How the Coronavirus Is Affecting Female Entrepreneurs Around the World

As you’re probably experiencing yourself, the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the global economy, and so many of my business owner friends have lost tons of business! When lockdowns started happening here in the U.S., I lost thousands of dollars with canceled contracts in a matter of a few hours. I work with a lot of businesses like photographers and interior designers, and if they’re not able to work, they’re not able to pay for my services.

A lot of my friends’ businesses are hurting right now, and the government grants have been less than helpful. They’ve already run out of money (after giving millions to big businesses like Ruth’s Chris Steak House), and many solopreneurs are excluded from private grants, like Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s grants.

Small businesses in the U.S. are certainly not the only one struggling in business right now, so I wanted to reach out to other female entrepreneurs I know around the world, from Australia to Panama, and interview them about their experiences right now! Many of these businesses are hurting, but I feel so inspired from their positive attitudes and what they’re doing to pivot their businesses right now 🙂 This blog post is the longest one I’ve published by far, but I hope you’ll read it through because I want all these amazing women’s voices to be heard!

How the Coronavirus Is Affecting Female Entrepreneurs Around the World

Female entrepreneurs on how the coronavirus is affecting their businesses

Rachel Vandernick from The Vander GroupRachel Vandernick lives in the United States and owns The Vander Group LLC, a digital marketing business focusing mainly on travel, hospitality, and nonprofits. She hires contractors and freelancers for projects, and her business is online only.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

My clients have been impacted across the board. The stay-at-home orders in particular impact my clients in travel and tourism. With tourism essentially barred, they’ve had to totally invent new products in near-real time to stay in business. They lose income that supports and sustains cities like Philadelphia every single day. Many of my clients have never been remote, so it’s been a huge adjustment for them to close their physical offices and try to adopt an “until further notice” work from home policy with no infrastructure or planning.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

I’ve had contracts that were won and set to begin immediately delayed a month or more. Clients that I had long-term agreements with canceled due to impacts on their business or reduced their scope of work. Leads that were high intent have delayed of ghosted. A weird by-product of this is that banking has been increasingly difficult. A large swath of my clients still pay by physical check, so when my mobile deposit limit is reached, I have to try to arrange a trip to a bank with severely limited hours. Being paid on time is also difficult when these checks have to clear a number of departments to reach me, all of which are now remote and disconnected.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

I think I’m generally surviving better than most, even with those cancellations/delays. My business has always been online-only and I rarely see my clients in person. I still have business booked, I’m still profitable, and I still have long-term agreements in place. I have colleagues who went from business booked to empty calendars in under a week, which is crushing. I know business owners who have had to shutter doors and hope this rides out quickly, layoff team members, cut hours, cut their own pay to in order to pay their team, layoff their own contractors, and more.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

There is a small business relief fund just established in Philadelphia, although it’s not exactly designed for freelancers and contractors, and it’s no substitute for the guarantee of unemployment. There haven’t been any city or state-wide actions in PA to update freelancer unemployment eligibility or mandate mortgage or rent abatements. The tax deadline was just extended, but I’m unsure of what that means for the quarterly payments that are due in just a few weeks.

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

I have only recently started to look into this, but I’m still trying to be hopeful that I won’t need to access it.

If there is no government assistance available to self-employed businesses, do you know of any private assistance available from freelancer groups or businesses themselves?

There are a number of crowd-sourced relief funds, but I do not know of anything centralized. I try to provide back for my peers in freelancing, and clients in hospitality, by updating my referral program which offers a cut (increased from its usual percentage) of any business I sign, and offers a hospitality giftcard option (with an even bigger percentage) to try and give back locally where I can. Freelancers and independent contractors are the smallest players in the small business space, and I think the most impactful assistance unfortunately comes from our peers, not the government. We’re expected to bootstrap and self-help unlike the corporate business sector. The government assistance programs were never built to see us, let alone reflect our immediate needs or help us directly.

