With coronavirus impacting many small businesses, many have been asking about what’s available in terms of self employed unemployment benefits and small business relief. As part of the Senate’s $2T coronavirus stimulus bill passed on March 25, 2020, unemployment benefits are being extended to all workers including freelancers, gig-economy workers, and other independent contractors. For small business owners, emergency grants of up to $10,000, a Paycheck Protection Program (100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses), and a payroll tax credit to help retain employees are available.

CARES Act Aid Comparison Chart (PPP vs EIDL vs Unemployment for Self Employed) for Small Businesses

As we’ve heard how challenging it can be to fully understand what’s included in each CARES Act relief option that applies to small businesses, we put together a comparison chart summarizing PPP loan for self employed vs EIDL vs Unemployment for Self Employed Individuals and the differences between them. To view the chart below, click here.

Cares Act Loan Chart

CARES ACT Aid Comparison Chart for Small Businesses

Self Employed Unemployment

If you are unemployed, laid off, or a freelancer (sole-proprietor or single-member LLC) out of work, here’s what’s new:

  • Eligibility for unemployment insurance extended for all workers, not just full-time employees.
  • The federal government will provide an extra $600 per week for up to 4 months on top of your state’s current state unemployment benefits.
  • State unemployment benefits range from $200 to $550 per week on average and collected between 12 and 28 weeks.

For additional information, check out the FAQ below.

Is the coronavirus stimulus package finalized?

Yes. Both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed the plan and Donald Trump has signed the bill as of Friday, March 27.

Can you get unemployment if you are self employed?

Self-employed and part-time workers are not usually eligible for unemployment benefits. However, the new bill extends unemployment to self employed people and part-time workers. Self-employed people include gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors. Basically, those who cannot work due to coronavirus-related reasons would be more likely to qualify for benefits.

Who is eligible?

Under the new plan, you would be eligible if you meet any of the example conditions below:

  • You are self employed or part time and lost work due to a coronavirus reason
  • You received a COVID-19 diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms, seeking a diagnosis or caring for a member of your family/household who received a diagnosis AND you’re unemployed, partly unemployed or cannot work as a result
  • You rely on a facility, daycare or school to care for a child or other family member so you can work, and that facility has closed due to coronavirus
  • You must self-quarantine on the advice of a healthcare provider because of exposure to coronavirus
  • You are unable to get to work because of an imposed quarantine
  • You were about to start a new job but can’t get there now because of an outbreak
  • You were immediately laid off from a job and don’t have enough work history to qualify for benefits under normal conditions
  • You are unemployed, partly unemployed or unable to work because your employer shut down your workplace

Who is not included in the bill?

  • Workers who are able to work from home (Note: This seems to reference corporate workers and not self-employed or part-time workers who work from home.)
  • Those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave
  • New entrants to the work force who cannot find jobs
  • People who quit (or want to quit) because they are afraid of being at greater risk of contracting coronavirus if they continue to work (However, if you had to quit because of a healthcare provider-recommended quarantine, or something similar, you would be eligible.)

How much would you get?

How much you get depends on which state you live in and would be calculated based on your previous income. Additionally, eligible workers would get an extra $600 per week from the federal government on top of their state’s weekly benefit.

So for example, the weekly benefit in California is a maximum of $450. With the additional $600 from the federal government, eligible Californians could receive self employed unemployment benefits up to $1050 each week. States can send the payment in two separate amounts or in one payment, but it must be paid weekly.

How long would benefits last?

This also varies by state. Most states provide benefits for 26 weeks, although some provide benefits for less. The new bill adds an additional 13 weeks for all eligible workers. 39 weeks is the maximum time eligible workers can receive benefits, but this may be less depending on the state.

The extra $600 payment would last for up to four months and cover weeks of unemployment ending July 31.

How long would the self employed unemployment program last?

The extended program would be open to workers who were newly eligible for unemployment benefits starting Jan. 27, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.

How do I apply?

Unemployment benefits will be administered by your state’s unemployment offices. To Apply, find your state here and click on the link to apply with your state’s office. Or for more information about filing for self employed unemployment benefits, check this unemployment benefits finder.

Please note: According to careeronestop.org, “States are in the process of implementing these new rules and may not have updated information immediately. If you are out of work or have had your hours reduced you should continue to follow your state’s guidelines for filing for unemployment. Many states are experiencing extensive traffic and ask filers to be patient and persistent.”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Coronavirus Stimulus Package Relief

If you are a small business owner, here’s what’s new:

  • Emergency grants of up to $10,000 as part of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP loan for self employed individuals and small businesses)
  • A payroll tax credit to help retain employees

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (Includes emergency grant up to $10K)

Small businesses may apply directly to the federal Small Business Administration to receive an economic injury disaster loan that may include a grant of up to $10,000 that does not need to be paid back. The money would be paid out to business owners within three days of their application’s submission. It can be used to maintain payroll, cover paid sick leave and service other debt obligations.

