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The first rule of recession is don’t panic

I’d stopped watching or listening to the news back in the latter half of 2019, but as we came out of the pandemic I’d started to tentatively listen again. Last night I was caught unawares, lying in the dark unable to sleep I had the radio on and the stark announcement came that we were now, officially, in recession and I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so bleak.

I’d known for a while it was on the horizon but I guess I’d been hoping for a miracle or that perhaps for some reason we’d narrowly avoid it. But here we are again, a pandemic, a war, a cost of living pay rise, energy and fuel price hikes, the threat of civil unrest and strike action - and now a recession, arguably predicted as one of the worst we’ve ever known, one to make the 2008 crash look like child’s play.

As a small business owner, I’m a little concerned, okay that’s an understatement, I’m really concerned. After relaunching at the beginning of 2022 I was optimistic about better times, It’d been slow during the pandemic and in the aftermath, but I’d done some training, had some coaching and had it all mapped out, but then war broke out in Ukraine, followed by the energy crisis and business was slow.

But then things picked up again and I started to feel hopeful, and then the announcement last night. I stared into the inky gloom, life had felt so long now like we were on a permanent roller coaster ride and once you think you’re near the end of the ride it takes you on another loop again and then plunges you into a deep dive. When do we go back to what feels like normal again, when the news was boring and tedious and barely registered?

Whatever your response and I realise there will be many of you that will be completely unaffected by it for a variety of different reasons, I have decided to remain vigilant, market hard and forge ahead - and for someone renowned for panicking at the slightest change in wind direction (I’m exaggerating slightly there), it is a welcome surprise to me as it is to you.

I have come up with a few things that might help going forwards -

The first rule of recession is DON’T PANIC, I said DON’T. PANIC.

Panicking won’t help, don’t rush to find a low-paid content job in order to fill any gaps, there’s no shame in it, but once you’re in a low-paid job, it’ll be harder to come back out. If you find yourself in a good position to get a really well-paid job that promises you progression as well as good pay, then by all means go for it if you think that’s what you want.

I have considered this myself, but I know I’d make the worst employee now, I won’t discount a more permanent remote role, but my days punching out blogs in a poorly lit office is over.

Ignore the news - no good can come from watching it or reading it, not until you’re in a better place. This is easier said than done because social media is awash with news bulletins and doom scrolling will only bring you down and make you liable to panic more, so bin social media or spend less time on it if it helps. Instead, use a platform where you can post your blogs and marketing posts such as Buffer or Hootsuite without having to actually go into your chosen platform itself, there will probably be more, but those are the only two that spring to mind right now.

Continue to market, don’t let up, in fact, take it up a notch. It doesn’t have to be tacky and pushy, done well it can work. There is always someone out there with money in a recession.

Who thrives in a recession?

Who are these people? Well,

  • The food industry

  • Repairs & DIY - someone always needs something repairing

  • Vets, animal shelters, someone always needs a vet at some point

  • Content writing - up, businesses will need content more than ever if their businesses are to survive the recession

  • Digital/tech/SaaS/Cybersecurity - if you’re doing these anyway, then you’re laughing. I don’t niche in tech, but I’m certainly throwing my hat into the ring, the tech industry origin stories and bios are notoriously awful, they’ll need me if even they think they don’t

  • Virtual Assistants

  • Accountancy

  • SEO

  • Healthcare - We all need care when we’re sick, even in a recession.

This brings me to my next point. Should you niche, or continue to niche? Well, I don’t niche so much anymore, as the economic situation changed I realised that to survive I needed to turn myself into a human Swiss army knife and be able to do everything.

I’d been a generalist for years but then I’d tried one or two niches to settle on, but now I realised that adaptability and flexibility were key to survival - and they will be for the foreseeable future. Serve everyone, try to help everyone, offer value, someone will want what you have.

I still specialise in deliverables - I specialise in web pages and brand story with anything else as an add-on if I continue working with the client. I can do web pages and bios for anyone, in any industry. There’s no point in niching in one topic if that topic goes under during the recession. Offer a deliverable that can be utilised by any industry and be the go-to person for that. I’m the go-to person for web pages and bios, and I want people to know this, so marketing is crucial. What is yours? Web copy, paid adverts, SEO, email - make sure people know what it is you do.

Go a la carte, stop bundling your services into packages - again, be flexible.

Do you raise your prices? - I’m not sure about that. I was going to raise mine in January 2023, but now I’m not so sure. I’m going to hang tight on that, but I am going to continue with the prices I do charge and stick to them. I won’t necessarily lower my prices, but I won’t be raising them this autumn either.

Build content authority and post everywhere, you are an expert in what you do, so tell people. Write blogs and articles and publish them everywhere, your own blog, repurpose them and try guest posting to well-known publications. It’s important to make sure as many people as possible know what it is you do and what you offer.

Be brave, be bold, now is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Be visible, use the platforms where you think clients go (yes, I know what I said earlier, but if you don’t have a tendency to doom scroll then use social media carefully) the kind of clients who’ll want what you have. Leads aren’t necessarily going to dry up, but potential clients need to know you exist. Get out there and forge ahead, even if things don’t work out, no one can say you didn’t try.

And finally, look after your mindset, the recession is enough to rattle anyone, but you need a strong mindset and self-belief. For those with agencies, or a strong list of retainers (depending on the industry their clients are in), they may not be too worried, but if you are, stay strong, meditate, eat as well as you can, join communities, talk to people in your network, don’t isolate yourself, and if you need help ask for it. Don’t let pride hold you back, the freelancing community is a warm and friendly one, so if you’re struggling, holler.

Further reading

If you think your business would like a brand origin story retelling or creating and you need an About Page to support it, or if you need one or two web pages, get in touch. I also provide full web copy for websites.


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