Survival kit for small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak

How can you make the most of this unknown season as a small business owner, when your clients are staying at home? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we live times that we haven’t lived before. The entire Appointfix team works from home for more than a week now, as you probably know if you’re following our blog and social media channels. These are not the worst possible times. Remember that our grandparents had to go to the war! It is just a very bizzare and weird season, no question about it. The uncertainty is high, but the hope is always more substantial! We’re in this together and we’ll get through it. 

As a small business owner, the lack of clients buying your products and services can mean a lack of immediate income, which then leads to a lack of resources to pay the rent, electricity, water and the other bills. If you have employees, their salaries still have to be covered, as their families do need to eat and pay their bills too. It can feel overwhelming. If there was ever a time to worry about your small business though, please know that time is NOT NOW! 

Right now is the time to work on solutions that can help your small business thrive. At this time you are supposed to be the leader of your business. Of course it feels hard, but please get a piece of paper and write down a gratitude list. Count your blessings and include them all: family, friends, people, victories, health, etc.  Worry and stress will not do you good. Think about the big and small blessings, and write them down on your gratitude list. It will make you feel better, lifting your emotions up. Then you can continue with identifying the problem that concerns you, and create an action plan. This should be the right approach. Planning and strategy are the important steps. Get a cup of water/tea/juice or coffee, and with a clear mind, let’s look at the options you have in order to help your small business survive these uncertain times. 

How adaptable, multiskilled and resilient are you? 

If you had to temporarily close your business in order to be socially responsible and help stop the spread of the coronavirus plague, that means these weeks your clients cannot get your products or services. Unless you can offer or sell your services in a different way… a distinct way… not what you’ve been doing so far. Something new, something different. How can you reinvent your business during uncertain times? The first option might simply be: online. 

Appointfix clients are small business owners working with appointments, who come from all walks of life. Many work in the beauty industry as hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, lash artists, spa techs, etc. as well as in the health and fitness sectors. Here are some options to help small businesses survive these times:

Fitness trainers seize the opportunity!

For fitness trainers there’s a lot of opportunity out there to continue having their classes online. Gyms around the U.S. and around the world have closed, which is really bad news for athletic people who try to stay in shape. Add to that the fact that people now have to stay inside their houses a lot, being very limited and restricted. Some can’t even go to a running trail anymore, therefore you can understand your clients’ frustration. 

My husband and I didn’t suffer too much when the malls and other big stores around us were closing in order to contain the virus. We were grateful that we could still go to the gym. It lasted just a couple more days though until the gyms in our area had to close too. That was a big bummer for us! I am talking now from a client’s perspective. People love working out. The more time they spend inside their homes, the more they need to exercise to keep staying in great shape. 

As a personal trainer, you can continue some sessions with your clients online. There are options like Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts to mention just a few. On Zoom you can have 40 minutes FREE sessions at a time (online meetings) with up to 100 participants. You can have an unlimited number of meetings a month, they just shouldn’t exceed 40 minutes each. (If you need more time than that, they have a paid plan for $14.99/month. The idea is for you to make money though, not to spend more.) 

You don’t need to be a tech person

Your clients would want to continue to stay in shape, especially as many of them will most likely be working from home. That means less movement, more stiff necks, hurting backs, and more desperate need for doing something athletic. Offer your training online and keep your clients in shape with their routine. You don’t need to be a tech person! Technology should not bring fear. You just need to be a great trainer who cares about his/her clients and understands the times we live in. Are you willing to adapt your business in order to serve your clients during crazy times, and also make ends meet at the end of the month? 

Using Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts is not rocket science. Please, do not freak out about using the technology. You can look at it as being your chance to learn something new, to acquire a very useful skill set. Our world is changing, and technology has a bigger role that we are willing to admit. Those who adapt quickly will keep their businesses afloat during these uncertain times. Will you give it a try?

Beauty Industry professionals, please listen up

Hair Stylists, lash artists, nail techs, make-up artists, massage therapists, estheticians, etc. you need to be very close to your clients in order to do your beautifying jobs. You surely need to be less than six feet away (approx. two meters), which is the social distance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends in order to contain the transmission of the COVID-19 disease. Therefore many of you hard working independent professionals in the Beauty Industry, were forced to temporarily close your businesses in order to be socially responsible and listen to the authorities. 

No clients to dye their hair and no nails to be done, might mean no source of income for you dear beauty industry professionals. That’s something hitting you real hard, because you don’t get a salary from anywhere else. As a stylist, nail tech or lash artist, do you know what can you do to still get some cash in? Check this out.