 

Siena Dexter from Idea Dolls LondonSiena Dexter lives in the U.K. and owns Idea Dolls London, and creative agency who works with independent brands to conceptualize, design and launch their consumer product. She hires freelancers for projects, and most of the business is run online but she meets with clients in person.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

All of our clients are affected by coronavirus. They work in the food industry and are usually small startups and scaleups. Everyone is watching the purse strings at the moment, so forking out for branding or copy is not top of their priority. Now isn’t the time to invest in anything new, so in terms of new business it’s been tough.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

While this madness is going on, we obviously can’t pitch for new business, founders aren’t looking to start anything new, we’re doing what we can to offer free advice and coaching to support startups but that doesn’t really help pay the bills. While things are quiet, we’re busy conceptualizing spec projects and filming video tutorials; you have to get creative even if you’re not actually making any money.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to? 

The UK government has just announced help for freelance workers, that doesn’t really help new businesses who have not yet submitted a tax return and will only be available from June. We are lucky to have a good welfare system set up so you can apply for Universal Credit which will cover your rent and up to ÂŁ90 a week – hardly enough for most people to live on. It’s a good safety net, but not nearly enough.

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

We unfortunately fall through the requirements being neither “self employed” or eligible for “job retention scheme” as I would need to not work altogether. I’m working on finding creative ways to continue working until things get better.

 

Andrea Valeria from It's a Travel O.D.Andrea Valeria is a digital nomad with a base in Mexico (with Panamanian and Colombian citizenship) and owns It’s a Travel O.D., a business helping aspiring remote workers land remote jobs. She has several remote employees, and her business is solely online.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

My clients are mostly aspiring remote workers, meaning a lot of them want to work remotely & are figuring out how to make it happen. A lot of them have lost their jobs or their hours have been cut. Now, their sense of urgency for finding remote work has increased, so I’m working on more free content to motivate & educate them.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

I organize retreats for creative entrepreneurs & freelancers, and my next one was in May in Colombia. Understandably, this retreat was postponed. All the online aspect of my business remains the same though.

If your business is not currently being affected by the coronavirus, do you think it will be affected in the near future?

It’s up to me to find ways in which I can continue to help people achieve their goals of working remotely. As long as I can do that while understanding our current climate, I could find ways to bring in revenue. However, everyone’s economy could take a hit, which means sales could potentially go down for everyone.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

I chat more with self-employed business owners located in different parts of the world — the internet keeps us all connected. I’m seeing a lot of them trying to pivot because they’re losing retainer clients. I’m also in the travel industry which has taken a huge hit, and I’m seeing many having to scale down & let people go.

I am in contact with a lot of business owners who own fully remote companies — and their focus is understandably not on hiring and growth at the moment, which means there aren’t as many companies hiring remotely at the moment.

However, some industries are thriving (digital collaboration platforms, online fitness sites/programs/apps, social media and content creation tools, etc), and the key is to identify how they could need help and apply to jobs within those industries!

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

I’m a resident of Mexico, but not employed with any companies here. I’m under a resident permit which specifies that my income comes from elsewhere, so I wouldn’t have access to these types of assistance (if they were being offered).

 

Rebecca Rosenberg, Content StrategistRebecca Rosenberg is an American living in Germany and owns Rebecca Rosenberg, Content Strategist, which helps clients in businesses such as wealth management and financial consulting clarify their message and improve their online presence to reach more people and communicate their value. She hires contractors for projects, and her business is solely online.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

So far, most of my clients seem to be operating as usual. Many of them are virtual or remote-focused businesses, which has allowed them to continue operations largely uninterrupted. Some of my finance clients, in particular, have had a big increase in requests for support and information about services that are available to business owners who might be struggling right now. Others actually seem to be in a position to benefit from the crisis because they offer services like home-based business training and online courses.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

To date, I’ve only had one client ask to pause our ongoing contract, with plans to re-engage in a few months after the economy (hopefully) bounces back. We have shifted the messaging strategy for almost all of my accounts in order to address the current situation. I’ve helped them to create relevant content like articles with suggestions for coping with isolation or, if applicable, reassuring customers that they are “open” and ready to support.

On the operations side, the crisis has definitely caused some disruptions! From travel plans being suddenly upended to relocating on short notice because another person in our household is immunocompromised, there were a few weeks where it was tough to focus! Now, my partner is also working from home which is a whole other type of adjustment.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

Everyone I know who has a brick-and-mortar business has been severely affected by having to either close their shops completely or reduce only to delivery/take-out (restaurant industry). Many have already had to lay off employees or give furloughs. I’ve seen anecdotes from other online businesses that they are being affected, but I don’t have more details on their situation.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

My understanding is that Germany is providing assistance for freelancers/self-employed.

