It’s been a long quarantine. And most of us are ready to be done.
Across the country, businesses are opening back up as COVID-19 cases go down (or at least slow down). We’re actually opening for walk-in hours this week for the first time since closing in March. We’re all ready to put this pandemic behind us and get back to business.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be quite that easy. As best as we can tell, the virus is only slowing down because of the measures we’ve put in place—masks, social distancing, and yes—quarantine. Until we develop a vaccine or reach critical mass in herd immunity, business as usual might be a long way off.
Especially if “business as usual” includes large crowds, and that’s bad news for the craft show crowd. Most summer events have already been canceled, leaving those of us who rely on a bustling art fair season for a living in the dust. Even the few that have been rescheduled might still be up in the air.
I don’t say this to scare you while you’re getting back to normal. But even as optimistic as we can be, we have to prepare for the possibility that another outbreak is coming.
Luckily, it’s not a complete shot in the dark. Here are a few things you can do to get ready for the next big interruption.
Change Up Your Game Plan
Chances are, you have a pretty good handle on how your business normally runs. You’re pretty good at guesstimating how many of what items you’ll sell in a given month, or how much to expect at an art festival based on your inventory.
But in pandemicland, those rules go out the window. If you had a trusty string of craft shows or a brick-and-mortar consignment that was paying your rent each month, the old revenue streams aren’t quite as predictable.
The key is to diversify. Some of us having been putting all of our eggs in just a couple baskets. And when events are canceled and shops are closed, those baskets are starting to fall.
Start changing things up. Look for all of the revenue streams you can. If you’ve been previously only made large batches of goods, try making them on-demand to save on material costs and labor time. Start offering custom and commission work.
If you’ve only been selling in person, set up an online shop. Don’t worry if you’re not tech savvy—most online marketplaces have easy how-to guides to get you started, and Shopify support is always a click away.
Before the lockdown, we did all of our work in person. But when we weren’t able to open our shop, we had to move online. And it’s paid off. In the last couple months, we’ve shipped DIY kits all over the country. It didn’t totally replace all of our revenue, but it kept us afloat until we could open back up.
Similarly, look for ways that you can adapt your own business plan to our new realities. Flexibility is the key to longevity.
Be a Boss at Budgeting
Managing your finances is a constant balancing act between input and output. Often when we talk about setting a budget, people look at either how to cut down their expenses or how to make more money.
But that’s just one part of the story.
You can increase your income and lower your expenses all you want, but if you don’t manage the money you’re bringing in wisely, you might still end up scraping the bottom of the barrel between deposits.
Over the last several months, we’ve adapted both our business and household budgets to a percentage based system. We moved all of our money to a fee-free credit union and set up several different “buckets.” Each account has a different purpose, and when the money comes in, it gets divvied up based on predetermined percentages: a certain percentage goes to emergency savings, another goes to our personal spending, another goes to debt payoff, etc.
It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Since adopting this method, we’ve been able to navigate some health emergencies, take a nice big pre-COVID vacation, and pay even pay off some hefty credit card debt. Oh, and we were also able to close our shop for two months and stay okay.
While things are opening back up and your income is getting back to normal, be sure to set aside a nest egg in case we have to go back into lockdown again.
Be Kind To Yourself
One of the biggest dangers of the virus isn’t just what it does to our bodies or our healthcare system, but what it does to our mental health. Mental health experts have stated that we are all experiencing collective trauma as a result of the pandemic.
You’re going to have moments where it’s hard to motivate yourself to get working. Moments where it’s hard to even get out of bed.
Give yourself grace for these moments. Mind how you talk to yourself. Negative self talk can quickly spiral into a cycle of shame that only makes it harder to accomplish anything.
Find some friends you can check in with who can encourage and affirm you during this time.
Just in Case...
We’re not sure what the rest of the year will hold. New information about COVID-19 is coming in faster than we can digest it. At this point, some experts disagree on whether there will be a second outbreak at all.
But either way, it’s better to be prepared for that possibility and end up wrong than to be blindsided without any preparations.
Whatever happens, we hope you keep making. And we'll be right here helping you do just that.