Plastered across the internet and social media, you can find story after story about freelancers who saw their assignments, clientele and income suddenly evaporate due to COVID-19.
PRWeek reported that in the weeks after the UK went on lockdown, half of the freelancers lost at least 60% of their income.
Seeing stats like that raise questions about how the coronavirus burned freelancers so fast.
No doubt, there are numerous reasons why. But for many, it boils down to lack of diversity.
This crisis offers more proof that banking on a freelance niche is extremely risky.
The Freelance Niche
Take Shari Griffith, a cruise influencer cited in The New York Times.
By early March, all of her travel assignments through April had been canceled as the tourism and hospitality market began to slump.
Likewise, Scott Eddy, another travel influencer and a marketing consultant, reported that within 48 hours, five of his campaigns were put on indefinite hold. At that time, his losses topped $25,000.
Experiences like theirs have something in common with lots of the others that you’ll find–their business was concentrated in a freelance niche.
Many of the freelancer hardest hit in the early stages of this crisis hadn’t diversified their business.
For some, lack of diversity means relying too heavily on too few clients. For others, it means relying too much on a particular market segment or industry.
Countering Pro-Freelance Niche Advice
A lot of advice urges freelancers to develop a niche.
Doing so helps you establish expertise and a reputation as an authority, advocates say.
You can build a stronger network and conserve time and energy by concentrating on one area. And the more unique your niche, the less competition you’ll have, so you can charge higher rates.
Being a niche freelancer may have its pros, but it comes with a shitload of risk. And the more specialized your focus area, the more danger you face.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing to specialize, but as I’ve said before, there’s a better way than going all-in with a niche.
If you’re determined to limit your business to one industry or market, you can still diversity.
Part of the problem is that some freelancers think they’re doing that but they aren’t.
If you’re a travel writer working with three resorts and two cruise lines, you’ve diversified your revenue streams but not your business.
All five of those companies rely on household travel budgets, and they’re affected by most of the same market conditions.
So, if the economy takes a downturn, and people stop spending on travel, all of your clients get hit at the same time. And that means all of your revenue streams are at risk of completely drying up at once.
You need to go beyond selecting different clients and cater to different market segments or industries.
Your Post-Crisis Business
After feeling the shockwaves from the coronavirus, businesses small, medium and large are busy trying to come out of this crisis wiser and better prepared for the next one.
Freelancers should be doing the same. And one way to do that is by reducing the risks linked to having a freelance niche.
As freelancers, we can’t afford to be one-trick ponies. Diversity is essential.