How COVID-19 Affects the Design Industry

March 30, 2020
[rt_reading_time label="" postfix="min read"]

The COVID-19 bug sweeping the world at the moment has changed life as we know it, grinding both personal lives and businesses to a halt. The design industry has been impacted just like every other sector out there. In response, President Trump announced a set of guidelines called “15 Days to Slow the Spread“. There is a PDF copy on the White House website, and mailers were sent to all American households.

What followed was a bevy of states instituting their own stay-at-home guidelines. Essential businesses, such as hospitals, grocery stores and hardware stores, could remain open. Restaurants could no longer have people dine inside, but could do curb-side pickup or delivery. Business as the world knew it changed in a heartbeat. Since many designers work for smaller firms or as self-contractors, anything that affects companies trickles down to them.

If you’re in the design industry, you may feel unsure about what to do next. You aren’t alone. Here are eight ways COVID-19 is affecting the design industry and what you can do to get through this trying time.

1. Worrying About Clients

The situation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak is stressful for everyone, and people handle stress in different ways. The CDC mentions some of the stress you might be dealing with, such as:

  • Concerns about your health and the health of those you care about.
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.

Many designers worry about their favourite clients and how they’re coping in the current atmosphere. As a designer, you get to communicate regularly with small-business owners. You know their hopes and dreams and understand what frightens them. It’s easy to take all that concern and stress out over how your customers might cope with the loss of business for a two-week or longer period.

Solution: Phone your clients and check in with them. Ask them if they are healthy and if there is anything you can do to help. Listen to their concerns. Once you’ve done something, you’ll be less likely to spend sleepless nights worrying.

2. Fearing Lost Work

Since many of the people who hire you or your agency may struggle to keep their businesses afloat, you may have valid concerns about losing work or even your job. There is no doubt that organisations already struggling may have a hard time surviving the hit. Fortunately, there is relief available, such as through small-business loans and a package from Congress that may help firms.

Business Insider reports that natural disasters cause 40% of small businesses to fail. One could classify COVID-19 as a natural disaster. Thankfully, help is on the way in the form of grants, loans and people in local communities doing their best to support small establishments.

Solution: Share information with your clients about where to find relief. You can’t control who does and doesn’t go out of business, but you can continue to do your part by helping them come up with creative solutions. Keep your marketing efforts up where it makes sense, so you gain new clients in industries doing well right now, such as grocery stores.

3. Lacking Focus

During any type of national situation, you may find yourself having trouble focusing on anything but events unfolding. People often have difficulty working, especially if it requires deep thinking and attention to detail, such as with design work.

A few things you can do to help with focus, include:

  • Turn off the news during work hours. Creatives often like noise in the background while working. However, it might distract you if it is about infection counts.
  • Divide larger projects into smaller pieces. You might find it easier to focus on a small job, take a short hiatus and then go to the next task on your list.
  • Take a walk. If you still can’t focus, take a short respite and go for a walk. Try to think through the project as you’re walking, so you can return with fresh ideas.

Solution: Give yourself a break. It’s natural to be worried about your health, loved ones and the country at this time. You may need to take more frequent rests and invest in self-care.

4. Learning New Skills

COVID-19 forced many people to work remotely, who might typically go to an office. Use the time to learn new skills, such as how to utilise Zoom or Skype for meetings. Figure out customer relationship management (CRM) software. Automate the processes you can, so when life returns to normal, you’ve gained some productivity from the experience. If you were planning to attend an educational conference that was canceled by the COVID-19 crisis, start looking for future alternatives.

Solution: You likely have more time outside of work hours. Pick up a hobby you always wanted to learn or study a new language you might use in the future with clients.

5. Figuring Out a Budget

We aren’t going to lie to you: You might lose a few clients during this time. Your income may reduce for a bit. Now is a great time to figure out a budget for your business and personal life.

Start by making a list of fixed expenses. Then, look at records from past months to figure out how much you’re spending on things like eating out and entertainment. Where can you cut corners if money gets a little tight?

Solution: Create a budget. Add a side hustle in an industry not affected, such as food delivery or health care.

6. Creating Payment Plans

Some of your clients with small companies deemed nonessential may be drastically impacted by the shutdown. You may be in a position to help them stay afloat by offering payment plans for your services. Perhaps they need to continue marketing efforts but worry about how they’ll afford your services.

Solution: Offer payments for clients who might be struggling. You might keep a client or help them stay in business.

7. Filling Work Gaps

You may find you have less work than normal, especially if you are a freelancer. Figure out creative ways to fill in gaps in your workday. You might decide to take up a new hobby and sell items at local craft fairs. Offer your services at sites such as Fivver. Get a temporary part-time job.

Solution: Fill in gaps in your work with side gigs that keep money coming in. It’s good to have multiple streams of income anyway.

8. Dealing With Cabin Fever

Even if you’re used to working alone, you likely had more contact with people than in the last couple of weeks. Being relegated to your home office without seeing family or friends makes the days run together and can lead to cabin fever.

Some things you can do safely while we’re all social distancing include:

  • Go for a walk, but keep at least 6 feet of distance between you and any other people you encounter.
  • Get outside and plant some vegetables or flowers.
  • Take a drive in your car and look at the beautiful scenery.
  • Talk to a neighbour from across the yard.

Solution: The days might all seem the same, so look for unique ways to stay in touch with co-workers and clients. Arrange video conferences or online chats once a week or so. Facetime family and friends.

This Too Shall Pass

The design industry has dealt with other challenges over the years. Sept. 11 created a market crash and resulted in many small businesses suffering. The crippled economy impacted designers in similar ways as the coronavirus outbreak is now.
Even though you might currently feel stressed, know that this situation will pass. Firms will rebound, and life will return to normal. In the meantime, take as many proactive steps as you can to get through the challenging times.