Today I'm thinking about next year, and a potential, maybe, kinda a possible recession? As someone who freelanced through the 2008-2009 Great Recession, which hit JUST after I bought my first house, I learned a lot that helped me pull through then. I've only lost one small assignment so far, but I worry, and that experience is informing some of decisions leading into 2023. Even if we aren't in a recession, I know my costs of living are going up, so it's not a bad idea to try to stress test your business, and make it more resilient no matter what's up ahead.
Here's what to do first:
1. Identify vulnerable sectors. In 2008, a lot of my work was in travel (which made sense since my first travel guide was published in…2008). Outside of "cheap travel" that focused on the Jersey Shore, just about all my travel and entertainment writing disappeared. If your work is heavily weighted in sectors that rely on people having money to spare, you probably want to think about diversifying. Even if you're great at writing how to do things on a budget, if the publication doesn't have any advertisers, they're not going to hire to you to write those pieces.
2. Identify vulnerable clients. Who is bad at paying you on time? Who has extended payment terms? And who is just paying you a little later after every invoice? If a recession hits, they will most likely either nix freelancers or do what they can to pay you last.
3. Quantify your client mix. How many clients do you have? How much of your income comes from each one? What will happen if you lose one or two of your biggest clients? You may be comfortable right now with having one outlet make up the bulk of your income, but what happens if they stop using freelancers? I try to make sure one client doesn't make up 20% of my income.
Okay you have a list of your businesses' vulnerabilities. Here's what to do about it:
1. Identify how you can translate shaky niches into more stable ones. Do you write about ways to save money on travel? Congrats, you're a finance writer. Do you write about bougie fitness trends? Congrats, you can write about health. Also look at what you do outside of you writing work. How can you translate that into work that won't go away if budgets in your usual markets dry up? (I cover this in my second ebook, Where to Find New Freelance Clients and Turbocharge Your Career).
2. Market, market market. That means checking in with (nice) clients you haven't written for in a while to let them know you're available, seeing if your current clients know anyone who need someone like you, and reaching out to new targets. This will help you replace work you're worried about, and add new outlets if you find you're too dependent on one or two right now. I am extremely busy at the moment, but I still took a half hour today to send out another batch of letters of introduction (LOIs). In my last run of marketing, I landed a $1.25/word client in a sector that stayed strong for me during 2008 recession. That LOI was pretty direct in its results: I sent it on September 15, and had an assignment a week later. LOIs don't often work that fast, but as I've said before: they're like planting seeds now without knowing when they'll grow. Most of my work from these pushes will probably come in 2023, and that's just fine with me.
"Don't post that Instagram. Send a postcard instead" for The Washington Post
"Economist Leah Boustan '00 is busting myths about immigration" for Princeton Alumni Weekly
"Exit Interview: WM's former chief on her move to USAA and the profession's evolution" for HR Dive
"7 delicious baking shows to satisfy your sweet tooth" for Tudum
"How 2023 compensation hikes will affect HR strategy" for HR Dive
"Can e-cigarettes help you stop smoking" for The New York Times
"Quest Diagnostics VP talks boosting worker health without invading privacy" for HR Dive
"4 major California employment law changes for 2023" for HR Dive
What I'm Reading
As I mentioned before, the Book a Week with Jen redesign is live! You can also subscribe there so you'll get an email as soon as a new review posts. I'll keep posting the reviews here for now, but if you wanted to get just those (or on a more regular basis than I send this newsletter), you now have that option!
- The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian (I also talked about this book on the podcast Book Fight)
- When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
- From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg
- I'm Not Really a Waitress by Suzi Weiss-Fleishman
- What I'm Watching
- Endgame. I caught this in my hotel room while taking a break from adventuring in Lake Placid. I forgot how good it is.
- Derry Girls. I'm glad they came back together for one final season, if the main cast is pretty far from being teenagers now.
- Reboot. Very clever with a lot of heart. I hope it gets a second season.
- She-Hulk. Loved it, especially that wild finale.
- The Women. I paid for a month of YouTubeTV so I could watch the Phillies in the playoffs. Bonus: TV! So I watched The Women on TCM while working this morning. There are too many things to say about this classic, but if you need something fun, you can just watch the fashion show scenes. Or this gif: