It’s not an easy time to be self-employed. Stories of lost freelance income fill the news, and we’re all dealing with the new norm of social isolation. But now is a time when the world needs your flexible, skilled, and creative minds the most.

Toni Morrison describes this need during uncertain times best.

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work,” she has said. “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.”

Offering a helping hand doesn’t have to mean leaving the safety of your home. We’ve found inspiration from fellow solopreneurs who are helping their communities and adapting to new ways of working. Read on to see how you can follow their lead and make a positive change.

Lend a hand to other self-employed workers

There’s no handbook for dealing with COVID-19. But when freelancers share their experiences with each other, the crisis feels a bit more surmountable. They can problem-solve together and find solutions to common business and personal challenges.

Alex Sheehan, a copywriter and content strategist, had just sold all her belongings to prepare for moving abroad when the pandemic hit.

“Suddenly, I found myself living at my parents’ house,” she says. “It was hard to deal with that and still focus on work.”

Sheehan found advice and camaraderie from another solopreneur she met through the Female Digital Nomads Facebook group. They bonded over a similar experience—her plans to live in a new country were also abruptly halted by COVID.

“It was so helpful being able to relate to someone who was not only a fellow small business owner but who was facing the same personal challenges at such a sensitive time,” Sheehan said. “Professionally, we helped each other find ideas on how to stay focused and productive.”

Martin Sayers, a copywriter, also sees the value of freelancers connecting online during Covid-19. Lately, he has been encouraging fellow copywriters in his Facebook Group MSCopy Inner Circle to share their recent challenges and work together to resolve them.

For example, in March, when the pandemic and the new economic realities were just hitting home, Sayers asked the group what their biggest worry was. The question prompted tons of helpful advice, ranging from how to get work done with children at home to what should be in client emails. A dozen members from the group joined the conversation to offer encouragement and tips.

“Freelancing is lonely at the best of times, but the pandemic has intensified that,” Sayers says. “This makes online networking more important than ever.”

Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, you can make a difference simply by joining online conversations and reflecting on the current crisis with fellow freelancers.

On Reddit, r/freelance is an active subreddit with 143,000 members. There are multiple questions posed there every day, ranging from general topics like collecting late payments to more timely themes like working from home.

On Facebook, there are plenty of groups for freelancers of all skill sets like web development, graphic design, and accountants.

Slack has recently emerged as a popular platform for connecting remote and self-employed workers. Like on Facebook, you can find specialized groups on Slack, but there are also some general groups for freelancers and digital nomads.

Support small businesses in their time of greatest need

A LinkedIn survey showed that 70% of small businesses hired a freelancer in the last year, and most say they’ll hire even more next year.

But right now, it’s difficult for small businesses to stay afloat—let alone hire contractors. A recent poll showed that 43% of small businesses are in danger of closing forever. And many have had to lay off staff just to survive.

To keep your relationship with small businesses strong, consider offering flexible payment options. You might extend fee deadlines for your best clients or provide a small discount — no more than 10%. Be wary of significantly reducing your prices, though. You don’t want customers to perceive a lower product value after the crisis because you offered a major price cut. (Related: How to Keep Clients During Turbulent Times)

Now is a good time to consider providing a value-add service to help your clients without lowering prices. Copywriter Alex Sheehan says she’s helping one of her long-term clients by writing one article at no charge. Be strategic here. Tie your value-added service to the current situation so there’s not a continued expectation of free work. For example, if you’re an SEO professional you may offer a keyword report around coronavirus-related topics.

You could answer questions from small business owners online. It’s a low-lift way to give back while also creating new relationships that could turn into paying gigs in the future. Enter “small business, COVID” into the search bar of Quora, and you’ll find a list of challenges business owners are trying to solve right now. Or search COVID-related hashtags on Twitter to find questions from small businesses.

Look for ways to make your services financially accessible to small businesses that are feeling the burdens of COVID-19. The partnership may be small, but every effort helps when it comes to getting small businesses back on their feet.

Offer pro bono work for a good cause

A number of nonprofits are helping people physically, mentally, and financially recover from the pandemic. Many could use your services, but they can’t always afford to pay them—especially now when donations to nonprofits are in a freefall.

Depending on your budget, consider helping these organizations by offering your services at no cost. That’s what marketers Heather and Walter Burks did to support the Greater Gaston Development Corporation (GGDC)—a nonprofit tasked with supporting small businesses in Gaston County, North Carolina.

With a staff of two full-time employees, the GGDC always runs a lean ship. The pandemic created a new challenge: helping businesses that were allowed to stay open communicate with Gaston County residents about new hours and offerings and increased safety measures.

The wife and husband duo created a social media campaign, #supportgaston, and a website, supportgaston.com, to help generate awareness for Gaston’s small businesses. The site features local businesses, their hours of operation, and the types of services they currently offer, making it easy for residents to know where they could go for goods and services, while the hashtag campaign encouraged residents to share their experiences at these establishments.

“If you’re feeling a little helpless and hopeless like we were, try to find ways to use your skills to help others get through this,” Walter Burks says. “It helped us a lot to feel like we had some sort of purpose in the midst of all the chaos.”

To find a local nonprofit that needs your help right now, check out VolunteerMatch. They’ve created a virtual volunteering page, so you can find ways to help while sheltering in place. Once you find a nonprofit that you would like to help, fill out the online interest form, and VolunteerMatch will make the connection for you.

Can’t devote a lot of time to pro bono work? No problem. You can offer quick, one-hour consultation calls to nonprofits through the volunteer matching service Catchafire.

While you’re out there helping others get through, we’re ready to support you with free advice on running your business and a 90-day free trial of Wingspan.

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