 

Charlotte Isaac Dubsado strategistCharlotte Isaac lives in Australia and owns Charlotte Isaac, a business helping female-owned creative businesses automate and elevate their client processes, so they can focus on growing their businesses. She doesn’t have any employees, and her business is solely online because a significant portion of her clients in the U.S. and Canada.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

In different ways, I’d say every single one of my clients has been affected.

I work with a lot of in person businesses, for example, photographers, who obviously can’t see clients at the moment and are noticing that their web traffic and bookings are taking a nosedive.

Clients in the wedding industry have been hit particularly hard, as weddings are postponed, radically downsized or cancelled. (In Australia, our current “coronavirus rules” mean that weddings over 5 people are not allowed.)

On top of that, many of them are trying to juggle having kids and husbands at home.

I think it’s fair to say that every single one of us (my clients and my community of small business owners), whether directly affected or not, are feeling anxious and uncertain about if and when this will hurt our businesses.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

It’s a weird one — I’ve received far less than average leads over the last two weeks, and I have had a couple of them cancel calls too. However, I’ve also had people tell me that this quiet time is the perfect time for them to focus on the back end of their business so they’re ready for a bounce back. All up, I’d say it’s too early to say for me.

If your business is not currently being affected by the coronavirus, do you think it will be affected in the near future?

It could do, for sure. At the very least, it’s prompting me to focus on introducing an e-learning component to my business in the next month, which I wasn’t planning on doing until much later this year.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

It’s all very much in line with the experience my clients are having. In person business has more or less come to a halt, and online businesses are confused about how this will affect them.

Our government hasn’t been very proactive or clear about the measures they’re putting in place, and this has left many business owners, particularly brick and mortars, confused.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

The Australian Government is offering assistance to business owners, but most of it is tailored towards bigger business.

I’d guess that the majority of Australia’s self-employed and freelancers operate as Sole Traders, who are currently eligible for:

  • Starting mid April, ability to apply for special access for up to $10,000 from your superannuation
  • Starting April 27, access to special income support payments (from $550 per fortnight) if they have been adversely affected by coronavirus. (This is income tested)

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

Not really. I can see that most of the assistance offered is for businesses with employees or those who are now seeing very little income.

 

Ruth Southorn from Swallowtail SocialRuth Southorn lives in the U.K. and owns Swallowtail Social, a social media coaching business, specializing in helping designer-makers, artists and craft-focused businesses to step up their marketing and reach more customers. She doesn’t have any employees, and her business is mostly online.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

My current clients have not, but former clients definitely have (e.g. hair salon owner, yoga studio, wedding cake maker all had to temporarily close their business or seen cancellations and no new bookings).

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

Some prospective clients have felt less confident in booking my services, but otherwise not too much of a direct effect. Although doing some in-person work was part of my business (and therefore that’s now on hold) it was a small part of my service offering. I have always worked from home, doing the majority of my coaching by Zoom, so no change there!

If your business is not currently being affected by the coronavirus, do you think it will be affected in the near future?

I am confident my business will actually pick up even more, as my clients are looking to me to upskill in the online space. There’s so much potential for them right now to grow in that area, as the population is more active online due to quarantine. So I’m excited to help even more small biz owners and makers, who need digital marketing training to increase their visibility at this time.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

All self-employed-owner business in my local area have closed – the local hair salon, nail bar, the local DIY handyman, etc. My husband is also self-employed – as a will writer and legacy planner. He has needed to adapt his processes as he is in a keyworker category who is able to keep working, making sure to still offer those in need of wills their peace of mind. He is providing all planning calls by Zoom and arranging for witnessing the wills from a distance, so that is quite a change from his usual, much more in-person service!

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

Details of assistance was announced recently, to be made available from June, with various terms of qualification and restrictions depending on previous earnings etc. But I do not qualify for anything since I’ve not been running my business long enough.

 

Irene Gonzalez from Panama TranslatorIrene Gonzalez lives in Panama and owns Panama Translator, a business providing translation, interpretation and VA services for all sectors across the world. She has no employees, and her business is mostly online but her interpretation services are in person.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

Interesting enough, no. We are having an increase in translation requests, specifically from the health sector and NGOs.

