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Wellbeing

The COVID test: how your small business compares

Let’s hope we don’t see another 2020 again, but it’s great to see small businesses occupying such a prominent place on the national agenda. It hasn't been easy, but as the results of our COVID survey show, our community has proven its resilience, adaptability and determination to hold on in the face of systems-collapse. 

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The majority have been able to keep doors open since April, and while we’re not completely in the clear, 2021 is looking significantly better than the year we’ve just had.

Why? Not because we can predict the future, but because our community has redefined its coping mechanisms, managed its fault lines and pivoted on a dime.

What follows below are the 6 main takeaways from our survey, based on your responses and backed up with detail provided in the comments section

1. Our mental health has taken a big hit

We took a temperature check on our community’s mental health back in February via our beWell initiative. Back then you’d told us that mental health was an area you were conscious of making improvements – when you found some time.  No surprises then that the impact of the past 7 months have been felt most gravely here;  56% of our members have (or continue to) experience some kind of mental health challenge. 

Here are some of the comments:

It has been depressing and my motivation to work has dropped significantly.”

 I feel a greater sense of isolation due to long hours in home office.” 

I’ve experienced massive mental health challenges – loss of 100% income since March 2020. Moving in person services to be offered online – will need to market more frequently and consistently now (previously ample work came in as repeat or referral business).”

The battle of the mind has been a huge struggle as I’m trying to stay positive but also realistic. Motivation levels go up and down, making it a challenge to get work done.”

2. Income has been impacted 

Since April approximately 37% of the Flying Solo community have seen a decrease by more than half in their income; 20% have remained steady and 24% have applied for government assistance.

Without Job Keeper we would have gone into administration or closed. Major contracts were closed or delayed to such an extent that our cashflow dried up to a trickle.”

Our Victorian community have felt the impact more than most thanks to the extended period of lockdown. As one survey respondent wrote:

The Victorian government has provided three waves of business support packages. My small business has met all the eligibility criteria for these….except for one; must be registered for GST. GST registration is optional for businesses with a turnover of less than $75k pa Many small/micro-businesses, like ours, do not quite turnover that much. As a result, despite our business being shut down since March, we haven’t received a cent of financial assistance from the state.”

3. Attaining and retaining customers remains the biggest challenge 

By far the most common challenge of the past 7 months has been in retaining and attracting new customers.

Here are some of the experiences you shared:

I am a bookkeeper, so my workload has increased significantly, but my clients’ ability to pay me has decreased significantly.”

Very concerned about coming months as Govt support dries up yet fear remains in community and many companies won’t commit to doing new business until 2021.”

My industry is Interiors and I operate from home. So I have been able to keep working on client projects. However as a discretionary spend industry, and with so much uncertainty, despite the fact people are stuck at home, I haven’t had a rush of new clients. Just fortunate to have a couple of existing clients to keep me busy.”

We have a mobile shoe business that supplies retirement villages, lifestyle communities & aged care all bookings cancelled until who knows it must get better!”

4. Only a small group have pivoted

Perhaps in response to points #2 and #3, 10% of our small business community have moved into new markets and products to keep themselves in business. But a bigger proportion of our community have chosen to stick with the businesses they’ve spent years building; a definite advantage of being a solo business right now as most are working without the added pressure of having to manage and pay staff. 

Respondents wrote:

I have been told time and again to “pivot” to domestic holidays but my expertise and love has been towards sharing the world with my clients. Let’s all be BRAVE and stick to what we do best.”

We’re now doing deliveries as we have a spare vehicle.”

Hoping we can pick up where we left off trying to reposition but not accomplishing anything.”

5. A tentative leap into creating an online presence 

Around 7% of our community have created online platforms or an eCommerce arm for their business; a somewhat lower number than may have been expected but one that also reflects the majority of our demographic who run service-based businesses.

Respondents wrote:

Moved computing aspect to home office and trade supply shop open less hours. Passing foot path business has stopped.”

Revenue is down because we charge less for online delivery but this has created another income stream for when we reopen to the public. One step back to create two forward!”

My business is related to quilting, patchwork etc… lots of people have been isolated and working from home so they are busy online shopping. My business has always been online with a shop attached to the house. I’m rural Victorian, so feel quite comfortable. All our materials for the products we make are made in Australia.”

6. Most are facing 2021 with cautious optimism 

Resilience continues to be a core to the Flying Solo community with approximately 34% of you claiming to feel “fairly confident” about business prospects for 2021:

It’s actually been a time of reflexion and adjustment moving forward. This unstable time has forced me to take action on what I have been contemplating doing for a long time.”

Approximately 27% say they’re are “fairly worried and 17% say they’re extremely worried.

It’s been sad and difficult to remain positive.”

I’m anxious all the time. I’m on Job Keeper and once that had finished I’m not sure if my cash flow will remain as steady and I continue to have customer support?”

Have you completed the survey? We’d still value hearing from you

Lucy Kippist

is an experienced Australian editor with experience in writing, podcasting radio and television, with previous senior editorial roles at News Corp news.com.au, Kidspot and Kinderling Kids Radio. In her current role as editor of Flying Solo, Australia's #1 website for solo business owners she is pursuing her passion for women in the small business space. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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