The CE Lockdown Survival Guide

Many of us are under lockdown again, often putting strain on our businesses and our wellbeing. We’re here to help, with a quick guide to surviving and even thriving during this challenging time.

1. Be kind (mainly to yourself)

First off, the last year has been tough for many of us, and for our businesses. When CE spoke to Creative Women International founder Philiy Page and YSM8 founder Poonam Dhuffer about goals for 2021, it was notable that both talked about self-compassion. Transformational leadership expert Gillian Davis also talks about self-care in her new Masterclass (CE members only). In tough times, we need to be kind to ourselves, and – as Philiy put it – give ourselves ‘the best friend treatment’, rather than being overly self-critical at a time when many things are out of our control. Self-compassion will also help us to be kinder to others who have had a tough year – and build meaningful connections that will help in the longer term.

2. Get on top of your finances

For many, this has been a must, as revenue streams have been hit. But this period might also be a chance to really look into your finances and find efficiencies. That might be as simple as really focusing on your tax return (for those that are close to the deadline at the end of January) or, if you’re self-employed, making sure you’ve applied for the third Covid support grant. Or looking at whether you need an accountant or can work with apps like QuickBooks, FreshBooks or Xero. For bigger businesses, we’ve got a Masterclass coming up on this very subject with Lloyd Gunton, an accountant who specialises in the creative industries. Watch this space…

3. Find your pivot

For small businesses, 2020 was the year of the pivot and the side hustle – as entrepreneurs scrambled to find new revenue streams, reach new audiences and take offline businesses online. That’ll be true in 2021, too, and the challenge will be to turn our pivots into sustainable strands of our businesses when things return to ‘normal’. As Nicolas Roope, the pioneering digital and product designer, puts it: ‘Events like Covid lockdown can actually be really positive, in terms of shaking people out of their ways of thinking.’ This is also a good time to look into your skills cupboard, and see what else you could be offering the world, whether that means masterclasses or paid posts – there might be more than you think.

4. DIY your branding and PR

This is a time for saving money and learning new skills – and upping your marketing and branding game, especially on social media, could have major benefits for your business. Lucy Werner set up her agency, The Wern, because she felt that many startups weren’t properly served by traditional and often expensive PR agencies. But she also advocates that small brands do their own branding and PR, which involves ‘getting a PhD in your audience’. Along with The Wern’s creative director Hadrien Chatelet, she explains all in a brilliant Masterclass on personal branding and PR, available to Creative Entrepreneurs members.

5. Set realistic (and accountable) goals

Setting the right goals as a freelancer or small business is a surprisingly difficult task. Set them too low and you don’t progress fast enough; but too high, and you’ll feel like your business is failing. Many people overestimate what they can do in a day, but underestimate what’s achievable in a month or a year. A lot of it is about breaking goals down into manageable chunks, or building SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. The other big thing with goals is accountability, ideally to someone outside. Creative Entrepreneurs members can be set up with Accountability Partners, who can talk through your goals with you, and help you meet them.

6. Stay in touch with the world

With many of us at home at the moment, it can be easy to lose touch with the world and stop speaking – to colleagues, customers and other entrepreneurs. Finding a way to network and connect with others right now is likely to be beneficial for your business and your mental wellbeing. Digital events aren’t quite the same, but they’ll help you feel connected (see our list of upcoming Zoom Dives), as will taking time to talk to someone external about your business. Social media can help, too, if done right – just beware obsessing over what other people are, or seem to be, achieving.

7. Get your WFH routine right

This can be an intimidating one, with entrepreneurs often saying in interviews that they’re up at five, and have run a half-marathon and eaten egg whites and a spirulina smoothie before their first meeting. That obviously isn’t everyone, and it doesn’t need to be you – but having a consistent WFH routine will help your productivity. Waking and starting at a consistent time can help, as can mimicking aspects of working in an office – doing a headspace-clearing ‘commute’ walk at the beginning and end of the day, and if possible keeping your working and living spaces separate. It’s also important to build pleasure to your daily routine. Reward yourself for hitting daily goals, and try to take time to celebrate even small wins. In offices, we’re often driven by feedback and affirmation, and it helps to recognise when we’ve achieved something.

8. Give your digital life a spring clean

With less time in meetings and external physical spaces, many of our working lives are now happening through the prism of a single screen. It’s worth taking the time to make that a reasonably pleasant space to be. Things like having a clean desktop, with a screensaver that evokes something happy, and a well-organised inbox will help, as will getting your personal systems right, from diary management to work apps. In a time when the Zoom meetings tend to come thick and fast, being on top of your digital space will help.

9. Find your creativity

With less external stimulation that many of us are used to, it can be easy to lose your creative mojo – both in terms of work, and finding good business solutions. Many creative entrepreneurs have reported that switching off from their main pursuit has been helpful – whether that means baking, woodworking, knitting or whatever. ‘If I’m feeling stumped creatively, I try and disassociate myself from things for a while,’ says photographer and CE member Emily Stein, known for her brightly iconographic photography. ‘I look at paintings, old animations, architecture – things far away from my work, but that make me feel excited and more creatively energised.’

10. Remember: nothing is forever

Just as a year ago, our current situation was unthinkable, it’s important to remember that things won’t be like this forever. At some point, we’ll be free again to shop, eat, travel and work in offices, even if all of these things will be changed to a certain degree. But if you’ve found ways to survive the past year, we think there’ll be better times ahead in what might just be the new Roaring Twenties. So hang in there – hustling, maximising your potential but being kind to yourself – and you and your business might just come out of this thing stronger and more resilient than ever.