We were thrilled to launch our Instagram Live Q&A sessions on Friday. As we adapt our lives and businesses to a new uncertain world, we all have some burning questions. In this new Q&A series, creative sector entrepreneurs, experts and innovators will join our founder, Carolyn Dailey, for an hour to discuss a wide range of topics to help us navigate the pressing challenges we now face.

For our first Q&A we were thrilled to be joined by award-winning digital product designer - and a great friend of Creative Entrepreneurs - Filippos Protogeridis. Alongside his stellar work helping companies create compelling online experiences, Filippos is now on a mission to empower digital professionals to achieve true professional and financial independence through his personal project, Selfstart.

Friday's top takeaways to always remember are:

  • Don't get overwhelmed and stress yourself out with things you can't control
  • Set boundaries between your work and personal life
  • Look for ways you can leverage new opportunities now that everything needs to be digital
  • Be creative and resourceful - adapt your skills to seize new opportunities
  • Optimise your personal and wider network
  • Use video at every opportunity you get

Read on for the full Q&A from our insightful discussion!

This is obviously an extremely challenging and unsettling time for everyone. What’s your advice for staying focused while everything is constantly changing?

  • Don't get overwhelmed and stress yourself out too much over something you can't control. Things change all the time, that's natural. It's important that we be ready and open to change at all times, and ready to adapt.
  • This is a good opportunity for us:
    • To re-evaluate what we want to accomplish through our businesses, and what it is that we're offering
    • To re-connect with the people in our lives
    • To re-think our daily routine. When the distractions of 'normal' modern life are removed, how will we structure our time?
    • To evaluate which of these changes that we make now, we will bring forward when 'normality' resumes
  • It's important to talk about our lives as a whole. As freelancers/entrepreneurs, we build our own daily structure all the time, as we often work remotely. We mustn't forget when adapting to the new working conditions and challenges, to factor in time for our personal lives too.
  • Ask yourself: when you don't have the distraction of working in an office, are you happy with yourself, your home, your life? If not, this is an opportunity to make changes in these spheres as well.
  • Ration the news!

How do you create and implement your own daily structure?

  • It's all about boundaries. It can be so easy to think that woking from home will be simple and that you don't need a schedule, but this can mean you end up working 24/7, because you don't have any differentiation between your work life and your free time. Some tips on setting boundaries:
    • Establish a routine that you can maintain. Get into habits that provide a clear work/life distinction
    • Assign a space in your home to be your work space - whether it be a room or a desk - where you can get in the zone and be productive. That way, you won't feel constantly stressed by having your work take over your personal space, and you will always have a place to go to focus.
    • Set clear boundaries between time spent working vs relaxing. Communicate with those around you about what your routine is, when you’ll be working and when you're available to spend time with them to lessen distractions.
  • Introduce 4/5 rituals to your day-to-day - or adapt the rituals you had in your office - to help you stay focused. Make your morning coffee, do some yoga, listen to a great playlist and then get in the zone.
  • If you're on your own, make use of modern technology. Don’t let yourself feel isolated, which is demotivating. Stay connected with your friends and family, and also with your clients and stakeholders
  • Switch off distractions. You wouldn't check your phone every 5 minutes in the office, so don't at home
  • If someone suggests something and it doesn't work for you, try something else. The more you do things that do work for you, the more you will stay focussed.

How can we work with our clients and adapt to their needs? 

  • Every company is struggling right now - new, old, big, small. No one knows how long this will go on for or what the future implications will be. We need to remind our clients that it won't be this way forever, and what's coming when this is all over will be positive. We will have learned a huge amount, and discovered how adaptable we really are.
  • Freelancers and entrepreneurs should assess the current situation as it relates to their clients/stakeholders - what are they thinking about/struggling with? What can you do to help?
    • Empathising with what your clients are going through is the first step to helping them
    • Adapt to this new reality, be proactive, think about how you can help your clients through their situation
  • Clients might not know what to do, so figure out how you can add value and then tell them. Your collaboration is about how you can be valuable to them. If you have an idea, share it with them.
  • Work outside of your comfort zone - if you need to change the way you do things, change it
  • Are there new things you could be doing or new ways you could be doing them, now that everything has to be digital?
  • Think outside the box: adapt your services and leverage your resources to suit the needs/demands of the time  – how can you be creative about it? What can you do to adapt?
    • eg: laundry services are using their vans to make food deliveries; companies are using their infrastructure to help identify Coronavirus symptoms
  • Use digital platforms to maintain contact with clients and stakeholders. It is so important to communicate and foster relationships via more than just emails

What is one of the biggest challenges freelancers/entrepreneurs are facing right now, and how can they overcome them?

