What To Do When Your Work Or Small Business Has Been Stopped by COVID-19

Woman in a field

Across the U.S., several states have entered another phase of shelter-in-place orders. If you run a small business, COVID-19 may have disrupted several aspects of your company. Many businesses find themselves once again closing their doors to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, while others have yet to have the opportunity to reopen.

If you count yourself among the small business owners or freelancers whose work has completely stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, things might look bleak. But there are a number of things you can do to help maintain your clients and customer base, keep money coming in, or simply take care of yourself.

Here are a couple ideas that you may be able to implement if your work has stopped because of COVID-19:

Assess and manage your personal finances

Some of the most important questions to answer when work stops and you lose your income are: How much money do I have? How much do I need? 

Beyond checking your bank account(s), it’s important to know how much you’re spendingin terms of necessities, such as mortgage / rent and food, as well as bills, including credit card payments. Many credit card companies and lenders are currently putting payments on hold so check in with your credit card companies and lenders. And some city and state governments are also protecting tenants from evictions until the expected end date of shelter-in-place orders. Check with your city and state governments to assess the best options for you.

Filing for unemployment might be another option for you. Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), even self-employed business owners and freelancers are eligible for special federal unemployment benefits. 

There are also many small business COVID resources available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and other state and local governments. Aside from federal support, check your local news in your community to learn what type of help small businesses like yours might qualify for.

Federal programs and eligibility are regularly changing. Visit this page for more up-to-date news. 

Prepare to reopen, or level up your game

“Facilities need to be proactive rather than reactive,” says Robin Bennett, founder of The Dog Gurus. If your business has a physical space, such as a hair salon or daycare, Robin says you can take action immediately. 

“Begin a wait list for routine services now,” she says. “That way they have a list to use to get clients and achieve as high an occupancy as possible. Someone needs to work this list continually.”

If your business remains closed, you may want to focus your energy on handling long-neglected projects, executing restructuring, or even remodeling or decorating if your budget allows. 

Is your office in need of a deep clean? Now’s a good time to tackle it—especially since you’ll have to be more stringent about disinfecting surfaces moving forward. 

If you’ve dreamed about what your restaurant could look like if you arranged the tables and seats differently, you can try it out now. You could even experiment with different customer traffic and workflows through your business. Or you could do a massive overhaul of your policies and procedures since so much of that may require updating as we become more germ-conscious. 

If you’re a freelancer or don’t have a brick-and-mortar business to update, work stoppage means you could re-organize your files. It's a good time to get things in order that you’ve ignored for a long time.

Find new ways to make money

Coronavirus has disrupted lives, industries, and markets alike. What has been a force of economic destruction has also served as a major catalyst for innovation. Many small business owners and freelancers have needed to pivot to keep making money. This has led to entrepreneurs going in whole new directions, tapping into new markets, and even finding novel solutions to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. 

We’ve assembled this small business COVID resource guide to help entrepreneurs successfully pivot their companies in a profitable direction during these challenging times. 

In lieu of overhauling your entire business model, you could also find side hustles to keep income flowing while you wait until it’s safe to reopen your business. Check out the Azlo Business Foundry Project to get matched with money-making opportunities in minutes. 

Go digital

Brick-and-mortar shops all over the country have needed to shut their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But rather than sit idly by, many businesses have upped their ecommerce operation—or started selling online if they weren’t doing so already. 

For local small businesses, digital sales provide an opportunity to go beyond the residents in the surrounding area and achieve nationwide (or further) reach. 

Going digital is something businesses can do even when they’re not selling products. Art exhibitions and live entertainment have moved to Zoom, Instagram Live, and other broadcasting platforms as a way to continue engaging audiences and producing work. The fitness industry has similarly moved to video conferencing, with gyms, personal trainers, yoga studios, and beyond, switching to an online format and re-calibrating classes so they can be done at home with minimal or no equipment. 

Even childcare is getting the digital treatment. Recently, Secret Walls art academy put on a virtual summer camp over Zoom to immerse teens all over the nation in the history and practice of street art.

People are more hungry than ever for experiences, and in lieu of gathering and seeing things in person, virtual experiences are the next best thing. 

“My team doesn't understand how to not be active, so we came out swinging when quarantine locked us down,” says James Bennett, founder of Firefly Team Events. “We realized quickly that people were in a survival mindset. So instead of focusing on helping clients develop skills, we leaned hard into boosting morale. We started developing experiences that we could deliver virtually that allowed for interaction and socialization. So far since March, we have delivered over 60 virtual experiences for our clients. From beer tastings to escape rooms to game shows, we've been scrappy and hungry.”

Without the hassle of travel and lodging, virtual events have the benefit of attracting larger audiences.

Start a new business (or career)

If COVID-19 is preventing you from doing the kind of business or work you normally do, and it’s not possible to pivot, the best option might be to start a new business. If you have the energy, time, and resources, now is the perfect time to start over from scratch. Maybe it will be a business you’ve dreamed of for years but never had the opportunity to explore. Or maybe inspiration has struck and you have a viable solution that can help people or the marketplace during COVID. 

If coronavirus has stopped your business or work, you might feel compelled to take a chance and start something new. And it will be easier this time, since you’re no longer a first-time entrepreneur.

Take care of yourselfseriously

If the global pandemic has shut down your business or put a stop to your freelance career, maybe now could be the time to rest and recharge. The world is overwhelming right now, and the life of an entrepreneur is already filled with tons of stress. If you’re feeling burnt out, scattered, or hopeless, maybe what you need is a chance to collect yourself and recharge. 

This looks differently for each person. Some options include: catch up on sleep, start seeing a therapist, join a personal development workshop, spend more time in nature, or just take a breather and see where inspiration takes you. 

If you run a small business, COVID-19 might have made things more difficult for you, but it has impacted everyone else as well. Reconnect with your friends, family, and other entrepreneurs, and remember that we’re all in this together.

Dustin Clendenen
Dustin Clendenen is a Los Angeles-based writer focused on personal finance, social impact and technology. His work has appeared in Yahoo! Finance, Business Insider, and Upworthy. Learn more at www.DustinClendenen.com.

Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information and insights, but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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