Lockdown 2, eh? Ach, we knew it was coming, didn’t we? Whatever you think of it, we’re stuck with it.
In a spirit of being positive and helpful (rather than hiding under the covers til, oh… 2022?) I thought I’d return to the article I wrote in March and add a bit more to it.
It started ‘Covid-19 eh? What an arse.’ Still true.
People running small businesses will likely fall into one of two categories:
– I work remotely, so my day-to-day activities won’t change
– I work face-to-face with customers, so WTF do I do?
If you’re in the first group, cool. Just remember that not everyone else is, so be sympathetic to their situation and be prepared to make adjustments to suit them.
If you’re in the second group, you’re going to have to make some adjustments (unless you have a room full of gold like Scrooge McDuck). So, what can you do?
So… what can we do?
First off, look back.
– What have you learnt from this year so far?
– What worked/didn’t work last lockdown?
Here’s some immediate options to consider:
Can you offer services online? It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve seen a surprising range of businesses creating an online option, from networking and coaching to travel advice and music lessons. (Top Tip: I can highly recommend Jitsi as a free alternative to Zoom for group video chats.)
Can you offer products online? Yes, there’s the obvious Etsy, eBay, etc. But another great option has been popping up that I really like – virtual Christmas fairs/markets. You know how there’s a Facebook page or group for every town, village and neighbourhood in the country? Many of them are hosting Facebook events that bring together local traders in one place, to show and sell their products online.
Gift vouchers. A simple idea that everyone is used to, but now we can use them in a different way. As well as people buying vouchers to give as gifts, your regular customers can buy them to spend with you later on – so you get cash now, when you need it, and they get your products/services when you’re open again.
Make sure you get everything you’re entitled to – redundancy pay, holiday not taken, pay in lieu of notice, commission, etc. You might like the people who run the company, but don’t feel bad about insisting on getting everything you’re rightfully owed – it’s not greedy, it’s fair.
If they say they have no money (and make sure that’s actually the case, I was almost burned on that one before!) then they need to declare insolvency and you can claim the redundancy payment from the government.
Following redundancy, if you’re starting a business or making money from a hobby, take a little time to plan it. It’s understandably tempting to dash straight out there with a Facebook page offering *the thing you do*. But just take a sec to make sure what you’re setting up is the right thing for you and that there’s a market for it.
If you’d like some help with that, my Firm Foundations workbooks are free through November. They’ll help you work out what your business is all about.
In a better situation?
If you have a financial buffer and the main impact of lockdown is that you’ll be less busy, use this time wisely.
– Talk to your audience, what do they want from you?
– Build up your audience, offer a free guide or something when they sign up to your mailing list
– Join Facebook groups where your ideal customers are, and chat/help to build your profile (don’t sell!)
– Learn about something you need, refresh a skill or add new tech
– Develop a new offer (that’s what I did earlier this year, creating the BUILD Business Club)
Look after yourself
Please remember that human contact and fresh air are vital for our mental wellbeing.
When the sun shines, get out in it. You can meet one other person outdoors, so take a walk with a friend or colleague and have a good chat as you go – whether you need to get stuff off your chest or pretend this all isn’t happening for a bit.
That Jitsi thing? Use it to have video calls with people. We’re social creatures, and we respond best to people’s faces and actions. WhatsApp and the like are great, but you miss out on people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.
All those Facebook groups you joined and never posted in? Now’s the time! Get chatting with people, ask how they’re doing, share how you’re doing.
Look after others, if you can
There’s ways to support other people’s businesses, not just with money.
Make sure you have the capacity to help, and don’t worry if you don’t. Don’t stretch yourself financially or in terms of energy, look after yourself first.
– If you have disposable income, choose where to spend it (who do you want to still be open in 2020?)
– Order takeaway/delivery from local independent businesses
– Share their stuff online
– Offer to host guest blogs, for businesses with a similar audience to you
– Arrange a skills swap (what can you offer, what do you need?)
– Ask people what they need (we often don’t like to ask for help)
Look after yourself, that’s a must
Hide under the covers if you need to – but not for too long! Take a bit of time to process things, then make a plan for how you’re going to proceed.
You don’t have to make these plans on your own, there’s people you can ask for help. Lean on family and friends if that works for you, find other places of support if it doesn’t. There’s people on the other side of the world who live in my computer – they understand stuff about my business that loved ones don’t, and they’re there to support me (and I, them).
I’m lucky enough to be one of those people whose day-to-day activities haven’t changed. And I’m here to help. So give me a shout, whether you need to talk through options for creating an online offer, to work out how to put your online offer actually online, help to build your audience and create that free guide, or just to talk to a sympathetic human.