Another year and another catastrophic disaster is on the horizon that threatens to rid our world of Baby Boomers and... toilet paper!? Alas, when the world turns in to a dirty, smelly version of Logan's Run - small businesses will still need to peddle their wares in BarterTown or at least fight in the Thunderdome.
The COVID-19 virus has effected the global economy and as a local, freelance entity, it has presented both challenges and opportunities. Luckily, my workday starts two levels down from where it ends. My small operation is a self-contained digital cubicle in my basement where my only peers are a house plant and a 1/16 scale replica of Darth Vader. Sure, it can get lonely at times, but you should hear the off-coloured jokes that Vader tells after his 3rd cup of coffee. Talk about a "dark side"....
Thanks to friends, former colleagues and referrals, my clients are mostly based in other states. The wonders of the modern age allow our relationships and communications to transcend the day-to-day hobknobbing and get down to brass-tacks through emails and the occasional phone call. Without remote access to their work and scheduling, my business would disappear faster then the hand sanitizer at Walmart. In the past few days, I have spoken to a few of my clients about their needs while our great state of Maryland goes into a quarantine. Some of my global partnerships are straining with the overseas travel ban while others suffer more directly with their clients personal absence.
Being stagnant during this time is harmful, but limiting the risks accociated with this crisis can still be profitable and personal. Some local businesses in my area of Harford County, Maryland have faced these challenges with some unique and personal ideas. A niche gift shop, "The Nest on Main", has expanded their social media presence and is offering to let their clients choose and pay for items online and have a member of their staff hand deliver it to their car. Businesses that rely on memberships, like Yoga Centric, are adding classes while lowering class capacity to limit the amount of exposure their "yogis" have with each other.
One of my clients, Aspire Wellness Center, is probably bearing the most hardships. As a mental health facility in Baltimore County, they are considered "ground zero" for the virus to spread. On an average they see up to 400 clients per week. They have a large waiting room and multiple offices for therapists, nurse practitioners, doctors and administrative staff. As a state medical facility, they have strict health guidelines and routine inspections. Their offices are clean, safe and present no threat of contracting most common contagions. However, with the hype and severity surrounding COVID-19, they are in danger of losing clients. Not only does this present a loss of income, but it directly effects people that need immediate and long-term mental care.
Over the past few days, I have worked with the leadership at Aspire to implement and execute a new program. The Aspire Teletherapy and Telepsychiatric Program rolled out this afternoon which allows the therapists and staff to engage with their clients over phone and video. Thanks to Governor Larry Hogan, mental health facilities like Aspire can now bill for their sessions as a normal office visit. Not only does this act allow Aspire to employ their staff and serve their clients, it allows flexibility to their services. Now, a client that suffers from anxiety can log on to their website, fill out a consent form and get the care they need without stepping outside and exposing themselves to potential illness.
During this time of fear and uncertainly, it is critical for small businesses to adapt to a more digital, more secure marketplace. It is also a time to be a good neighbour and look to your local graphic designers to assist you in creating a web presence that can reach new prospects with digital assets and marketing. With their experience and guidance, they can share options and new avenues of references to get your business back in the game.
Although my business runs smoothly in isolation I always enjoy talking to new businesses and making new friends. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.