This week we have seen the Centrelink website collapse with the strain of people trying to access information and benefits. While sole traders will be entitled to claim benefits, it could be worth looking into modifying or diversifying your service offering to continue operating your business instead. Even those who have always operated from home, are finding that their work is drying up with clients closing up shop, cancelling events and so on. The impacts of social isolation are already having a considerable knock-on effect for suppliers of “non-essential” services.
In the last week, I have had clients cancel product launches and PR campaigns. Unless I can link their products to COVID19, it is frankly impossible to get the media’s attention while the virus is all we read about.
Rather than head straight to Centrelink, or draw down on my precious superannuation, I have tweaked my service offering. I have promoted my copywriting and crisis management capability ahead of my public relations skills.
This week I have ghostwritten several articles about the virus and its impact on different industry sectors, which has enabled my business to keep operating (for how long, who knows?)
It occurred to me many other businesses and industries are also finding ways to reinvent themselves too.
Local restaurants in my area are offering takeaway, or pick up and cook-at-home options, while gin distilleries and breweries are making hand sanitiser. This morning I ordered a reusable and washable facemask from a curtain manufacturer for my husband (whose business is still considered “essential”). Here’s hoping it isn’t made from Chintz.
All of these businesses have identified a niche and a way to deliver it to people at home. With some creative thinking, many sole traders could do the same.
They say the average Australian changes careers five to seven times in their lifetime. However, I am sure those figures didn’t take into account the unprecedented impact of a global pandemic.
So how can sole traders reinvent themselves in times of crisis? I have pulled together a list of thought starters, which are by no means definitive.
Can you take your business online?
I have been invited to several webinars this week, which would ordinarily have been breakfast forums and seminars.
I have also been invited to take part in online yoga.
There may be online opportunities for personal trainers, the arts, counsellors, events managers and retailers just to name a few.
If you aren’t very web savvy, there’s plenty of webs designers and other online specialists who you could hire to help – I am sure they would appreciate the work as well. Given the freight train speed of societal change, I bet your customers will be quite forgiving while you iron out creases to continue servicing them online.
Partner with another company for business continuity
My husband has a business that is considered “essential” (for now). He delivers his product directly to customers’ homes and businesses.
While he is losing corporate clients with office closures, there is an opportunity to partner with other small businesses locally who don’t have the delivery capability.
He could deliver their products along with his own, opening opportunities for each business to cross-pollinate their marketing and customer base.
Share your knowledge
If you have a skill you can teach others, why not do that?
University students and others in my area are offering online tutoring to frazzled parents struggling to teach their kids long division ‘the new way’ at home. They are marketing on social media and using platforms like Face-time, Zoom, Google Hangouts or WhatsApp to deliver their training. Contact your local school and offer your services or advertise on local community Facebook pages.
You could also investigate online training sites like Udemy and teach something you are passionate about. I have signed up to learn two painting courses on Udemy, as my isolation self-improvement goal. Alternatively, you could deliver masterclasses via social media.
A local cafe near me is considering teaching its customers cooking that way.
Hairdressers and beauticians could also share knowledge, such as styling and makeup tips. Tradespeople and handypeople could teach basic DIY skills.
Change what you offer
It’s fair to say as people tighten their belts, discretionary spending will wane.
If you manufacture or make something that will see decline in sales, can you make something else people will need? Like the curtain manufacturer has with its facemasks.
If you have a service offering to corporate clients whose businesses have closed, can you offer the same skill set to others?
An HR consultant could use their knowledge to help people navigate through tricky waters and Centrelink.
A recruiter could offer resume and CV services.
A management consultant could offer advice about recession proofing businesses. It involves thinking creatively about what you have to offer and how those skills might be a useful commodity for another segment of the market.
Retrain and offer another service
I think web developers and online specialists have enormous potential to build their businesses. It also seems evident that online courses will be popular while we are bored in self-isolation.
Think about the jobs that are required in the short and medium-term.
Website developers, SEO, Counsellors, virtual assistants are just three that come to mind. If you have similar skills, you can do a short course to upskill or consider a complete career change.
Sadly many sole traders will have to approach Centrelink for help, but hopefully many will be able to find a way to adapt and be resilient through this health crisis. I would love to know any other ways to reinvent yourself professionally (in the comments below).
This post was written by Fiona Hamann, principal of Hamann Communication, a full service PR and communication agency specialising in B2B. She has also taught public relations at Raffles College of Design and Commerce. You can connect with her on LinkedIn