How freelance writers can cope with COVID 19

Viewing time: 4 mins. 24 secs.   

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how freelance writers can cope with Covid 19. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you  can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach. I’m going to look and sound a little different today because I’m recording this video myself, using the software PhotoBooth. Social distancing, necessitated by the pandemic, means that I don’t want to be in a small room with my videographer, Melodie. That’s too big a risk for both of us. 

In fact, I haven’t seen her in person for more than a month. The only reason my videos haven’t changed before now is because we usually film four at once and we’ve been working our way through the backlog.

Also, apologies for my hair. I haven’t had a cut in nine weeks now and I usually see the hairdresser every six weeks. 

Anyway, perhaps appropriately, Covid 19 is the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. 

I have a question from Olivia Williams, a writer  based in Chicago. Here’s what she asked by email:

“COVID-19 has gutted my freelance writing career. I’m sitting alone in my Chicago apartment with no work and no prospects of work. I don’t know what to do. Should I give up on my writing career? It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was 11 years old.” 

Thanks for your question, Olivia. I am so deeply sorry for what you are going through right now. This pandemic has changed the lives — and threatened the lives — of so many people. 

I work with writers from around the world and this is the first time in my career where I know that every person in every country is facing exactly the same two problems. How do we stay healthy? How do we stay solvent? 

You didn’t say specifically what type of writing you were doing before the pandemic hit, Olivia, but I’m going to guess you are a magazine writer or perhaps a freelance blog writer. 

One opportunity I’d like to suggest is to take a look at corporate writing opportunities. Of course, you’ll need to avoid industries that have been particularly hard hit —anything related to travel for instance  — but there are lots of corporate entities still trying to do important work with most of their employees stuck at home. 

You’re already accustomed to working from home, so perhaps you can help? Banks, mortgage companies, cellphone companies, medical research firms and public utilities still need to communicate more than ever right now. Their communications and marketing departments need to get messages to both employee groups and outside customers. Consider selling yourself to them as a fast and efficient writer who can help out during a difficult time. 

If the idea of working in the corporate world seems distasteful, or too boring, to you, remember that your love of fine writing can be expressed in other ways. You can keep a blog. You can write short stories if that’s what appeals to you. You can even start on a novel. 

Just be sure to separate your need for making money from your need for creative fulfillment. Those two needs don’t have to be satisfied at the same time — particularly not during life-changing circumstances like the ones we face now. 

As I write these words and record this video, I have no idea what the world is going to look like three days from now, never mind three weeks, especially never mind three months. Everything is up in the air. 

Do whatever you can to keep body and soul together and understand that this pandemic will eventually pass. The world may look very different when we get through to the other side, but trust that you will be able to adjust and adapt. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the great writer and political activist Elie Wiesel who was sent to a Nazi death camp during the second world war: “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.”   

Olivia, Elie Wiesel lost much of his family — including his mother and sister — during the Holocaust. But he didn’t let these losses define him. By the time he was 19, he had begun working as a journalist. And by the time he was 58, he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Keep your spirits up, Olivia.