Getting the balance right

March 19th, 2020

We are living in interesting times. Like everyone else, I feel as though I’m living in a bad movie that shows no sign of ending. It’s been truly wonderful to see how amongst all the doom and gloom headlines (including those about toilet roll stockpiling!) there has been acts of kindness and communities have pulled together.

The internal comms world has been no different. After a short break from social media for personal reasons, I came back to see everyone had stepped up. Advice was being shared, webinars set up, crisis guides being made available. I’ve never been prouder to be part of this community.

However, while that has been wonderful to see, it’s also been heart-breaking to see consultants and freelancers sharing their concerns that their businesses might not survive this.

I like many others have seen nearly all my work cancelled from April onward. I’m due to go on maternity leave in July and the thought of not earning any money in the lead up is terrifying. However, I do have savings and my husband (hopefully, touch wood, etc etc) has a secure job so it could be a lot worse.

For some consultants and freelancers, they are the breadwinner or the only income stream. They’re facing watching the businesses they’ve worked so hard to build go under in a matter of weeks. And those businesses are important. I’ve not met an internal comms consultant yet who is in this for any other reason than to support organisations and further the profession.

But on top of losing work we’re finding ourselves in a tricky situation. Is it OK to ask for work? I’ve had multiple conversations this week about the importance of not being seen to profiteer from this situation. I couldn’t agree more; profiteering is completely unethical and abhorrent behaviour. And I’ve seen consultants and freelancers very kindly offering services for free, especially to NHS and charity colleagues.

This also isn’t the time to approach exceptionally busy and exhausted in-house communicators about work. Our in-house colleagues are doing amazing things in challenging circumstances and it’s not their job to find freelancers work in this tricky time.

So where does that leave us? Afraid to mention we need work while still desperate to help fellow communicators in this unprecedented situation.

But isn’t there a balance to be had? I for one am more than happy to pick up the phone to in-house communicators to share advice and be a sounding board. But surely, it’s also OK in a couple of weeks to put it out into the world that I’m available for paid work?

I don’t have the answers right now, but I very much hope that we will all find that balance over the coming weeks and months. I would hate to see very talented people close their businesses over this (and doesn’t that say everything – in what other industry would you find consultants and freelancers rooting for each other?).

I also wanted to thank colleagues – internal, external consultants and freelancers, and agencies – for reaching out to me this week and offering support and camaraderie. It has been truly appreciated.

I also need to thank my clients. Two clients had to cancel their projects with me. One has offered to wait until 2021 to work with me, rather than hire someone else, so that I’m not penalised for coronavirus or taking maternity leave. I can’t tell you how emotional that made me. The other also asked me to contact them as soon as I was back working so we could find a way of working together again next year.

It’s moments like this that reassure me that we will all come out the other side of this stronger. Well done to everyone who has been working long days to deal with an ever-changing situation – you are doing a phenomenal job.

And to my fellow consultants and freelancers. Let’s try to hold our nerve and pull together to see this through. I’m at the end of a phone for anyone who wants to chat.

 

 

Find out how you can work with me on my What I Do page. 

 

 

Categories: ConsultantsCoronavirusCovid 19FreelancersInternal communication

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“Helen’s passion for her profession shines through very clearly and she manages to combine her deep knowledge of internal communications with a mix of pragmatism and fresh thinking. She is a delight to work with and has a high level of integrity.”

Richard Fitzmaurice, TMF Group