With the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus beginning to stabilize and, in some areas, actually decline, many jurisdictions are loosening their restrictions. Businesses are given the green light to reopen as long as they follow specific social distancing and sanitation guidelines.
If you are a solopreneur who works from home, like I do as a freelance writer, many of these don’t apply. But there are also some solo business owners who make their living going to their clients’ homes and businesses, offering services there. Plumbers, electricians, and landscapers are a few examples. What can you do to help protect yourself if your craft requires you to typically have face-to-face interaction with your customer base?
Follow Social Distancing Guidelines
Watch a few interviews of health experts and it’s easy to see that they don’t all agree on various aspects of COVID-19. There are different opinions about how long it can last on certain surfaces, how far you must go to clean the items you bring into your home (groceries, mail, etc.), and more. Though, there is one factor that most—if not all—agree on. Staying a safe distance from others is the key to not becoming infected yourself.
Instituting these guidelines in your business model can keep you from contracting the Coronavirus. If you’re unfamiliar with what they are, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares that good social distancing involves:
- Staying at least 6 feet away from others
- Covering your nose and mouth when you can’t stay apart
- Not gathering in groups
Offer Contactless Services
It’s not totally clear just how contagious the Coronavirus is, says the Mayo Clinic, but it does seem to “spread easily among people.” That’s why it is recommended that we no longer shake hands and keep from touching our face with dirty fingers. Reducing this risk in business means offering contactless services.
Many companies are defaulting to this approach in an effort to make consumers feel more comfortable. Grocery stores are shopping for you, asking you to remain in your car at pickup. If you want your items delivered, they’ll leave them safely on your porch so you can bring them in the house after the driver has gone.
Think about ways you can offer this same type of service as a service-based solopreneur. For instance, if you normally do outside home repairs or landscaping, instead of ringing the doorbell and handing the bill directly to your customer, hang it on the front door handle instead.
Share Expectations Up Front
For solopreneurs who need to have at least minimal contact with their customers, such as those who provide in-home repairs and services, contactless service may not make sense. In cases such as these, it’s important to establish your expectations up front.
There are some people who take this virus extremely seriously and follow all of the guidelines as recommended. Some are even being more stringent to better protect their health. There are others who don’t believe that it’s as dangerous or contagious as health experts say or those who aren’t concerned because they don’t fall into the high-risk demographic, which the CDC says includes those who are 65 or older, have underlying medical conditions, or are obese.
Because not every customer has the same thoughts, opinions, and practices related to the Coronavirus, it’s important to be clear about your expectations when providing services. Before you even show up at their home or business, let them know how the service call will go. If you want them to follow social distancing guidelines, tell them via email or by phone.
This enables you to establish the “rules” that make you feel most comfortable, the most safe, while still allowing you to provide your services. Customers who are concerned about this as well will also feel better knowing that you are looking after their health and wellness.
It’s also not a bad idea to reach out to them before your appointment to ask if there are any additional actions they want you to take. This gives them the opportunity to share what makes them the most comfortable, so you can accommodate them in the best way possible.
Provide Flexible Payment Options, If You Can
There are some people who have been told to stay home since the pandemic first began, dramatically reducing if not eliminating their income. This provides them even more angst in these uncertain times.
Having empathy for some clients’ dire financial situation can go a long way. Offering them flexible payment options may also make the difference between them hiring you and giving you work right now or waiting until their situation improves, which can take months.
Options to consider include requiring less money down, extending repayment plans, or providing whatever creative solution you can think of that cuts their expenses until they’re able to get back on their feet financially. Granted, you need to continue to pay your bills too, so it isn’t always an option to do this. But if you can, you may find that being flexible with payments will help reinforce customer loyalty and trust.
The Coronavirus landscape is changing daily. Following these basic guidelines can help you navigate this landscape more safely, better protecting you and your family in the process.