I’ve been a home-based freelance web designer since 1999. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic started forcing a lot of people to work remotely, I figured not much would change in my routine. I even quipped on social media that isolation was just “old hat” for me.
True, working in a mostly-empty house for 20+ years does prepare you for a home-based lifestyle. During the workweek, I rarely get to venture further than my child’s school a few blocks away. So, staying home is nothing new.
Even so, there have been some unexpected challenges in trying to get things done at work. I’d like to say it’s just “business as usual”, but it’s really not. Here are a few things I’ve noticed during the quarantine.
Focusing Has Been Difficult
I admit that I am bit of a news junkie – even in the best of times. But the Coronavirus coverage has been especially difficult for me to ignore. And the more I read, the more concerned I am.
There’s a lot to digest. People falling ill and losing their lives. Businesses shutting down – including some that may not come back after this all passes. Kids (including my own) with no school to attend.
Speaking of which, I now have a housemate during the workday. That has been quite an adjustment so far. Trying to work and parent simultaneously is difficult – though I feel fortunate to have the opportunity. I realize so many others aren’t in a position to do so.
But all of this does make it harder to concentrate on work. Whether it’s breaking news or parenting duties, there are a lot of other things on my mind.
Certainly, these are issues that a lot of people are facing right now. The whole work/life balance has been thrown into a blender.
Handling Emergency Website Updates
Like many locales around the world, daily life in my region of the United States has come to a screeching halt. One day, everything was open for business. The next day, only the “essential” places remained. Everyone else is either working remotely or closed until further notice.
The swift change has kept web designers busy, that’s for sure. A number of clients have had to post messages regarding how their organization has been affected. Some have had to adjust their operating hours, some have closed and others have had to temporarily turn off eCommerce because they can’t fulfill orders.
This has resulted in a bit of a feast-or-famine cycle. Updates come in and need posted immediately – or as close to it as possible. Then, it’s quiet as can be for a period – until the next wave comes in.
Meanwhile, the sporadic chaos has had an effect on ongoing projects as well. It seems like gaining a bit of momentum in this area has been difficult.
Hanging on to Bits of Normalcy
Between the jaw-dropping news and the rush of emergency work, there’s been a real appreciation for anything that resembles normalcy.
Many of the everyday tasks I do for work have remained. In a strange way, it actually feels comforting to do them – even the grunt work. They are little reminders of how things used to be (even if it was just a few weeks ago).
Beyond that, the web development community has also kept moving forward. There are still plenty of tutorials, essays and news to occupy the mind.
WordPress Keeps on Going
One of the more surprising tidbits is that, in the WordPress space, there are still plenty of plugins being updated. I actually wondered if there would be a prolonged slowdown in new features and bug fixes, but that has yet to happen.
However, perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised by that. A number of releases were probably in the works before the impact of COVID-19. And, a lot of those who work in the WordPress community are doing so remotely. So, it makes sense that they continue to write code as other businesses close up shop.
As to what the future holds – that’s anyone’s guess. At the time of this writing, WordPress hasn’t altered their release schedule. And WooCommerce 4.0, a major release, recently came out. So, there will still be plenty of new features to play with from the comfort of our home offices.
The one part of the community that has been hurt are the in-person gatherings. WordCamps all over the world have been postponed. Some online-only events are popping up, though. That at least provides an avenue for learning and a little bit of virtual socialization.
Coping with the New Normal for Web Designers
Overall, I don’t think my experience has been at all what I expected. Although, it’s not like any of us had a whole lot of time to think about it in advance.
Some things remain very much the same. I boot up the computer at the same time each day. I perform tasks for clients. I’m still working from the same comfy chair I’ve been in for years.
But there is definitely a cloud of uncertainty. The news is still concerning, if not frightening. And, as the days go by, it’s hard to know what will happen to my business or those of my clients.
I guess the bottom line is that we’re all in the same boat. Fortunately, being a web designer allows us to keep on working – even when the world seems to be in chaos. That little bit of normalcy keeps us going and puts food on the table. For that, I am very thankful.
So, how has the quarantine affected you and your design business? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know how you’re doing.