Sep 13 / Matt Saunders

Recession Advice for Freelancers

Why the conventional wisdom for surviving a recession is bad, and what you can do instead to thrive during an economic downturn.
Every week I see freelancers worrying about the economy. Many are experiencing their worst period ever, and some are even returning to full-time employment.

So if the idea of an unstable economy freaks you out, I hope this article gives you some peace of mind and the motivation to not only weather the storm of a recession, but to thrive in it as well.

But before I continue, I want to tell you this is article does not constitute financial advice and the impact of your decisions are ultimately your  own responsibility.

All good? Let's dig in.

Recession: the common advice

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Recently I saw somebody tweet "Freelancers, with a recession on the way, what are you cutting back on?"

If you follow conventional financial advice and watch/read any mainstream news coverage, you will be told to hunker down.

The UK government has recently been criticised for advising firms to cut their marketing budgets during the upcoming recession. 

The thinking is simple: times will be tough for a while, so stop spending.

Now, if you are on a fixed, low-middle income and you are not in business, I can see the appeal of this advice. In fact, you might even say it makes sense.

But if you are in business, hunkering down in recession is probably NOT the most effective course of action. Let me explain why.

My advice for freelancers during a recession

I did not reply to the aforementioned tweet asking freelancers what they were going to cut.

But I wanted to. I wanted to scream "nothing!"

I wanted to say "I'm not cutting back because I'm running a proper business that adapts and evolves during hard economic times!"

I don't want to come across as one of those Tory MPs who sits proudly in their home office with a dozen Union Jack flags draped over their many photographs of the Queen (RIP), but I think of economic challenges as like going into battle.

In fact, taken with a healthy mindset, I approach most challenges like this.

Not in a negative or aggressive way. But in such a way that I wish to run toward the challenge. To EXPAND into it, and to conquer it.

Hunkering down and cutting back is the opposite. It is retreat. It is shrinking. Again, I feel a little sick to be invoking the "Spirit of Dunkirk" here, so let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

Perhaps you can apply some of these ideas to your own business to come out on top next time a recession bites.

Recession-busting tips

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From my 15+ years in business I have learned that adaptability and resilience are critical to survival and success. 

As I have just said - cutting back, whilst perhaps helping you in the very short term - is not really adapting, it's running for cover. Here's what you might like to try instead in order to pull ahead in tough times.

Practice what you preach

When the government advised businesses to stop marketing, the freelance community was rightly up in arms about it.

"You should INVEST in a downturn!" they cried. The problem is, they themselves were freaking out and cutting their marketing investments. So my first tip is to actually follow your own advice and ramp up your own activities (and spend) during these potentially tough times.

Much easier to make money if you spend it in the right places. Which leads to my next tip.

Make better investments

As a freelancer your business is a reflection of you. Its health will mirror your own. Therefore, the best investment you can make is in yourself. Remember that challenges are like battles - or, if you don't like that terminology, you could call them play-fights! - so equip yourself with the knowledge and skills you need to see off any challenge! Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, invest in courses and coaching.

Get back to your WHY

When business is slow and everyone out there seems to be tightening their purse strings, it can be demoralising and a little scary. But remember that the point of being in business is to help others, and to solve their problems. 

What problem did you set out to solve?

Get back in touch with the reason why your business exists. Go deeper into solving this problem for your ideal client. Become even more helpful to them. And when they, too, are trying to maximise their returns, it is far more likely that they will come to you than those fleeing the scene.

Run toward, not away

There is a thread running through this piece. Everything I have said can be related back to doing your best to grow, and digging in to do this even more during hard times. 

So where conventional wisdom tells you to run away and hide, my recession advice for freelancers is to meet it like any other challenge: zero in on your WHY, invest in yourself and take it head on!
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This is not financial advice nor does it take into account your personal circumstances or mental health. If you're struggling, be sure to get the support you need.
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