Surviving the coronavirus crisis for the self-employed or COVID-19 disenfranchised (Part 3)

In our previous two installments in this coronavirus series for small-business owners, we noted how two general categories of business have been hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown: services and non-essential products. We focused on how those businesses not selling products will be especially hard-hit and have to be creative with e-commerce, social media and other online tools to have any chance of survival in some cases. We also noted that these businesses would not be able to maintain staff levels and would be contributing even more to the COVID-19 disenfranchised workers as time went on.

The shelter-in-place emergency measures mean less shopping or spending money on a meal or a night on the town — so a large number of people are out of work, including:

  • entertainers
  • sales clerks
  • wait staff (restaurants, coffee shops, liquor establishments, etc.)
  • personal services professionals (tattoo artists, barbers, stylists, cosmetologists, etc.)
  • tour guides, museum staff, etc.

With the exception of some personal services professionals who can work out of their homes, there is no traditional work for these individuals. This doesn't necessarily mean that they can't do anything related to their chosen profession, just that they can't do it the way they intended to do it — and that they might need to find other work to supplement their income. Or they may need to change jobs for the time being (and in doing so they just might find a better career).

So what can they do? Let's explore some possibilities.

Entertainers

Entertainers can take their talents online. Musicians have already started by live-streaming, hosting Q&A sessions, recording and selling their own music through small channels (BandCamp) and big channels (Amazon) alike and getting the proceeds direct to them. Some are also setting up funding portals like Patreon (where fans can get additional content / first access / free music / etc.) for regular monthly contributions, or GoFundMe to raise money to cover recording and equipment costs to produce new music for sale.

Talk shows are going online, comedians are going online and even actors in the right situation can take their craft online (see Part 1 of this series for entertainment venues). Actors with writing talent can do that, and actors with business talents can focus on their ventures. And those that can weather a lengthy crisis are focusing on charities to help get us all through this.

Just because they lost the physical stage doesn't mean they have lost the opportunity. The internet gives them a virtual stage, and they are adapting to it. In fact, with the internet, all the world is truly a stage (and imagine what Shakespeare would do with it).

Sales Clerks

If you were good at your job, you know the key to success is an ability to help the shopper find what they really want, and this requires an ability to connect with them as a person and not just as a party to a transaction. This too can be done over the internet — it doesn't have to be in person! This means that you can be a virtual sales clerk, and for people who can't shop online or who need help, you can be a virtual shopper.

Wait Staff

Unfortunately, waiters and wait staff don't have an online equivalent skill. People don't need you to offer up specials or point them to menu options or make a suggestion for them online. And delivery people bring them their food. Your options are limited: Become a delivery person (including a bike courier) until this is over or find something else to do. What else is there? We'll address that at the end of this article because we’re sure you have other talents.

Tour Guides and the like

Unfortunately for tour guides and others like museum staff, the virtual world makes it tough to monetize your skills. If you have a lot of knowledge, you can record dialogue for online tours where there is footage, but that is a one-time thing. If you have a deep knowledge, you can also moderate forums, answer questions and serve as an online tutor on the subject matter. Hosts/hostesses can put together educational guides on how to be a great host/hostess, but there just isn't enough work to go around. So, as with a significant portion of wait staff, they will have to find something else too.

Personal Services Providers

Again, unless personal services providers can work out of the home and/or out of someone's home one-on-one and are willing and able to do it with appropriate safety precautions, there are not a lot of options. Unless you can become an online expert in your craft, gain a following, and then sell books or tutorials or other educational material or subscriptions to exclusive access and/or content, you will also have to find something else.

Face it, nothing has been more detrimental than this pandemic to the service industry in over 100 years.

So what else is there?

Besides the options we indicated in this series, there are also some less obvious options that you could consider that can be done entirely online that include:

  • Transcription and/or translation services: Artificial intelligence isn't perfect, and sometimes it’s key for a human ear and eye to do the transcription or translation. You might use AI to get a rough text, but that’s it.
  • End-user product tester and/or reviewer: Companies and publications need this and will pay for it, you just have to find the right opportunities for you
  • Online model: If you look good to someone — like private brands, especially those going after a key demographic — they will pay you to model and promote their clothing and accessories. Some models can acquire a paying fan following.
  • Social media manager: A lot of the businesses that were mainly physical but have a product or product-based service still need to get the word out to advertise and build a community on social media, but probably don't have the expertise to do it. If you do, that’s what your business is.
  • Freelance writer/researcher: If you are great at writing articles, doing targeted research in a short amount of time, and can apply those skills across products, services, educational subjects, news and other areas, maybe it's time you became a full-time writer. It literally is something not everyone can make a career of, so there's an opportunity (but it’s a lot harder than it seems to write day in and day out, so make sure you have a passion for it).
  • Virtual Travel Agent: Let's face it, while this doesn't exist — it could — people are going stir crazy, and need to travel, even if only virtually! Furthermore, since truly immersive VR isn't here, SecondLife can only scratch so much of an itch. Every day, more and more museums are putting collections online, tourism bureaus are putting more material online, documentaries with incredible footage are going online, etc. Why not make a living curating virtual travel, tour and educational packages for the stir crazy? This could even continue into a real travel agent service when people can leave their house again (where you would connect people with local tour guides and travel services, etc.).

Necessity is the mother of invention after all, and it doesn't just apply to physical inventions, it applies to careers too. (Do you think someone who started out studying physics, mathematics and theoretical computer science in the 1990s had any idea what a procurement analyst and futurist was? Or that he'd become one?)

There are options for work during the crisis, and your next career will likely be something you never thought of until just now.

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