In the UK, and indeed worldwide, we are currently facing a major health crisis. Although it does no good to spread fear or panic, in order to stay safe and protect one another we must take precautions. The most important thing now is to follow government advice and scientific evidence. However, this will mean sacrifices for many of us. As a self-employed freelancer, I understand the anxiety that small businesses and the self-employed are experiencing.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Businesses will have to close their door for some time. Non-essential retailers will suffer. Events across the country have been cancelled and performers and organisers alike have had their incomes stripped.
Many of us won't be able to work the way we have. Yet, now is the time for inspiration. An opportunity to reinvent the wheel. It may not be welcome but we can either despair or we can try to evolve.
Here are a few ideas and some advice from me as to how small businesses might survive necessary social distancing, and maybe even come out stronger.
1. Get Online
If you do not already have a website, you need to have one. Some Social Media Experts and Trend followers may have told you that websites are no longer necessary. This is simply not the case. Despite how wonderful social media can be, not everyone is a lover. Many people have come off Facebook in the last few years and it doesn't mean they've flocked to Instagram. Also, the keyword here is 'social'. People use social sites to communicate with their friends and follow lifestyle based content. Therefore, despite what some may claim, it's very hard for businesses to break through on social media. Though, still worth doing (see tip 2).
Most people who invest in you in a real way - buying your service or product, will want to check out your website, even if that's not how they find you. And, make no mistake, people still find you mostly though your website. If they didn't, Google wouldn't be one of the biggest companies in the world!
Your website doesn't need to be complicated. Well designed, simple website with key content covered are always the best. Fortunately, it has never been easier to create one. Sites such as WIX or Shopify provide a great range of apps enabling you to display your photographs, products, portfolio and even sell online. It's cheap and there are many online resources to help you through the process.
If you do not feel you are in a position to and would rather have an expert design your website for you then get in touch. Ms Marketing is offering 50% discount and fast turnaround to businesses who are suffering under the coronavirus outbreak. *please note this is not a plug, only an offer of help at the lowest price I can offer as a self-employed person myself. This article exists primarily to offer advice.
2. Get Social
So you're always telling yourself you should be doing more on social networks. You just don't have the time right?
Well, now you do! Yes, you'd make more money if your shop, cafe, pub was open. Yet, has there ever been a time when locals have been keener to rally around small businesses? Get your brand on social media and build up a following who will turn into customers when this crisis is over. Key to business is being one step ahead, so get ready because this will be over at some point and let yours be the place people want to go to when it is.
My top advice for social media is it's not a place to let people know what your business does, it's a place to let them know who you are. People on social media are not buying products, their buying into lifestyles. Whose lifestyle does your brand fit in with? Once you've decided, then you just need to find some content which will reflect that. Use the right hashtags and connect with the right people and you'll start to create a fan-base.
Want some free advice to launch your social media campaign? Give me a call on 07837162901 with any questions you have and I'll be happy to share some tips with you.
3. Crunch The Numbers
Imagine you're entering Dragons Den and asking for investment in your business. If you've seen the show you know they'll ask about your numbers. What have your sales been year on year? What are your costs? Can they be lower? What are your forecasts? How will you achieve this?
These are the questions where everyone falls down. And who can blame them? They're all so busy trying to run their businesses day-to-day that the big picture rarely gets a look at.
Why not use this time to really dig into your financials and work out if you can be running more efficiently? Maybe your broadband seems overpriced? And are you really spending that amount on printer ink every month?
If you're going to lose money in the next couple of months then now's the time to work out how you're going to stay profitable it in the future. Hey - maybe you'll be able to make your businesses more sustainable at the same time?
4. Remember Why You Love Your Business
If you're anxious about your business suffering then it's probably not as simple as money. Let's be honest, although we are uncertain of how much help there will be and when it will come, I don't think any of us are really afraid of being left to starve. So if your fear is more than that, it comes from your love of your business.
Most small businesses come from a place of passion and that's what makes them grow. Still, the day-to-day running and keeping afloat can distract from that. Use this time as an opportunity to get yourself back to the person you were when you started. How you felt then is how you need to feel now. All that passion, that belief, that drive - find it again. It's what got you started and it'll help you to ride this out!
5. Support Each Other
It's going to feel pretty lonely for a while. Whilst there's a risk of feeling isolated, there is an equal risk of falling into a circle of others who are feeling the strain. Although it's healthy to share some frustration and your fears, it's wise to set a time limit for that and then move on. Don't grieve for something not yet lost. Let's use this time to connect in a positive way and lift each other up.
Now is not a time to be competitive, bitter or disingenuous. Reach out to your fellow local businesses and share ideas, connections and learn from one another.
I wish you all the best during this troubling time. Most importantly, stay healthy and be responsible. Also, keep positive and try to look at this time as an opportunity to explore new ways for your business to grow. Who knows where we'll be in 1 month, 3 months or even a year's time. Make sure you're doing all you can to be there for your customers. Maybe even working to provide a better and wider service than ever before.