers. Advise them of the facts, share with them your personal opinions, but at the end of the day—they must make a choice.
Your job is to support them with information to make a choice, and then seek to help them once their decision has been made.
UPDATE YOUR SYSTEMS & PROCESSES AS YOU GO
Use this experience to understand how you will handle future scenarios that might pop up. While it might not be coronavirus affecting your creative business, something else definitely will.
Challenges will always present themselves, and this experience will show you how you can handle it better in the future.
Crisis management and what you will do in disaster situations (not trying to sound like an alarmist here—sorry for the harsh language) is part of your job as a biz owner. Now is the time to discover how your business will move through a crisis in the future.
That leaves us with this final thought…
RETHINKING YOUR POLICIES & PROCEDURES
All of us have hardline policies and procedures—including our contract, fee schedule, flexibility, refunds, etc. etc.
At this moment, it cannot be business as usual, and it shouldn't be. Remember when I said lead with empathy? That needs to trump your business's policies and procedures.
While you may not offer refunds, in this case, that policy might be more hurtful than protective.
While you might not reschedule projects unless the customer pays a rescheduling fee, in this situation, that policy might not be the smartest to uphold.
Empathy and compassion will help guide you on what policies you should bend, change, or cancel in this situation. The best interest of your customer AND your business need to be at the forefront of your decision making.
If you lead with the value of people first, then it should be easier to make decisions that go against your business's regularly scheduled programming.
Fears, Feelings & Facts: How To Navigate Your Biz During the Coronavirus Pandemic Podcast Episode
In addition to this blog post, I’ve recorded this special episode of The Power in Purpose Podcast.
Today we’re going to have a heart-to-heart, like we always do, about what you can do to protect your business, your customers, and come out on the other side of what’s happening.
In today’s episode, I am going to share with you ways to navigate this unique situation. Some of these I’m reiterating from a recent blog post—others are new thoughts and even questions I’ve answered of my audience.
Here’s what we’re talking about on episode 38 of The Power in Purpose podcast:
- Should you or shouldn’t you market your biz right now?
- Should you be sending out communications to your customers and what kind of communications?
- What resources should you be utilizing?
- How do you handle customers canceling services?
- What do you need to have in your contract?
- How will this impact your biz in the long run?
If you need help…
I want to reiterate that community is what will pull us through in this time of uncertainty. If you're reading this blog post and you need support, guidance, help, advice, or just an ear—please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don't leave people in need behind—especially when those people are MY people. YOU are my people, and I am here as part of your community to help you.
- How to Vision Cast For Your Biz – And Why You Need To – A podcast episode I recorded to help give you vision, clarity and direction right now
- How I Started My Biz in an Economic Downturn
- The Coronavirus & Your Event Business – A blog post by Michelle Loretta of Sage Wedding Pros
- Watch the Coronavirus Webinar presented by Honeybook & The Rising Tide Society to get legal, financial and communications advice
- Download the 18-step guide to prepare your business for Coronavirus
- Three clauses from attorney Paige Griffith to legally protect your business
- Prepared: Your Online Business & Coronavirus (hosted by Tyler J. McCall) – A FB group for online business owners with daily FB lives from experts
- Engage! Summits Connect Facebook Group (hosted by Rebecca & Kathryn of Engage Summits) – A FB group for past Engage! attendees
- Nicole from Sprout Law
- Christina from The Contract Shop
- Quote provided by my friend, Bernadette Smith
More resources to help our readers/listeners will be added on a daily basis, as they're discovered and available