Update as of 4/9/2020
The amount of the grant depends upon number of employees in your business. In an email received from the SBA on April 9, they say, “To ensure that the greatest number of applicants can receive assistance during this challenging time, the amount of your Advance will be determined by the number of your pre-disaster (i.e., as of January 31, 2020) employees. The Advance will provide $1,000 per employee up to a maximum of $10,000.”

How to apply? 

Apply online here.

Coronavirus Stimulus package

Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPP loan for self employed individuals and small businesses)

As part of the Senate bill, $350B is being designated for small business loans (an initiative known as the Paycheck Protection Program) that may be granted and partially forgiven if borrowers maintain their payroll during the crisis, restore it afterwards, or spend their loan money on rent for a leasing agreement or paying utilities, among other things.

Should I apply for PPP?

If you don’t know whether you should apply for PPP, please check the comparison chart of eligibility and benefits for PPP vs. Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) vs. Unemployment and the differences between these options.

Note that we believe you cannot apply for both unemployment and PPP. PPP is used to pay payroll, and if you’re on unemployment you’re saying you’re not on payroll (this would apply to both companies and sole proprietors). Because of this, you may want to calculate how much you would receive from Unemployment and compare that to how much you would receive (and that would be forgiven) in a PPP loan, and apply to the program that provides the greater benefit.

How to apply for PPP loan for self employed individuals and small business?

These new loans will be available through over 800 lending institutions approved by the Small Business Administration. Apply for the Paycheck Protection Loan directly through your local lending institution. Find participating lenders at http://www.sba.gov/.

Here’s the Paycheck Protection Program application provided by the U.S. Treasury.

When to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program?

Small businesses and sole proprietors can apply starting April 3. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply starting April 10. Because there is a limit to how much aid is available, be sure to apply quickly.

Who is eligible?

You are eligible if you are one of the following:

  • An individual who operates as a sole proprietor
  • An individual who operates as an independent contractor
  • A small business with fewer than 500 employees
  • A small business that otherwise meets the SBA’s size standard
  • A 501(c)(3) with fewer than 500 employees
  • An individual who is self-employed who regularly carries on any trade or business
  • A Tribal business concern that meets the SBA size standard
  • A 501(c)(19) Veterans Organization that meets the SBA size standard

What will lenders look for?

Lenders will be checking for the following requirements:

  • Your business was in operation before February 15, 2020 and had employees for whom you paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors (including yourself)
  • Good faith certification that states
    • The loan is a necessity due to the uncertainty of current economic conditions
    • You will use the loan to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage, lease and utility payments
    • You do not have a pending application for a loan of the same amount or purpose as the PPP loan
    • You have not received a loan for the same amount or purpose as the PPP loan from February 15, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
  • For independent contractors, sole proprietors, or self-employed individuals, you will be asked to provide:
    • payroll tax filings
    • Forms 1099-MISC
    • and income and expenses from the sole proprietorship
    • See below for additional details.

What forms are required for the PPP application process?

  • Payroll summary report for last 12 months
  • IRS Form 940 & 941 (payroll tax forms)
  • 2019 business tax returns (or 2018 return if 2019 is not yet filed)
  • 2019 year-end financials (if tax return is not prepared)
  • Statement of payroll benefits offered to employees
  • Evidence of payroll taxes, insurance premiums and benefits paid
  • Driver’s licenses for all owners with 20% or greater ownership stake
  • Entity formation documents:
    • Articles of Incorporation (or Articles of Organization)
    • Bylaws and Operating Agreement
    • Tax ID Number (Employer Identification Number)
    • Board of Directors Minutes (if applicable)
    • Ownership Verification (if applicable)

How much can I borrow through a PPP loan for self employed people and small businesses?

  • Loans may be approved for up to 2.5x of your average monthly payroll up to $10 million
  • For sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals, your payroll equals the sum of payments of any compensation or income you received that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, and that is in an amount that is not more than $100,000 in one year, as pro-rated for the covered period
    • For example, if you make $100,000 in a year, your average monthly payroll to yourself would be $8,333. 2.5 x 8333=20,833. Your loan amount would be $20,833.
  • For more detail on how payroll costs are calculated and defined, see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist
  • Additionally, businesses who qualify for the $10,000 grant will see the amount of their loan forgiveness reduced by the amount of their grant

How much will be forgiven?

Part of your PPP loan is eligible to be forgiven. The forgiven amount equals how much you spend on the following items in the 8-week period after the loan origination date:

  • Payroll costs (using the same definition of payroll costs used to determine loan eligibility)
  • Interest on the mortgage obligation incurred in the ordinary course of business
  • Rent on a leasing agreement
  • Payments on utilities (electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone, or internet)
  • For borrowers with tipped employees, additional wages paid to those employees

Any part of the loan that is not forgiven will have a 1% interest rate.

