As a fellow small business owner, I know the tough battle you’re probably facing when you can’t operate in-person with your clients. COVID-19 is taking its toll on so many small businesses in our community and I’m making it my mission and my purpose over the next few weeks to encourage you to think outside the box, pivot your business plans, and develop new strategies for serving your clients in a world where social-distancing is the new norm.
If I have learned anything from being an small business owner for over a decade, it’s certainly the following:
I want to encourage you to think outside the box in how you can serve your clients at this time. Don’t be afraid to try something new and use this season as an opportunity to create additional revenue streams that perhaps you weren’t able to build in prior months.
While I know that many of these ideas may not replace the bulk of your income that has been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, I want us to remember that baby steps still move us forward. Taking action, however small, can open the door to new possibilities. We cannot let fear win. We cannot let this virus bankrupt small businesses.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links and I would love if you decided to use them. Affiliate links + referrals programs help educators like me to fund the free content that we provide on our blogs.
For service providers who rely on in-person interactions in order to generate revenue, the first recommendation that I have in this season is to think of ways to productize your business.
If you have a creative talent or a specific skillset, consider finding a way to turn that into a class. This does not mean that you need to teach other aspiring professionals—there are hobbyists and students who are currently looking for online education.
Here is an example: Newly homeschooling parents during COVID-19 are looking for ways to 1) educate their children 2) still support small businesses 3) mix things up from the standard lesson plans being shared by many school districts. Create a class teaching your creative talent (photography, floral arranging, hand lettering) and offer it to your community as an addition to their daily at-home curriculum.
You can sell tickets on something like Eventbrite and host the class live or set it up like a mini-course on a platform like Teachable.
This may be the perfect time to begin creating valuable content for your audience that also acts as an affiliate revenue stream.
Affiliate 101: An affiliate program provides you with a link that contains a tracking code. When a reader clicks on your affiliate link, shops, and makes a purchase—you earn a commission on that item.
Content creators, bloggers, and business owners can incorporate affiliate links into content they are creating to establish passive revenue streams, while also providing value to their audiences.
Important: affiliate content should aim to solve a pain point that your audience is experiencing. Show up to serve, not merely to profit.
The most successful program, by far, is the Amazon Associate program. Why? With the Amazon Associates program, you earn a commission on anything that someone purchases within 24 hours of clicking on your affiliate link. Yes, you read that correctly.
If someone clicks your link and fills up their cart with additional items—you earn a commission on their checkout total (not just the item that you recommended) if they buy within a day.
The Amazon Associates program is completely free to register for and can be setup in a matter of minutes.
A few examples of how I’ve created affiliate revenue content with the Amazon Associate’s program successfully in the past (while educating my target audience at the time—wedding photographers) included What Shoes to Wear to Shoot a Wedding and the Wedding Photography Assistant Essentials. These blog posts are years old and I still receive occasional commissions from them through re-pins on Pinterest and organic search.
How does this apply to you? Let’s say you are a hairstylist. In this instance, consider creating a post linking out to your favorite at home hair remedies for clients to use while they wait to return to your salon. By using Amazon Associates, you will earn a small commission for any products purchased through your content. This mindset can apply to any industry and serve nearly any client pain point.
There are a massive number of other affiliate and referral programs out there. Here is some quick advice if you’re interested in getting started with affiliate revenue.
Find brands that answer both of the follow questions:
I believe that in that intersection, between what your audience needs and what you are proud to recommend, lies the key to choosing the right brands to partner with.
Many brands will have information about their referral or affiliate programs on their websites or within your individual user dashboard. Some, like Flodesk, even provide an Affiliate Success Kit in each user’s account to help make referring easy and provide best practices.
If a brand that you love doesn’t have an affiliate program, consider reaching out directly. Some brands offer referral programs exclusively for users or content creators and don’t advertise them publicly.
A great way to generate cash flow if you need to keep the lights on until your primary business returns is to offer gift cards for a future service. You can create an incentive (10% Off) or simply appeal to your loyal client base on a human level—explain the impact this is having on your business and how you want to create a way for them to continue to support you during this difficult time.
I purchased a gift card from my hair stylist shortly after I heard that Maryland was closing salons. It’s a win for me (prepaying for a service that I will use as soon as this crisis is over) and a win for her (providing cash flow during this slow season).
Photographers: Start selling stock images, presets, and presell future mini sessions. As a photographer myself, I’ve laid out a full list of things you can do to make money now.
Check out the list >>
Makers, creators, and artists: You have all the tools you need to develop kits that guide your customers in creating beautiful artwork themselves! Below are a few examples…
Artists (watercolor, calligraphy, etc): Add beginner’s kits to your online shop to help non-artists get started in learning a new fun skill or hobby! Use what you know and put it online for others to enjoy. You can even make this a digital kit where they can purchase the tutorial and supply list from you. One way to market this would be to go LIVE on Facebook and Instagram to do a mini demo of what they could expect from the course! Then, make sure you have your link ready to sell it to them after.
Florists: Make DIY flower crown kits, bouquet deliveries to spruce up homes, and beginners planting kits (for the person who doesn’t know how to garden). I’ve started to see florists taking this downtime to film themselves while they put together an arrangement and share it on social media. It’s a great stress reliever to watch someone put together a beautiful flower arrangement, and then if you have a link you can share to sell something all the better.
Digital designers: Consider creating downloadable coloring sheets for adults and kids, selling social media templates, or open a product shop with a few fun designs. You can connect to companies like PrintedMint or Printful to avoid self-fulfillment for physical items, otherwise, look into Creative Market or creating your own Shopify store for selling digital goods.
Caterers and restaurant owners: Change up your offerings to include delivery, curbside pickup, and meal kits. Don’t forget to market yourself by getting our stomachs rumbling seeing all the delicious foods you’re whipping up in the kitchen. Set up a live stream while you’re cooking! Additionally, this might be the time to create cooking classes or a course for young people learning how to navigate a kitchen for the first time.
Business coaches, consultants, and marketers: You could also create virtual mastermind groups for business owners who need to regroup and change their original 2020 strategy due to the pandemic. Whatever your clients need—find a way to meet them where they are and serve them virtually.
I hope these suggestions help to spark some ideas for those of you seeking additional revenue streams as you weather this storm.
For some, this is the season to diversify your income portfolio. For others, this is a time to focus on client retention, content creation, and building internal infrastructure. For some, this might simply be the downtime that their hearts were needing in the middle of the hustle.
There is no right or wrong answer for how to navigate the road ahead.
If you’re looking for additional financial support, I highly encourage you check out the Self Employed Unemployment and the Coronavirus Stimulus Package post on the HoneyBook + Rising Tide blog. It includes additional insight into federal relief during the COVID-19 pandemic that you may be eligible for.
And if you haven’t yet checked out the COVID-19 Resource Hub for small business owners, I highly recommend that as well.
I’d love to hear from you! What are you doing to change up your business during this slower time? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
© 2023 Natalie Franke