March 2020 was going to be a big month. I was going to cross-something off my bucket list, be inspired, learn new stuff, meet new people, create new content and a whole lot more. We purchased tickets for SXSW in August 2019, and were all set to head to this huge interactive festival in Austin, Texas. It was a big business investment.
Towards the end of February some big speakers and organisations started to withdraw their presence at the event. SXSW reinforced that everything was going ahead… until 9.30pm (UK), Friday 6th March, when the City of Austin announced the event could not take place.
A weekend of some sulking, and online research allowed us to create a new plan. We could defer our SXSW tickets and cancel our Austin hotel, but we couldn’t change flights. So, we would fly to Austin, spend 24 hours in the city, and then take a 2 hour internal flight to Miami Beach! Now it looked like we going to have a real holiday, rather than a working holiday. Something I don’t think I’ve done since starting my business in 2011.
On the morning of our flight from Heathrow to Austin, it was announced that US/EU flights were restricted. The UK was still OK, so we set off. Watching the news from afar, re-assuring friends that we were completely fine on a beach was all good. Then Miami started to shut-down and our flight home was cancelled.
The customer service we received throughout our trip, from the hotel keeping us informed, to British Airways changing our flights to ensure that we could travel back early was amazing. It’s now been over 14 days since our busy flight, and we’re pleased not to be experiencing any virus symptoms.
The UK we returned to after ten days, was very different. Luckily I had pre-booked a food delivery for our return, and I’m a bit of a hoarder so we had plenty of supplies in the cupboard – from toilet rolls to pink hair dye! We live in a remote location in the Cotswolds, so I’ve always been ready if we were to get snowed in.
Always travelling with a laptop, and staying connected, I was able to keep in touch with all clients and contacts during my trip. Two imminent training events were moved online, without problem. My diary was full of activity for my return – I was confident I would be OK.
Three days after our return the UK was asked to lockdown.
Jetlag hit and with Sky News on repeat, I cried. I realised that the world was not going to be the same, and I could not do anything about it (apart from stay home and stay safe).
All of the events I was due to speak at in May and June got quickly postponed.
My husband – a photographer – could no longer carry out his main business activity. We share a home office, but needed to make some changes – as we’re not often at our desks at the same time. My ‘new normal’ was more conversations than ever. More phone calls, more video conferencing, and delivering training from my own office rather than a classroom or travelling to a hosting organisation. His new normal was to re-locate to a different room so that I could keep my concentration. We also had to cancel his son’s weekend visits.
During the first week of lockdown I spoke to IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed). I am an ambassador and regularly host webinars for members, and non-members. We agreed to host two new webinars the following week on the topic of ‘how to adapt your social media activity in times of uncertainty’.
Writing the webinar was an emotional rollercoaster. As an information junkie I was reading everything on the topic. I wasn’t sure if it was helping how I felt. As a business owner I was struggling to understand what support might / might not be available to us. As a self-employed business owner my husband was going to be OK for government support, although not until June. As a director of a limited business I’m not currently able to receive any support, and furloughing is not an option…. I must keep going!
And writing and delivering the webinar did help me put my practical head back on… and from all the lovely feedback I received it appears it helped lots of other people too. If you missed it, you can watch a recording, here.
One of the key pieces of advice I shared in the webinar is to stay visible; more than ever. I knew it was time to really follow my own advice and you may have noticed an increase in my activity – on my Facebook Page, and on Instagram in particular. I’m taking more photos than usual to ‘show and tell’ people what I’m doing and what I’m working on (it does help that my husband is a photographer!)
I’m a long-term planner so I have a number of projects in progress, but like everyone else I do not yet know what the long-term implications for my business will be. I always have notes on what I would like to do so I’ve changed some of the timings for activities I can do more easily during lockdown.
As these times are so extraordinary I wanted to document how I’m adapting my business at this time. As an aide memoire for me, but also to share my business journey with you.
So what else have I done so far?
- Switched off some automation I have in place for posting evergreen blogs to my Facebook Page and Twitter Profile.
- Re-visited the agendas of my face-to-face training courses, to aid any discussions to move courses online.
- Reviewed my content inventory to see what I already have that’s suitable for sharing right now, and what I have that can be re-purposed. This includes the LinkedIn Learning courses that I’m currently making free to watch by sharing on my LinkedIn profile and setting up a Kindle offer (now ended) to promote the electronic version of my book.
- Set up a new website page to offer 121 remote support to those experiencing bigger marketing and social media challenges than usual.
I’ll keep updating this blog, so please do come back and have another look.
I’d also love to hear how you have adapted your business; you can email me, here.