Happy New Year! We made it out of 2009–whew! We’re battered and bruised perhaps, but there is a pulse. The post mortems on the past decade are already rolling in and as we suspected, the 00s really were zeros for lots of us when it came to making money.
Not surprisingly, the data show that this past decade was the worst for the US economy since the 1930s. In fact, net job growth was zero from 1999 – 2009. Full time employment at a professional level wage evaporated for so many (like your Diarist). Maybe that explains why you, too, became a Freelancer? Already, that period has been named the Lost Decade for American workers. Downward mobility has become all too common.
In the January 3 NY Times, there is a front page story that tells the sad tale of a woman in Florida who had been a successful real estate agent, regularly generating an income of $100,000 + per year. Now her income is, literally, zero. She and her two children are living only on a few hundred dollars of food stamps each month.
Long term economic instability appears to be what we will face for several years into the future. Maintaining a comfortable middle class life has become much more difficult, if not impossible. What can a Freelancer do to improve financial prospects?
Primarily, we must recognize how the new economic conditions have impacted our clients—financially and psychologically—and devise marketing strategies and business practices that integrate the realities of this altered environment. Every quarter may be a new adventure, as client priorities continue to shift. Keep eyes and ears open, connect the dots and become flexible and resourceful if you expect to survive.
No one knows when the purse strings will loosen. However, business will be done, meaning that money will be spent. Here are a few suggestions that may help you to remain solvent:
Keep it simple
Information overload is in full effect. Many people feel overwhelmed and are too hassled and harried to pick through a plethora of choices, or a complicated and/or grandiose marketing message.
Bring it back down to earth. Have you noticed what has been going on in the restaurant business over the last few years? White table cloth restaurants with ultra formal service have been on the wane since the early 2000s. Comfort food, less glamorous cuts of meat and dining at the bar are in. Take this as a cue for your business.
Distill your services down to what customers will desire, understand, value and pay for. Pay attention to their current spending patterns—they are likely to continue for the next 2 – 3 quarters. Sell your services in easy to understand terms that tell clients what is in it for them. Also, make sure the price is right.
Green and sustainable
Clients have been willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly, fair trade, local, organic and sustainable everything. For some products at least, this trend looks to continue.
Remain visible, appear viable
The ad budget may be smaller, but continue to promote your business in cost-effective ways that reach your target customers. If that means taking out print or web ads, try your best to fit those into your budget. Radical cuts in advertising and promotions can cause you to miss the boat on opportunities. We all need even the small contracts in order to make it through the month. Ask to stretch out the ad payments and the answer will probably be yes. They want your business more than ever!
You will also be wise to continue membership in the chamber of commerce and other networking organizations where prospects and referral sources can be found. You may make fewer visits, but don’t disappear. Do not cede ground to your competition.
Project hope and confidence
Everybody likes a winner and everyone gravitates to (realistic) optimists. Don’t whine and moan about business to clients and prospects! That will be a turnoff. So chin up and portray a reasonable level of self-confidence. Remember that it is possible to make significant money in a recession: Kraft introduced Miracle Whip in 1933; Apple launched the iPod in 2001.
Good luck and thanks for reading,