  • With everyone working remotely, one of the biggest challenges is that we lose our human interaction and bonding time, whether with our team members, clients, or family and friends
  • There are numerous digital platforms to help you stay connected - use them! Slack (Filippos' favourite app), Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Houseparty - to name a few
    • Whichever one you use, ALWAYS use the video feature
  • Gather your team, play a game, catchup on what everyone's up to. Take the time to bond and chat about things outside of work.
    • Have virtual coffee and lunch breaks - try and replicate your usual work habits digitally
  • The more collaborative the tools/apps are that you use, the better for everyone – get everyone you’re working with involved too, make sure you're all connected
  • Look at how you can add a collaboration functionality to the existing tools that you’re using/tasks that you’re undertaking
  • Collaboration, visibility, transparency - these are all essential in working together successfully

What's the best way to handle client outreach/onboarding new clients?

  • For existing clients:
    • Use the time to assess how your current clients are doing, and to determine which ones are struggling and need a little more help than usual
    • Maintain transparency and visibility - ask clients how their business is being affected and what they need. The more you understand, the more you can help them
    • Don’t be afraid to take a temporary step back if your clients are too swamped dealing with other things right now. Check in again in a week or two.
  • When leveraging new clients:
    • Re-focus your efforts on building a client pipeline
    • Understand that you might lose some clients in the next couple of months, so assess potential new clients, look at new business opportunities – what businesses are in need, what businesses are hiring, where/how can you help?
  • ALWAYS do client development work - speak to as many people as you can, see how they’re doing, what they need, if you can help
    • Assess all opportunities that come your way
    • Assess if you can take them on, if you can offer them something
  • If you can re-structure your offering to help prospective clients/existing clients in these times according to current needs, don’t be afraid to do it

How can you cultivate clients when you're not going to events and networking in-person?

  • Leverage EVERY digital channel that there is
  • If one sphere fails (eg: events), have an alternative ready, don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  • LinkedIn is one of the best tools for building up a client network and a personal network. Use it to:
    • Offer active advice based on your expertise
    • Offer value through posts about your service
    • Cultivate connections with people
  • Reach out to people in your personal network, ask if they know anyone who is interested in your service/product
  • Video is more important than ever – you can transform what you're doing with video. People are more interested and more engaged than ever, it's a channel everyone can leverage - musicians, artists, sales, even HR. Benefits of video:
    • There's no need for complex setup or software – you have everything you need in your pocket (your smart phone)
    • It's easy to analyse how well it has worked/how well it has been received
    • You can reach more people by offering something digitally rather than in person

What's the best way to keep in touch with your collaborators?

  • There are two types of collaborators:
    • Active – these are people you work with on a daily/weekly basis
      • Add them to you slack channel so that you can regularly communicate
      • Schedule weekly (minimum) video calls - face-to-face communication is vital when you can't meet in person
      • Introduce weekly digital rituals such as team checkins and updates, so that you can  see what they’re up to, they know what you're up to and you can make sure you’re all aligned
    • More distant collaborators – people who you may have worked with on a particular project but don't keep in regular contact with
      • Check in with them, keep in touch, make sure you know what they’re doing, make sure they know what you’re doing
      • Let them know what you can now offer in these new times
  • “Always be connecting”
    • Whenever you meet someone, try and connect them to at least 2/3 people who you know, that they might benefit from in any way, not just work
    • Build a relationship with new contacts - learn how they work, what they’re looking for, what they could benefit from. Show that you understand them and their needs
    • This helps build long-term relationships that are so key to entrepreneurs
  • In this day and age, there are no excuses to not keep up with or connect to someone – we’re all at home with a computer/smart phone, we can all reach out digitally
  • Video/online is the one medium we all have in common right now. Utilise it!

Any tips on how to bridge research and solutions?

  • The constant pressure of delivering solutions without having the time to do enough research is a reality for everyone
  • At the moment everyone is results-focused rather than process-driven
  • Communicate the value of research to your clients/stakeholders, and outline how that leads to solutions - use examples and case studies
  • Demonstrate that lack of research won’t lead to optimal results. Following the right processes and steps is key
  • Over-communicating is vital, without a physical connection, but not to the extent that you become inefficient
    • Update stakeholders, managers and people under you all the time. Tell them what you need to do and why.
    • Take a step back and look at the project as a whole. Go through your research, relate it to the problem, and use it to reach the solution
    • Host an online workshop where you go through the whole problem with everyone, so that they can understand the wider approach to the solution
  • Managers – let employees do the job that you hired them to do. Don’t micromanage just because you're all working remotely. Your team is there for a reason, so trust their expertise - the reason that you hired them in the first place! - and use your time to tackle other priorities.