As a translator, not limiting myself to a specific niche has been a key to survival.

If your business is not currently being affected by the coronavirus, do you think it will be affected in the near future?

Most likely. However my business is always fluctuating, but manageable.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

Some utilities payments are being put on hold, some banks are allowing not paying loans and credit fees for up to three months.

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

No.

 

Cassandra Le from The Quirky Pineapple StudioCassandra Le is an American and living in Spain as a resident, and she owns The Quirky Pineapple Studio, a brand strategy and copywriting studio for impact-driven service providers. She has two contractors as team members, and most of the business is online with some in-person events, like retreats and workshops. 

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

Yes, most definitely! Most of my clients are service providers, some online service providers and others offer more in-person services. Their businesses have either come to a complete halt or they are finding new ways to pivot their services to serve their communities online. Most of them already worked from home, but the ones that have not, are now staying home with their kids or at home with their families.

Some of my clients have canceled or postponed their events, are seeing that their prospects are more hesitant to invest, or they are a bit overwhelmed with how to approach helping their clients while still making money to keep business moving forward.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

My day to day routine hasn’t changed much since I was working from home before, but I do see a general shift in the online space. Many of the clients that I had planned to work together with in March and April 2020 are now sharing that they need to wait because their income has drastically dropped. Unfortunately, I feel that when situations like this happen, sometimes marketing and branding are the first things to be cut! I’ve also noticed that it is harder to close a client because there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety around this entire situation.

I have been getting on more virtual calls (maybe twice) with a potential prospect to answer their questions about working together. The biggest phrase I’ve heard in the past weeks has been “I want to make sure I get the most out of this investment” – which can make it very daunting and also add a lot of pressure. I had plans on hosting a virtual retreat and launching again in April, and while I am still moving forward with the virtual business retreat, it has been much harder to have clients join. The launch in April may be pushed to May or even June as I see how the market is unfolding and what my clients are interested in.

If your business is not currently being affected by the coronavirus, do you think it will be affected in the near future?

I think my business will be affected even further because while I am based in Madrid, Spain, many of my clients are from the United States. As the virus is moving more west, I feel that this situation may hit my business harder starting in late April and continue to June – depending on what will happen in the United States.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

Yes, they are offering emergency support during this time to self-employed businesses and freelancers. The relief was announced a week ago and they are offering unemployment for anyone who has seen a drop of 75% in their income compared to the average of the last 6 months’ income. They are also allowing self-employed businesses and freelancers to choose to stop their payment fees to be registered as a self-employed individual or freelancer. This emergency support will continue as long as the government is still calling this a high alert situation.

The application process means that you can apply for support at the end of the month if you see that your income is 75% less than what you’ve earned in the last 6 months (on average).

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

Yes, but after looking at my income in March, I will not be able to qualify for assistance during this month. I can apply for unemployment support at the end of April if I do see a drop in my income by 75% compared to the last 6 months and if the situation continues into May, I can apply at the end of May for support for that month.

 

Kat Colling from Sunshine SquaredKat Colling lives in the U.K. and owns Sunshine Squared, a marketing and business development agency focusing on branding, sales, social media management, consultancy and business growth for the tourism industry and service-based SMEs. She has seven employees, and her business is solely online.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

Yes – most of my clients in the tourism industry have been severely disrupted to the point where they have:

  1. Reduced to a core team only
  2. Reduced hours
  3. Closed their offices and moved everything online
  4. Let staff go
  5. Put staff on unpaid leave
  6. Moved to a four-day week

At this point, most of my clients are unsure as to whether they will bounce back.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

All but one of my current clients in the tourism industry have halted their marketing and business growth efforts (including cutting projects mid-way with contracts not honored), and three big potential clients have put signing of contracts on hold to see if their business will survive (hotels, tour operators, airlines).

Strategic work in the online space had not been as affected, but I have had leads canceling calls as they are losing work themselves.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

Other freelancers and self-employed in my circle are generally struggling as clients put work on hold. Some however are able to build a stronger business in this time, e.g. accountants or financial advisors.

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

Yes, not many options personally based on various factors, but there has been a lot of support announced. However it is impossible to get through to the government departments and they are saying there wouldn’t be any chance of assistance until June. They are offering up to 80% wages for staff, but you need to have the cashflow to pay out and claim back, which is impossible for a lot of smaller businesses.