When will the loan be forgiven?

The loan will be forgiven at the end of the 8-week period after your loan is funded.

Can you refinance EIDL into a PPP loan/grant?

Yes, as long as you do not duplicate the purposes for the funding and subtract other EIDL grant awards, you can refinance for loan forgiveness purposes.

For more detail

Check out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist.

Coronavirus Stimulus Package

A payroll tax credit to help retain employees

Businesses that have experienced a 50% drop in gross receipts relative to the same quarter last year may qualify for a payroll tax credit worth up to $10,000 per employee so long as they are still paying their employees wages and/or health benefits.

To read the entire coronavirus stimulus bill, go here for the full text of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.


This article was originally published on Honeybook.com

About the Author:

More than a CRM, HoneyBook is a proactive platform for creative small businesses to create, review, and manage—all in one place. From first reply to final payment, HoneyBook makes it easy for solopreneurs to book their ideal client faster, more frequently, and with less legwork.

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Featured Image Credits: Pixabay


You May Also Like: Small Business Survival Guide to Combat COVID-19

Right now, every single country is wondering where the world economy will stand in the upcoming months. Families are worried about their loved ones, whether they will make it through the deadly COVID-19 or not. There are numerous possible outcomes of this novel virus that keep spreading further. How the society and governments respond to the coronavirus will pave the way for the fluctuations in the world economy.

One cannot wipe off the image of recession, unemployment, and the rise of patients infected by the COVID-19. News is all about the spread of this virus and how things are getting worse day by day. The main focus is given to the rising number of patients, the global economic crisis, and the rapid decline in productivity. This global dynamic has given a new perspective to everyone –how the world can turn upside down within a matter of days. Keeping this in mind, let’s ponder upon the global side effects of the COVID-19 on the world economy.

The Global Impact:

In the past few weeks, the global economy went through several ups and downs. Due to the COVID-19, financial markets have been at the brink of collapse and industries are now super vulnerable. Since the industry of tourism and travel make up 10% of the total GDP worldwide, almost 50 million jobs can be lost easily. Small to medium enterprises are facing the consequences of the virus outbreak as well, with many people living at God’s mercy.

People who are paid well by their organizations cannot really relate much to the sufferings of SMEs employees. Many states have already announced relief packages for unemployed people, guaranteeing monthly wages to them. Regardless of the current plans in action, economic measures introduced by the governments are not suitable for everyone.

Hand Disincetion

Image Credits

What about the Future?

Well, a fixed pattern can be noticed by various economists which are known as the ‘domino effect’. Factors like financial markets, health systems, employment rates, and world trade getting close down have a significant impact on the economy. Due to the closure or slow growth of economic activities, everything else is getting affected one way or another. What future holds for the human race is still unpredictable, causing fear across the globe. Economic markets are declining at an alarming rate, with a 20% decline recorded in the 52-week turnover. The S&P 500 index decreased over 7% within March, which later postponed trading worldwide. This ‘circuit breaker’ change recorded in the trading index happened for the very first time since the year 1997.

Interest rates have severely decreased, with a lower cost of borrowing in the U.S. government. This is something that will directly hit the liquidity position of the private companies, with little to no benefit to any of these profit-centered firms. The uncertainty of the world economy due to COVID-19 will keep rising, giving birth to deadly outcomes on a mass level. The relationship between the virus and the economy is a direct one. The longer this disease stays in the air, the more time it will take for the economy to get back on track.

By considering the economic viewpoint, we can deduce four future outcomes of this deadly disease:
• People will spiral into insanity over time.
• The state of capitalism will flourish.
• Society’s transformation into a place never seen before.
• The world’s reliance on socialism.

These outcomes may not have a high probability of succession, but relevant desirable outcomes can be expected.

From the Human Perspective:

So far we have learned how to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, with less human interaction daily. By doing so, non-essential activities will be reduced, as humans now leave their houses only when necessary. Such a conscious measure will keep the virus intact and climate change will occur as well. The emission rate of greenhouse gases has decreased, further preventing the virus from spreading around the world.

In Wuhan, immediate lockdown and social distancing tactics were proven to be effective. Now, China is back in business, with rapid production taking place daily. Indeed, the pressure is building up globally, but we can learn from China and do the needed.

As of now, there is a serious threat of facing a recession in the future. This can only be tackled through efficiently decreasing the coronavirus cases globally. No doubt, every other business wants to generate higher rates of profits, but they are unable to do so in such a global crisis. As mentioned earlier, the domino effect will take place and people are already aware of it.

Moreover, it has been suggested in a recent study that lifting up lockdown in Wuhan too early will cause another COVID-19 crisis within the next months. Countries need to understand the deeper impact of this disease, training people to become resilient towards such pandemics. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, nobody was prepared for the worst-case scenario which severely affected the global economy. Besides the financial loss, there is an ongoing loss of precious lives that cannot go unnoticed.

