When Chaos Invades: Keeping Your Freelance Business Going During a Crisis


Life is full of surprises. And just when you think you’ve settled into a routine, the unexpected can turn your world upside down. It can happen in the blink of an eye.

As I write this, I’m in the middle of such a disruption. Two members of my family are hospitalized with (non-life-threatening, thankfully) medical issues. With that comes not only worry but a slew of added responsibility.

Suddenly, the web designer who rarely leaves the house is rarely home. The things I typically do each day seem like a distant memory – even if it’s only been a short while since I’ve done them. Nothing feels the way it’s supposed to.

They say the last thing you should worry about in a time like this is work. But when you’re a solo entrepreneur, it’s hard to ignore. There are missed deadlines and projects in progress that have ground to a halt. Even the tiniest of tasks start piling up.

Right now, I’m trying to navigate this new normal. With that, I wanted to share some thoughts on living life and doing business during chaotic times. Of course, I’m still learning as I go. But here’s the good, bad, and ugly of it all.

Be Honest Regarding Your Situation

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that honesty truly is the best policy. Yet it can also bring conflicting feelings during a crisis. This is especially so for an introvert such as myself.

Your instincts may tell you to keep private matters to yourself. Try and act as if everything is fine – business as usual. But what does that accomplish?

It feels like you’re just burying a situation that should be front-and-center. Some things are simply too large to sweep under the rug. Like it or not, these situations are going to impact your business.

Therefore, attempting to keep a brave face is pointless. If you’re struggling to keep up with projects and answer emails, clients will likely wonder what’s going on.

It’s better to come clean and let them know what’s happening in your life. This way, your clients will know that you may not get things done as quickly as expected. And that your availability will be limited for the time being.

Additionally, it opens the door to a whole new support system. Most people will empathize with your situation and send words of encouragement. They’ll also exercise patience as you try and piece things together. This is something I’ve already benefitted from and it does make a difference.

Two people having a conversation.

Prioritize What Matters

When you’re the only one in your office, there’s no one else to pick up the slack during your absence. It can lead to feeling like you’re drowning in a sea of work.

That’s why it’s important to prioritize things. Not every project or task has the same level of urgency. And there are likely things outside of work that require your attention, too.

The key is to focus on the highest priority items – the things that are better done sooner than later. Take care of your biggest clients and the most time-sensitive tasks.

And try to keep expectations (yours and theirs) realistic. That goes a long way towards making peace with whatever you’re facing. Everything else can wait another day or even a week.

A to do list.

Don’t Ignore Your Well-Being

Even if we humans can only be in one place at a time, we still try to do it all. This has been a difficult thing for me to grasp. I want to take care of everyone and everything. It’s like trying to climb Mt. Everest with a donkey on your back.

The burden may be heavy, but you can’t forget about yourself. Because, if you’re not well, how can you help others?

Being a home-based web designer makes this all the more difficult. I’m so used to taking care of client requests as soon as they arrive. Even when dealing with other things, I still have that urge to cross items off of my to-do list. It’s frustrating when that’s not possible.

Perhaps the solution is a two-part process. The first is informing clients of your limitations, as mentioned above. The second part is a matter of putting your phone down and keeping yourself in the moment.

Then there’s also a commitment to doing little things to help yourself cope. For me, a quick workout does the trick. But whatever helps you feel a sense of normalcy, go for it. You deserve the opportunity to rest and reset.

A person pets a dog.

Getting Back to Normal Is a Process

I think it’s natural to want to get back to everyday life as soon as possible. It’s something I’m looking forward to. I’ve found that I didn’t miss the daily grind until it was taken away.

However, getting there can be a process – even after you’re past the initial crisis. A pile of work may be waiting. That can take some time to catch up on. Beyond that, the mere act of reestablishing a routine isn’t so easy.

It requires a lot of patience and a sense of gratitude. Being thankful that you’re through the worst of it and for those who supported you during a tough time.

And, hard as it may be, it’s worth remembering that business is only one facet of life. Whether you’re dealing with loss, an illness, or other difficult situation – use it as an opportunity for personal growth. The possibility of coming back stronger can only help you in both business and life.

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