In our article from yesterday on How can hairstylists, nail techs and estheticians overcome the coronavirus panic?, we shared some great ideas for hairstylists from some of our Appointfix clients. For example, as Hair by Kellee had to temporarily close the salon due to the pandemic, Kellee decided to provide a custom colors kit for her grey haired clients to apply at home. She offers pickup or doorstep dropoff for her clients, and they surely love her! It’s a great way to ensure that the clients won’t have to postpone their hair color because of the coronavirus epidemic. She’s respecting the social distancing, while providing a great service for her clients in difficult times. 

Other options are to offer discounts on your hair products stock, in order to give something valuable to your clients while you get rid of the stock and to get more cash in at this time. Promote your hair products on your social media channels. Inform your customers about the hair beautifying items they can get their hands on, to keep their “mane” stunning and shiny until the temporary salon shut down is lifted. Your clients may order the products from you paying you online, and you can mail the products to them, or offer pickup or dropoff in front of the door. You can read more about these options for hairstylists, nail tech and estheticians here.  

Ask your clients to buy a gift card

Maybe your small business is not the kind that allows you to do online sessions in order to provide the usual services for your clients. If you do not have a way to offer your products or services for your clients to buy at this time, you can still think outside the box. Look for alternatives of getting an income during this difficult and crazy “monster-virus” season. 

Offer an alternative. For example, ask your most loyal clients to buy gift cards (gift vouchers) these weeks, which they or their family members can use at a later time. You can actually ask your most loyal clients to help your small business at this time. Be open about the challenges your small business faces right now, and how you’d appreciate your clients buying a $25 / $50 / $75 gift card which they can use later when things get back to normal. Be generous and offer discounts on these gift cards. For example, offer your clients to buy a $25 gift card for $20; a $50 for $40, and a $75 card for $60, etc. 

If you’re a beauty industry professional, you can offer personalized hair treatment gift certificates. Your clients can buy now and use later. Something like “highlights, trim and style” at a really good deal, if bought now with a gift card. You decide the amount of $$ you’d like to charge your clients for the hair service, based on your price list. The same goes for nail techs. A few gel refills, or a mani and pedi combo at a great deal. Look at your list of services and see what your clients buy the most. Offer them gift cards / gift certificates / vouchers alternatives at a really irresistible deal. It’s going to be a win-win situation. Both you and your clients can benefit, and that’s the idea! 

Educate your clients to buy local 

Buying local should be the motto for us during this time. Make your clients aware of the importance of buying products and services from the small family owned restaurant which had to close at this time. Or order some take out meals from them, if they still offer those. Or to buy from the little florist on the corner, and the baker, the nail salon, etc. All small businesses are having a tough go this season! Not all your clients realize that though. They need to be informed in order to make the best purchasing decisions and support those who are affected the most during these unpredictable times. Buying products and services from the local small businesses goes both for now, as well as after we get over this crazy virus shut down. 

Coronavirus tax relief 

In the USA, in an effort to offer immediate economic relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has come up with four measures aimed at providing businesses with some financial relief. The measures are: 1. Low-interest loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA); 2. Employer tax credit; 3. Payroll tax cut or government cash payment; 4. Federal income tax deferment.

Regarding the last measure, the federal income tax deferment, according to Forbes “an income tax deferment extends the April deadlines for businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, without penalties, for 90 days. This gives business owners the chance to use their income tax liability funds to cover other expenses.” It’s important to keep in mind though that you must still file your business income tax return by April 15, 2020.  

You can check out here more information about the small business relief during the coronavirus outbreak. They will still be updating the article as more information emerges. For now it’s helpful to know that the government signed into law an emergency aid package to benefit individuals and businesses impacted by coronavirus. The package passed in the House on March 14, 2020 and in the Senate on March 18, 2020. 

These are tough times, but please don’t dare to think about yourself as a victim. Stop any negative train of thought! Instead, think about the VISION for your business and the lessons to be learned. As Tom Ziglar’s recommendation goes in his latest newsletter: “Write down a victory list. Things you have accomplished in the past that you are proud of. Graduating from school, closing a sale, helping someone in need, finishing a difficult project, overcoming a big challenge. This is to remind yourself that you have done it before and you can do it again.” 

Does that sound true to you? Just jot down a few things, then read your victory list out loud. We believe you’ve done it before, and YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN! Praying we all stay strong and focused on solutions, not on the problems. So help us God! 

Emilia is Marketing Director at Appointfix, an app helping professionals and small businesses easily schedule appointments and reduce client no-shows using automated text reminders. Feel free to drop her an email at emilia.pustan@appointfix.com.