What to do now?

Due to the frightening future ramifications of COVID-19, some essential plans will be needed to act upon.
• Firstly, health measures should be improved, with greater emphasis given to the safety of health professionals and patients.
• Local communities will be needing our support as well, with the financial backing of small enterprises.
• Sufficient allocation of funds to the Research department, with frequent updates from scientists working on finding a cure.
• Encouraging philanthropists to donate as much as possible.
• Making everyone prepared for the unexpected, just like the COVID-19 outbreak.
• Increasing the warehouses in countries, with higher distribution capacity to cover the underprivileged areas.
• Rigid policies about social distancing and closure of public places.

With so much going on, many countries are already trying to make amends to beat the pandemic. For instance, South Korea, Italy, and Japan announcing effective fiscal measures to reclaim their position in the financial sector. On the other hand, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will be updating their monetary policies as well. Through doing the necessary, the coronavirus will be easier to control, with adequate spending done to get back in the business.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Congress passes relief bill

By now, you’ve heard about the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is spreading across the globe. As of March 18, 2020, all 50 states are reporting cases of the virus. The total count in the US has reached 5,881 confirmed cases and 107 deaths (source NYTimes). (Up-to-date COVID-19 Tracker)

With city-wide shutdowns, people are spending and earning less, businesses are suffering and it looks like we’re headed towards an economic recession.

Congress just passed the Coronavirus Relief Bill to support citizens and the economy with overwhelming bipartisan support on March 18, 2020. President Trump signed it that night.

What’s included in the bill?

  • Pays for coronavirus testing
  • Requires paid sick leave for those affected
  • Helps businesses pay for sick leave
  • Strengthens unemployment insurance benefits for those fired or have hours reduced
  • Helps low-income families afford food

What’s next?

The bill passed Congress and has been signed into law by President Trump. Trump requested a separate and huuuuuge (like $1 trillion) stimulus package and things like immediate relief in the form of $1,000 checks for all citizens (s/o to Andrew Yang) and bailouts for industries impacted like airlines. That’s what’s coming in part 3.

Recap:

  • Part 1: $8.3 billion to fund spurring coronavirus vaccine research and development (passed March 6)
  • Part 2: $100 billion largely focused on paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families (passed March 18)
  • Part 3: $750 billion – $1 trillion to prevent a recession (being drafted). This would be larger than the $700 billion economic relief bill passed during the 2008 recession.

What’s the Post-partisan take?

It’s a scary and trying time as information and the world around us seem to change daily. And while we’re in a state of uncertainty, we’re also looking for glimmers of hope. Congress passing a bill with such overwhelming bipartisan support? A huge glimmer. President Trump demanding relief by putting cash in the hands of struggling Americans, with Democrats supporting the demand? Triple huge glimmer.

We’re seeing small examples of what we can happen when we put down political loyalty and pick up protecting the wellbeing of all Americans first. Now imagine if this was how we operated all the time. That’s the post-partisan world we’re fighting to create.

What Does the Coronavirus Bill Mean for Me?

If you get sick…

  • The government will pay for the test confirming you’re sick.
  • Your health insurance (or lack of) determines how much the rest of your care cost.
  • The government will pay your company to pay you for sick leave – if you work at a company between 50 and 500 people
  • If you are told to quarantine the government will cover part of your loss of income

If you get laid off because of coronavirus…

If you are an hourly worker and your hours get cut…


This article was originally published on Changeroots.com

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

The novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, and that was first detected in China, has now been detected in 60+ locations internationally, including in the United States. In response, some Americans are cancelling and/or limiting both domestic travel and travel to outbreak hotspots (including Italy, China, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong) and preparing for what might happen if the virus becomes widespread.

For freelancers and small businesses, especially those in the events industry, this may mean an uptick in rescheduled/cancelled events and/or a decline in business due to community-based interventions and general fear, uncertainty and doubt among many people.

While it’s natural to feel nervous about what’s to come, there are steps you can take today to minimize the potential impact coronavirus (and actually any type of health emergency or natural disaster) has on your business. Think of this as a business continuity plan for small business to strengthen your business during times of uncertainty.

A business continuity plan for small business:

How to prepare your business for coronavirus

  1. Get and stay informed
  2. Revisit your cancellation and rescheduling policies
  3. Add three clauses into your contract templates: Force Majeure Clause, Safe Working Environment Clause, and Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause
  4. Create a strategy to battle cancellations
  5. Proactively manage your client relationships
  6. Issue a message to inquiries/clients
  7. Know how to enforce retainer payments for cancelled events/projects
  8. Plan for backup help
  9. Get video meeting software
  10. Understand your financial position
  11. Identify new revenue streams
  12. Pivot your business strategy
  13. Create a playbook
  14. Identify ways to supplement income
  15. Tap into city resources
  16. Start saving now
  17. Take care of yourself, your family and your team
  18. Lean on community

Meeting  about coronavirus

Image Credits

Business continuity plan for small business: Things you can do right now

1. Get and stay informed

Stay up to date with official news sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). By staying informed, you can better prepare for what’s coming and gain a sense of control (even if just a little) over the rapidly evolving situation. And being equipped with the facts will help you educate (and calm) any nervous inquiries and clients.

