Bustle UK has switched up its regular money series How I Made It Work, to better reflect the uncertain financial times caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of women who've achieved financial stability discussing the lessons they've learnt, each piece focuses on a woman who has had her financial situation transformed by the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. They'll share what their new normal looks like and how (if at all) they're making it work.
This time, HIMIW hears from Dawn Baxter, a social media and business coach who is juggling running her business and being a mother-of-two with managing a coronavirus support Facebook group. Not being able to access government support, Baxter is doing her best to keep her clients by offering '"pay what you can afford" packages.
What was your working life like before the coronavirus outbreak?
Before the outbreak I had a number of social media management clients that I would meet face-to-face for training and one to ones to work on content creation for their businesses. Luckily, my main business model has been online.
How has the coronavirus outbreak changed your working life?
It has flipped my working life upside down. I’m a mother-of-two so working in my office right now is a difficult thing to achieve. A lot of my clients jumped immediately into a scarcity mindset and cancelled agreements of work and contracts to save money. Others saw the importance of getting online quickly. I was been in nonstop ‘crisis’ meetings with clients [at the start of the outbreak], helping them move their business online quickly and efficiently. My clients aren’t just ‘bricks and mortar’ stores, some are vital to the community and work in private health and social care and need a way to support their people and causes now more than ever. I’ve seen a massive fight or flight response across our entire client list.
Also, at the beginning of the outbreak, I set up a coronavirus support group on Facebook, to help people of the Fylde coast communicate about the disease, boost community spirits, and provide a safe space for discussions. The group has 23,000 members and growing, which takes up a lot of my time while also juggling being a mum, wife and business owner.
How has the coronavirus outbreak changed your financial situation?
My financial situation changed dramatically in one area of the business and in another it increased slightly. The gap is yet to be bridged but I’ve made a conscious effort to support my clients as best as I can with their current financial situation by setting up flexible payments. I’ve chosen not to cut back on my business expenses. I’m still paying all my freelancers and continuing with my business commitments including subscriptions and memberships. I want to be one of the businesses that helped others stay afloat at this time. We lift each other.
Has the government made financial support available to people in your situation?
No, not really – there are several gaps for limited companies as to whether you pay yourself as an employer. If you’re a multi-business owner like myself and in your first five years, there’s often not a lot in the way of pure profit as you invest in building and growing your businesses. Turnover is not counted and therefore many of my clients, like me, managed to fall through the cracks of support that were made available.
Do you feel government measures have been sufficient for people in your industry or situation?
I think the government has done a great job in several areas but missed a few gaping holes. Self-employed and sole traders starting their business or in growth mode will have very little in the way of pure profit as they are so often paying forward the investments that will be fruitful later. It can be very competitive, and jobs are done on very little to begin with so the pot they were looking for is relatively small. Dividends don’t count – over £50,000 a year doesn’t count and there are so many cracks for people who are on zero contracts or self-employed retainer contracts that it missed out a massive number of the general public who do and have paid into the system for their whole lives.
I think that all non-essential non key worker businesses should have been forced to close the way tourism, retail, pubs and restaurants were.
How are you managing the change in financial circumstances?
I’m bringing everything I do online which is somewhat easy for me as most of what I do is online anyway. I’ve been giving my clients more and more support to get them online by creating cost effective packages for those struggling now. For example, I’m running training sessions at a "pay what you can afford" price model.
What would help you feel more secure financially during the coronavirus outbreak?
I think that all non-essential non key worker businesses should have been forced to close the way tourism, retail, pubs, and restaurants were, to ensure full scale furlough not just a half pint measure of enforced closure. I think the self-employed should have been offered a universal wage if you had a valid tax return and allowed you up the £2,500 ceiling rate calculated on turnover. I also think even if this was just for three months it would have been acceptable.
How do you feel the coronavirus outbreak will affect your working life long term?
I think it may affect my business positively. As I’m a digital business coach, this has made people more aware than ever that they need to get online. At this moment in time there are a lot who have already given up on their business while others have come out of this swinging, whilst helping their people and staying at home and saving lives.
Do you think your experiences during the coronavirus outbreak will change your approach to your business or working life?
I think I’ll continue to offer a more charitable side to our business going forward regardless of how the rest of the world snaps back. I’m more aware than ever that some of the most brilliant entrepreneurial minds I know have invested in their people and their businesses to help more people rather than pay themselves a wage and right now they’re the good souls who sadly have lost out on government support.
Do you think your experiences during the coronavirus outbreak will have an impact on your relationship with money, if so, how?
Well, I may pay more attention to savings going forward for sure. A rainy-day fund would have helped a lot of people right about now.