How to Fortify Your Freelance Business During a Recession

If you’re a freelance writer or services consultant questioning your financial future as the recession approaches, you’re not alone. As talk of a recession swirls all around you, it’s hard not to get caught up in the doom and gloom of frightening economic times.

While some freelancers are right to be worried about surviving a recession, savvy freelancers actually have an opportunity to increase their income during recessionary times. Here’s how to get a head start on recession proofing your business.

Increase Your High-End Product Offerings

Do not decrease your rates during a recession. Yes, you read that correctly. Freelancers who reduce their rates during a recession are likely to find less work, not more. Companies paying content mill or sweatshop rates are likely to purchase less content and services during a recession, making reducing your rates a surefire way to end up competing for scraps.

Focus on offering high-end product offerings, like white papers, interviews, and case studies. If you’re in the technical space, focus on solutions rather than body shop work. Make sure the rates you’re asking for signal your expertise as an expert or researcher.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from clients who balk at your prices, as they’re not likely to be your best clients during a recession.

Extend Your Network Now!

Now is the time to get busy growing your network as a freelancer. Network with as many potential buyers as you can.

Become a source of valuable information to those in a position to potentially send work your way in the future. This is situation where a little bit of blogging and judicious content sharing can pay huge dividends down the line. Writing and posting content is an easy way to get visibility with hiring managers (via their social media feeds) without bothering them.

Start networking with your target clients on platforms like LinkedIn, Quora, and Hacker News. The more effort you put into growing your network now, the better your odds of growing your client list, even during tough economic times.

Invest in Building Your Own Websites

One of the smartest moves you can make to grow your freelance business during a recession is to start publishing content on your own websites. This pays dividends in multiple ways.

First, publishing an authoritative website on a topic helps cement your position as a thought leader in the space. This is particularly true if you’re able to build a following through ranking the website on Google or gaining an audience on social media. These increase your value as an in two ways:

  • You carry more weight as an author or service provider, since you can be presented as an authority (which applies to both external audiences and the client’s own management team or board)
  • You have the option of helping bring readers / customers to a client’s brand

Second, you have the opportunity to directly monetize traffic to your blog via various strategies. This can range from Google AdSense (for big consumer topics) to affiliate marketing (software and services) and even creating your own information products. Every article you publish builds the site’s authority, turning it into a long term asset which can be monetized or sold (website flipping). For a deeper view inside this world, check out this case study on buying and growing a technical blog as an investment.

Third, being able to write for your own websites allows you to serve as a buyer of last resort for your time. While this doesn’t produce an immediate payback, the long term economics of blogging are generally better than the marginal rate you will earn as a writer once you get below “decent” quality clients.

Incidentally, this overall strategy works even better if you’re in another freelancer niche and are a decent writer. Leverage any downtime to build long term assets to help build your practice and your personal brand.

Have Courage: A Great Time To Invest

It’s important to separate the present from the future when you’re operating in a downturn.

Your short term results are going to be driven by getting as a close as possible to a handful of strong clients who are positioned to weather the storm. Plus keeping your expenses as low as possible, particularly any expense that doesn’t flex with your volume of work. Staying lean and agile is a winning approach in hard time.

In the long run, however, this is a great time to invest. This applies at both a personal level (putting unsold time into your own projects vs. binge-watching Netflix) and for anything you can scale up with outsourcing. Everything is about to get cheap.