2. Revisit your cancellation and rescheduling policies

Wondering how to legally protect your business from unforeseen circumstances like the coronavirus? We went straight to an expert to find out and consulted attorney Paige Griffith of The Legal Paige

“First and foremost, a service provider’s cancellation and rescheduling policies should still be laid out very clearly with deadlines,” says Paige. “Industry standard is generally 30 days prior to the event/session/wedding date for your clients to be able to cancel or reschedule and only forfeit the retainer, but not incur any remaining fees. However, ‘Force Majeure Events’ are different. Thus, if you or your clients want to excuse performance to an unforeseeable, unavoidable, or impossible event, that’s where a Force Majeure Clause would kick in to protect you.”

Paige recommends people include a Force Majeure clause that clearly explains your business’s policies for excusing performance related to such events and, specifically, include “epidemics and pandemics” as qualified Force Majeure Events (see #3 for more details). Paige notes, “Oftentimes Force Majeure clauses are more basic and include occurrences such as ‘acts of God, natural disasters, government orders or laws, or strikes.’ It’s better to list out all qualified Force Majeure events and include the language ‘including, but not limited to’ to expand the types of Force Majeure events under your contract.”

Essentially, a cancellation and rescheduling clause is in place for any other reason that your client may cancel or reschedule. But Force Majeure Events are not part of that and have a different procedure in place for cancellations and rescheduling situations. The non-refundable retainer still applies under both clauses so long as you expressly delineate that policy under your contract, but Force Majeure provides additional protection because it requires you to excuse performance under the contract until the Force Majeure Event is resolved.

Also important to note is that we are NOT in Force Majeure land right now.

Paige explains, “Right now, coronavirus is likely not going to be interpreted as a qualified ‘Force Majeure Event’ under most contracts. There has been no official national government order regarding the outbreak. Thus, if a client wants to cancel or reschedule your services and cries ‘Force Majeure!’ and wants a full refund, it won’t hold up. Hysteria or fear of traveling does not qualify as Force Majeure. A Force Majeure Event quite literally has to make the performance by a party impossible and right now you can still travel, get on a plane, and be in person-to-person contact. Thus, we are still in the land of general cancellation and rescheduling situations, so your policies expressed in your contract apply as well as your non-refundable retainer.”

Want to learn more about protection clauses that you should have in your contract to protect yourself from unforeseen events? This checklist from The Legal Paige will tell you what clauses are needed and describes what they mean to you and your business. Get Checklist >

3. Add three clauses into your contract templates

As part of a business continuity plan for small business, Paige recommends modifying or adding three big clauses into your existing contract templates: (1) Force Majeure Clause, (2) Safe Working Environment Clause, and (3) Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause.

Wondering what all that means? Let’s break down each one below:

A Force Majeure clause (1) specifies the events which enable either party to declare a force majeure/act of God event, (2) how a party should notify its counterparty about the occurrence, and (3) the consequences after a force majeure event has occurred (see #4 for ideas on consequences you could consider). A force majeure clause should apply to each party to the agreement.

“Most often I see contracts missing parts 2 and 3 in their force majeure clause,” says Paige. “People should be sure to spell out that ‘epidemics and pandemics’ are included as qualified Force Majeure Events, and indicate the number of days following the Force Majeure Event that the other party may terminate and the remedies allowed. Also, as it stands [at the date of publication March 9, 2020], the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences are no longer fully unpredictable and may therefore not qualify as a ‘Force Majeure Event’ in contracts that are entered into right now. Be sure to have other clauses in place such as Safe Working Environment Clause and Failure of Company to Perform Services Clause to protect yourself in case the Force Majeure Clause is not applicable.”

Need a Force Majeure clause for your contracts? Just copy and paste the Force Majeure clause language below into your own existing contract templates.

Force majeure clause:

No party shall be liable or responsible to the other party, nor be deemed to have defaulted under or breached this Agreement, for any failure or delay in fulfilling or performing any term of this Agreement (except for any obligations to make payments to the other party hereunder), when and to the extent such failure or delay is caused by or results from acts beyond the impacted party’s (“Impacted Party”) control, including, but not limited to, the following force majeure events (“Force Majeure Events”): (a) acts of God; (b) a natural disaster (fires, explosions, earthquakes, hurricane, flooding, storms, explosions, infestations), epidemic, or pandemic; (c) war, invasion, hostilities (whether war is declared or not), terrorist threats or acts, riot or other civil unrest; (d) government order or law; (e) actions, embargoes or blockades in effect on or after the date of this Agreement; (f) action by any governmental authority; (g) national or regional emergency; (h) strikes, labor stoppages or slowdowns or other industrial disturbances; and (i) shortage of adequate power or transportation facilities. The Impacted Party shall give Notice within [number] days of the Force Majeure Event to the other party, stating the period of time the occurrence is expected to continue. The Impacted Party shall use diligent efforts to end the failure or delay and ensure the effects of such Force Majeure Event are minimized. The Impacted Party shall resume the performance of its obligations as soon as reasonably practicable after the removal of the cause. In the event that the Impacted Party’s failure or delay remains uncured for a period of [number] days following Notice given by it, the other party may thereafter terminate this Agreement upon Notice.