Small business owners across the world are feeling the effects of the coronavirus, and so many of them aren’t eligible for any benefits or grants from their governments. If you are self-employed and need financial help, look at places like Facebook and the Freelancers Union that are offering relief funds and grants for small business owners right now. And Kat Colling says that “the online space will continue to create opportunities for people able and willing to pivot,” so take this opportunity to serve different clients or create a digital product.

If you aren’t a small business owner but want to help us out, Charlotte Isaac says it best: “If you’re in a position to support a small business at this time, please do. Not only will it make a world of difference to that business and the person running it, but it might mean they can keep supporting another business too.”

 

Elli Runkles, sales copywriterElli Runkles is an American living in Spain, and she owns Elli Runkles, a sales copywriting and content strategy business where she works with online business owners and creative entrepreneurs. She has some contractors on her team, and her business is solely online.

Have your clients been affected by the coronavirus?

Most of my clients are online business owners, so they have been able to continue running their businesses from home, however, they have been impacted by the situation in various ways. Some are used to working from home, but now have spouses and children at home with them that changes things up for them. I also have some clients who have lost business or had clients pull out because of the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. I think the biggest impact I’ve seen for my clients has been uncertainty in how to respond to the situation as an online business owner. Many have struggled to navigate what selling, marketing, and content creation should look like during this time.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus?

I am fortunate that I haven’t seem much of an impact in my business. I haven’t had any clients cancel contracts, and have even booked new clients since all of this started. As a copywriter and messaging strategist, I have been sharing information and resources with my clients to help them adjust their messaging and continue to sell as their clients’ and audience’s reality is shifting. I think this approach of adjusting my content to help people through this crisis has helped me to continue to book clients during this time.

If your business is not currently being affected by the coronavirus, do you think it will be affected in the near future?

It could, but I’m staying positive. I’m focusing on showing up and providing free content in a way that serves my audience as they navigate these uncertain times in their businesses, and trusting that this approach will bring in the sales needed to stay afloat.

How are you seeing other self-employed businesses in your area being affected?

A lot of people are struggling. There is a high number of self-employed freelance workers in Spain in general, and even higher in the expat community. Many of them have lost client contracts, and depending on their businesses, are unable to continue working because they work with their clients in person. The tourist industry is a major part of the economy here in Spain, and they are being hit particularly hard. Many self-employed workers in Spain make the bulk of their annual income from March-July, during the busiest tourist seasons, and that has been completely disrupted.

Is your government offering any assistance to self-employed businesses or freelancers right now, or have you heard of any plans to?

They are offering assistance, but from what I have heard from those who are applying for it, the process and requirements for accessing the assistance is riddled with bureaucracy that makes accessing the funds very difficult. They are offering assistance both for self-employed workers that have been forced to shut down because of the lockdown, and also for those who have seen a 75% reduction in their revenue. For those that have in person businesses that have been required to shut down, the process is slightly more accessible, but for those that have seen a reduction, the requirements for proving this make it almost impossible to access the assistance.

They are considering other assistance programs such as suspending rent payments, or providing temporary universal basic income, but none of these have been passed yet.

Have you looked into any government assistance for your business?

I haven’t looked into this for myself, but I have several friends and contacts here who have tried to get this government assistance.

If there is no government assistance available to self-employed businesses, do you know of any private assistance available from freelancer groups or businesses themselves?

Not that I know of in Spain. The Asociación de Trabajadores Autónomos (Self-Employed Workers Association) is working on our behalf  to petition the government to provide more assistance to self employed workers, such as suspending our monthly social security payments, but that hasn’t brought many concrete results or support to self-employed workers up to this point.

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So if your business has been struggling since the pandemic hit, you’re not alone! Ask for help if you need it, and Kat Colling says that “the online space will continue to create opportunities for people able and willing to pivot,” so take this opportunity to serve different clients or create a digital product.

If you aren’t a small business owner but want to help us out, Charlotte Isaac says it best: “If you’re in a position to support a small business at this time, please do. Not only will it make a world of difference to that business and the person running it, but it might mean they can keep supporting another business too.”

  1. Thanks for sharing! I send warmest wishes to everybody struggling right now!

  2. Tina says:

    It’s fascinating to read how different countries have been impacted.

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