8 Ways Freelancers Can Survive In A Troubled Economy

Survive in a troubled economyEverywhere you look these days, the news is about the economy. Mostly, it’s bad news.

There’s no question that these are rough economic times. How will these times affect freelancers?

I’ve seen some bloggers and some news reports that predict an increase in business for freelancers as businesses slow down their hiring of permanent employees. I’ve seen other reports that predict slow times for all, including freelancers.

Personally, I have no idea what effect the economy will have on your business. I suspect that the effects that you feel will depend on many factors including: your field/products, how long you’ve been in business, your experience, your skill, and possibly even your physical location.

Whatever the case, there are some steps that you can take to protect your freelance business right now.

Here are eight of them:

  • Be a Bargain Hunter. Whether you’re buying routine office supplies or making a capital purchase, make sure that you get the most value for your dollar. Check sales flyers and compare costs to maximize your purchasing power. You can also look into barter arrangements to reduce your costs.
  • Don’t Spend Everything That You Make. I give this advice during good economic times as well. The advice to save some of your earnings is doubly important in an uncertain economy. Whenever you are paid make sure that you set some income aside for times when your business is slow.
  • Moonlight on Your Freelancing. You may have started your freelancing business by working a corporate job and moonlighting as a freelancer. There’s no reason why you can’t turn the tables and moonlight on your freelance business now. Consider taking a part-time job to bolster your monthly income.
  • Ask Past Corporate Employers for Gigs. Many employers have hiring freezes, but their workload remains the same. While they may not be able to hire a new employee, often they are allowed to hire temporary help to meet a deadline. (I’m told that the money for contractors comes out of a different “bucket.”)
  • Consider the Do-It-Yourself Question. Are you paying others to do tasks for you that you could actually do yourself? If your cash flow is slow, then you may want to consider whether it’s more cost efficient to continue outsourcing as you have been doing, or to start doing the tasks yourself.
  • Make Sure To Consider Your Tax Liability. Even if the economy is slow, it is likely that you will still owe taxes at the end of your tax year. To avoid being saddled with a tax burden that you can’t pay, start setting money aside for taxes now. If you paid estimated taxes during the course of the year, then ask yourself if you paid enough.
  • Broaden the Scope of Your Business. If your workload has slowed, then ask yourself if there are other products or services that you could add to your current offerings. Do you have a skill that you are not using? Broadening your scope could bring additional business from current customers as well as attract new ones.
  • Be Patient. Difficult economic times come and they go. It may be a matter of weeks, months, or even years, but this tough economic period will also pass.

Earlier this week we started a discussion about how freelancers are doing in this economy, and it’s clear that results vary from person to person. These 8 tips provide a few good ways to help, but they aren’t nearly the whole story.

Do any of you have tips for surviving when times are difficult?


  1. says

    Great comments! Selling photos may be something that I could do as well. Are you getting much income, or is it mainly for exposure at this point?

    Keep the comments coming!

  2. says

    Very good advice, Laura. I’m managing just fine during these times and expect that my work level will stay steady. I managed to land several good, loyal clients over the past year, people who know that they need to stay on top of their game especially as things begin to recover.

    Freelancers need to set themselves apart from the pack, offer a competitive package, and continually market themselves. Even when companies lay employees off, they’ll often turn to freelancers to plug the gaps. Be ready to grab what work comes your way in these situations.

  3. says

    Laura, nice tips as always. It’s time to brace ourselves. In such trying time, there are obstacles but there’s lots of opportunities out there as well. As long as we believe that the glass is half full, we have a better chance to survive and even to thrive.

    I just met an associate for a late night coffee. He was lamenting that his client wanted a project done “as per normal” but with a much smaller budget. He threw his hand up and asked, “How to do?” I guess there’s no specific answer, it depends on many factor to make a sound decision. Ultimately, there must be a win-win situation for the client and us.

  4. Sophia says

    I think that “if you are not confident that you can do this, than it’s better to hire people who have expertise in that field”. From last 1-2 decades the % of outsourcing or hiring people has tremendously increased. and i have done same thing. For last few months i was working on the concept of “hiring people”.As our organization have some projects in hand and we don’t want to loss them because of lack of skilled employees.And the question is “HOW TO HIRE”? as far as i know there are two basic and trendy ways to hire virtual employees

    1. Freelancers/Bidding sites
    2. Job sites

    But i have selected different path.i mean to say that i haven’t go through the freelancers or any bidding site.i preferred to search directly a good and reliable virtual service providing companies. The actual reason behind this is “searching and selecting freelancers or bidding site is quite time consuming”. And after placing your requisite over there it will definitely take around 1-2 months to get the required virtual employees. it means that over all process will might take 2-3 months.

    And the bottom line is wastage of time as well as money.
    So, i moved to marketraise (www.marketraise.com) virtual service providing company. And i am fully satisfied with there services. so i will suggest you all to carefully hire the people for virtual services along with keeping in mind the most important factors “time and money”.

  5. says

    I’m substitute teaching. In Jacksonville, the sub system is completely online, so I can sign up for teaching assignments that are posted at least a month in advance. Being able to make my schedule a month i advance helps to take some of the monetary pressures off. Also, I’m a contributing editor and writer for Bright Hub. Bright Hub pays per article, and they pay by PayPal at the beginning of every month.

  6. says

    Hi Laura—great advice, especially on the bargain hunting front. Woot.com, Dealio.com, Cheaptoday.com, all great places to find bargains. I personally watch prices like a hawk on electronics, software and office supplies to spend as little as possible for maximum return.

    Also, I like to gang up my business expenses to get the most write-off potential. I will try to cluster expensive purchases and do them at the end of the year so I can get that legit business write off and pay less taxes. Another thing freelancers should do is combine business and pleasure. The next trip you take could be a legit write-off if you can do some work while you are there…the amount you get to write off depends on how much work you can do, but this is a good way to save save save if you can swing it. I was in NYC this week as a panelist for a media conference, so I got to hit Manhattan by night and enjoy myself. I took an extra day for me, so it’s only costing me a portion of what a pure three day vacation would have cost…

  7. Asuras says

    On the whole being a moonlight freelancer thing.
    Having a day job when you are starting out freelancing can be a necessity, but unless your day job is in something you really love, it also can get to be a real inconvenience (this can even be true for part-time jobs). The greatest reason why I say this is a lot of clients (in my experience anyhow) want in person meetings, some will be hesitant, or even refuse to move forward until they meet you in person. I’ve found a day job can make it really hard when several clients, want to meet up with you.
    Also since freelancing can be a feast or famine situation, so it’s great to have a day job during one of those famine times, but if you are in the middle of one of those times where you are getting a ton of freelance jobs (feast) you may find it very hard to set aside sufficient time. Unfortunately sometimes this can change from one month, or even one week to the next.
    It’s best if you can to save up some money, and then quit your day job (again, unless you it’s something you really love), so that you can dedicate more time to freelancing.
    That’s what I’m working on doing.

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