Disclaimer: This force majeure clause template is provided for your convenience to help protect your business and minimize the impact from coronavirus and other types of health emergencies and natural disasters as part of a business continuity plan for small business. We consulted with attorney Paige Griffith, J.D., of The Legal Paige, who wrote the Force Majeure clause. While a professional was consulted, this is not provided as a substitute for legal advice. If you have any questions about this template or your finished contract as it relates to your specific business, please contact a licensed attorney.

A Safe Working Environment clause tells your clients that your company maintains a safe work environment at all times and complies with all health and safety laws, directives and rules and regulations. Thus, you can reserve the right to discontinue service in the event some unsafe conditions arose such as areas affected by communicable diseases.

A Failure of Company to Perform Services clause ensures that your clients understand the procedure should you not be able to perform your services. “It’s important under this clause to allow your clients to agree to the substitution of another professional and not require such substitution,” Paige says. “And, in the event they do not allow you to substitute or you cannot find a substitute, you will issue a refund or credit based on the percentage of the services you’ve rendered thus far.”

4. Create a strategy to battle cancellations 

If you’re worried about cancellations, the best strategy is to be prepared and proactive.

Be prepared by thinking through “the consequences after a force majeure event has occurred.” Let’s say a client wants to cancel within 30 days of the event (even if your cancellation policy states they need to provide at least 30 days) due to an unforeseen event. What does that mean for you and your business?

As a best practice, we recommend doing everything in your power to work with your client to reschedule for a time when everyone is confident about moving forward and healthy enough to do so. If a mutually agreed upon date cannot be reached, your client will be able to cancel and forfeit only the retainer, but not incur any remaining fees under the Agreement. (See step #7 for how to enforce retainer payments for cancelled events/projects.)

In addition to identifying what you’ll do in the face of an unforeseen event, be sure to proactively communicate with inquiries and clients. This can help set their minds at ease, reducing your cancellation/chargeback risk. (See #5 for more details.)

5. Proactively manage your client relationships

Strong relationships are everything in the face of uncertainty, especially with setting expectations and avoiding cancellations. Now is the time to foster and lean on your client relationships as part of your business continuity plan for small business. “Over communication in these situations is also helpful so if a client is feeling unsure, they can lean on the professional to help lead in making decisions,” says Reina Pomeroy of Reina + Co.

If you’ve been doing a good job of relating to your clients and building that trust, it should be easier to reach an ideal outcome for both you and your client if the event can’t take place. Hopefully that outcome is in the form of rescheduling the event and is reached before you ever get to a conversation about chargebacks or cancellations.

Nichole Beiner of Nichole Gabrielle adds, “Being flexible with rescheduling or being creative about how to interact may be appreciated, especially by clients with compromised immune systems or who care for those with compromised immune systems or elderly people.”

So reach out to your booked clients to schedule a check-in and have a conversation. Get a feel for if they have any concerns or are thinking about cancelling (especially if you deliver your services in-person or work in the events industry).

If your clients were thinking about cancelling, getting a call from you to reassure them, might be just what they need to keep their event on the books.

For example, you could say:

Hey XX,

I hope planning your [insert event name here] has been going smoothly! I wanted to check in and see how you were doing in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak updates. As of right now, the U.S. is in a place of relatively low risk. However, I know how stressful [event name] planning can be, and this certainly doesn’t help!

I wanted to let you know that as of right now our area has had little to no impact from the coronavirus and because of this I have every intention of fulfilling my role at your [event name]. Of course, if anything should change with my plans, you will be the first to know.

If you have any intention of changing or altering the date of your [event name] please let me know as soon as possible so we can work on rescheduling to a date that works for everyone. If you do plan to change the [event name] date, please refer back to our contract for the proper steps.

Thanks,

XX

If your clients weren’t thinking about cancelling at all, tread lightly. You don’t want to give them a reason to worry, but use this as an opportunity to let them know you’re on top of the situation; considering the health and safety of all your clients; and what you’re doing to ensure that.

For example, you could say:

Hello XX,

I hope your [event name] planning has been going smoothly! I wanted to check in and see how you were doing in light of the recent coronavirus outbreak updates. As of right now, the U.S. is in a place of relatively low risk. However, I know how stressful [event name] planning can be, and this certainly doesn’t help!

