#LockdownDiaries: Freelancing in times of corona

As a freelance journalist and business writer, my heart goes out to all South African businesses, particularly SMEs, and their staff. First, the recession struck (the third since 2008), followed by the corona crisis, which has slowed down the economies of our largest trade partners, subsequently slowing down ours.

Then the national corona lockdown happened, which reduced our productivity, exports and capital inflows to a mere trickle. The cherry on top: Moody’s and S&P’s credit rating downgrades. This is having huge consequences for businesses, large and small, including their suppliers.

Over the past weeks, most of my South African clients – all well-established companies with solid track records – have had to make some heartbreaking decisions. Salaries were cut, people retrenched, and some had to close down forever after 20-odd years of being in operation.

Have I been affected as a freelance journalist? Yes. I started the year with half a dozen regular clients and a very solid cash flow, of which only one remains (a Dutch newspaper). The rest (mainly South African companies) had to cut their content production contracts short, postpone them or cancel them altogether.

Does it stress me out? Of course. This has been the scariest time ever since I started freelancing in 2007. Even the 2009 recession wasn’t as stressful.

The silver lining is, however, that I only have to make contingency plans for myself as I don’t employ any staff. I don’t even want to start to imagine having to tell your employees they are without jobs, particularly right now.

This post is, therefore, dedicated to business owners in South Africa and elsewhere who are navigating this shit-show of problems to the best of their abilities. May you overcome this and may you and your staff come out stronger.

To the consumers out there: support local SMEs as they don’t have the buffer larger firms do.

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