I wanted to let you know that as of right now our area has had little to no impact from the coronavirus and because of this I have every intention of fulfilling my role at your [event name]. Of course, if anything should change with my plans, you will be the first to know.

Thanks,

XX

If they inquire about cancelling, be ready with your responses (see step #4).

6. Issue a message to inquiries/clients

Similar to step #5, this step focuses on proactive communication but is a bit more passive, and is designed to reach your broader audience, not just booked clients. Set your audience’s minds at ease and let them know that you’re prepared to handle whatever comes your way. Acknowledge the coronavirus and that it’s something your business is aware of and thinking about.

You can create a video message that you put up on your website, on social media or in an email. You can create a blog post. Or you can create an FAQ page for your website.

Wondering what to say? Here’s a swipe copy example:

Hey everyone!

I wanted to take a quick minute to talk about something important. By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of the coronavirus and its impact worldwide. While at the very least this is distressing, I wanted to assure you that my business and I are prepared. I’m staying updated on the latest information, acting responsibly by avoiding travel to outbreak hotspots, meeting clients/vendors/employees online instead of in person if someone isn’t feeling well, and swapping hugs for a friendly wave. Additionally, I’m making sure that all of my clients know what to expect from me as per contract.

If you are a fellow business owner who would like a resource of best practices *click here/swipe up/link in bio* to read @honeybook’s latest blog post: How to Prepare Your Business For Coronavirus – 18 Steps.

If you are a client and have any concerns about your event and any details pertaining to cancellation and rescheduling practices, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or refer to our contract.

Thanks!

7. Know how to enforce retainer payments for cancelled events/projects

Again, the first (and best) line of defense to keep your retainer payments (and avoid cancellations altogether) is to proactively manage your client relationships, maintain open communication and try to reach a solution that works for the both of you before the topic of cancelling comes up.

But if cancellations do happen, here’s what you should know to keep/receive your retainer payments.

“This really depends on the situation,” Paige says. “But, in most cases so long as the language in your fee section states ‘non-refundable retainer’ you should be able to keep the retainer. If you used the wording ‘deposit’ instead of retainer, under some states it is required to give back deposits if services have not been rendered. Thus, if you have the word ‘deposit,’ it’s likely best to refund the amount. Also, remember that at the end of the day, it’s your livelihood and business on the line if you have a really sticky client who wants their money back and is ready to pursue legal action if you don’t give it back. It’s way easier, more efficient, and more cost effective to give a refund under these circumstances than to go to court and battle whether the retainer/deposit is refundable.”

If you’re worried about retainer chargebacks (a chargeback happens when a client asks their credit card to reverse the money transfer from their account), remember that if a chargeback does happen through HoneyBook, HoneyBook works side-by-side with you to resolve the dispute. Unlike other platforms (like PayPal, for instance), HoneyBook will not automatically refund your client.

Business continuity plan for small business: Things you can do in the next few days/weeks 

8. Plan for backup help 

If you don’t already have one as part of your business continuity plan for small business, create a backup plan in the event that you get sick and are unable to perform your job. Identify and lock in a few people whom you can trust to step in for you if needed. (Need help finding someone? Try reaching out to someone in your community or a fellow creative at your local TuesdaysTogether. See #18 for more detail.) Make sure to add this into your contracts, as you want your clients to be aware of this possibility. And see step #3 for more details about what to include in that clause.

9. Get video meeting software

With the possibility of people increasing the amount of time they spend at home (known as social distancing), you may want to move more of your in-person meetings to video meetings. Make sure your phone and computer equipment are set up to work for video. In terms of video meeting software, FaceTime is a popular option for iPhone users, but if you need to show your screen, you can also consider Zoom or Google Hangouts. According to The Verge, Google said “that it would be rolling out free access to ‘advanced’ features for Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally through July 1st. That means organizations can host meetings with up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a single domain, and record and save meetings to Google Drive.”

10. Understand your financial position

An important part of business preparedness in the face of coronavirus and creating a business continuity plan for small business is knowing the ins and outs of your finances. This will help you to understand how much business you can afford to lose each month and start making plans if needed. Answer the following questions to start getting a better picture of your finances.

  • What is your projected monthly revenue each month over the next 3-6 months?
  • What are your monthly costs (business and living expenses) each month over the next 3-6 months?
  • How many projects/events/clients do you need at a minimum each month over the next 3-6 months to maintain a positive cash flow?
  • Are any projects/events/clients at risk of getting cancelled or postponed within the next 3-6 months? (If so, see what you can do in steps #4–5.)
  • If your projected cash flow is in the negative over the next 3-6 months, see what you can do in steps #11–12.

11. Identify new revenue streams

While you may be a ways away from needing to implement the next two steps, they’re still worth thinking about now to help increase your preparedness. With that in mind, start thinking about other ways you could bring in revenue if business slowed way down or if cancellations went way up.

Here are a couple ideas:

  1. Check HoneyBook Opportunities. Other creatives post opportunities of all kinds, and you can post if you have one as well. Searching by your zip code makes it easy.
  2. Get a side gig on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr.
  3. Tap into your network and see if anyone needs extra help. Since many events are likely to get rescheduled, take advantage of the shuffle and make yourself available for these dates.
  4. Turn your existing service into a digital or remote offering.

12. Pivot your business strategy

Again, it might not make sense to start pivoting at this very moment, but making plans to do this now can be very helpful if this may be needed in the future. If your business is internationally based, perhaps consider focusing on local markets. Or if your business is focused on servicing large events, consider niching down. Some HoneyBook members have started focusing on more intimate-sized events that are less prone to being impacted by travel restrictions. Another idea is to introduce lightweight services that are easy for you to implement, and that requires less planning ahead, like one-off coaching sessions.

Don’t forget to think through the impact on your brand and what would need to be updated, including messaging and imagery on your website and social channels.

Business continuity plan for small business: Things you can do as a general best practice

13. Create a playbook

Documenting your entire process in a playbook will make it easy to hand a project/event off to someone who needs to step in and take over for you in the event that you get sick. Think through every little step and include it! Imagine that you won’t be there to answer questions and that everything they need to know would be included in your documentation. (Need some help? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Boosting Work Efficiency Through Business Systems and Automation.)

The cool thing about managing your business in HoneyBook is that all your client and project information is kept in one place, which makes it easy to hand over projects. Other team members (or an external person added to your project if you don’t have team members and need to add a back-up contact) can jump in and quickly get up to speed. They can see the communication history between you and your client and access all files to see all relevant information. (Team members can see private notes from all client meetings; external people added to your project can see all files and client communications, just not private notes you’ve taken.)

“Take a deep breath and don’t panic if you don’t have any of these best business practices in place,” says Diana Fang from The Finer Points. “If someone cancels, this would be a good time to use that extra time to beef up your own internal systems (especially for points #10-15).”

14. Identify ways to supplement income

It’s always good to know how you can supplement your income if you truly need to. Research the different options available for small business loans (this is a great resource), as well as a withdrawal from your 401K if you have one. But because of the hefty fees associated with an early withdrawal, this should be saved as a last resort.

15. Tap into city resources

Some cities are offering financial aid to specifically help small businesses during this trying time. For example, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “the city will offer no-interest loans to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees that could show a 25 percent reduction in sales since the coronavirus outbreak and grants of up to $6,000 for businesses with fewer than five employees.” Check with your city’s Small Business Administration office for more details.

16. Start saving now

Having an emergency fund to tide you over for 3-6 months is important for a solid business continuity plan for small business. If you don’t have one, start today. Take a look at your financial position from step #10. How much do you need to maintain a positive cash flow each month? Use that as a starting point to set your monthly savings goal.

Once you’ve set a goal, identify ways to save. Perhaps you allocate a percentage of each paycheck to set aside. Or maybe you aim to save $X amount each month by avoiding indulgent expenses (like that new camera or dinners out) for the time being.

17. Take care of yourself, your family and your team

Follow best practices issued by the CDC/WHO to stay healthy and minimize the spread of the virus, including:

  1. Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  2. Coughing/sneezing into a flexed elbow
  3. Avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands
  4. Staying home if you feel unwell
  5. Encouraging team members and vendors to stay home if sick
  6. Social distancing (swap a handshake for a friendly wave!)

18. Lean on community 

In a world where toilet-paper runs are a thing and entire towns are getting locked down, don’t forget you’re not alone. The HoneyBook and Rising Tide community are here to help (even if just to lend a commiserating ear about why there’s no hand sanitizer available anywhere). Here are a few ways to get the most out of the community:

  1. Join your local TuesdaysTogether. We have chapters around the globe. Connect with other creatives online through your local TuesdaysTogether Facebook and Instagram groups. Building relationships with those in your area can help if you find you need to cancel on a client and need to refer someone you trust (or vice versa). Please note: Some in-person meetings may be postponed out of caution for the health and safety of our members as the coronavirus progresses. Check in with your city to find out details.
  2. Check in on one another. Identify a handful of people to follow up with as the situation unfolds. Knowing how coronavirus is impacting others, and knowing people are also checking in with you, can help you feel less isolated.
  3. Share your wisdom with the community. Don’t feel like you have to go through this alone; we’re all in this together. Tag @honeybook and/or @risingtidesociety to share your tips and tools for how to best prepare and maintain not only your business but your day-to-day client interactions.

Disclaimer: The advice featured in this post was sourced from our community members for sharing of general information and knowledge. For specific legal, tax, mental health, and professional advice, please consult an authorized professional.


This article was originally published at honeybook.com


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay


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