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How Can Freelancers Navigate the Economic Downturn?

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With the economy set to contract even further, it is very easy to feel some sympathy for those businesses that might not make it out to the other end of the tunnel. But freelancers who are reliant on businesses for their living are also vulnerable, perhaps more so than their erstwhile clients, as they have neither job security nor recourse to severance pay should work dry up.

The first harsh truth that freelancers will have to face is that the business environment has changed. As businesses seek to cut costs, they will look for contractors that can complete jobs for lower fees. Freelancers who have finished contracts may not have them renewed, and there will consequently be more competition for those projects that are still being commissioned. It will be painful, but those accustomed to earning bumper fees may have to adjust to more modest payments in order to secure work.

Of course, in order to secure work in the first place, it is essential to network, with clients past, present, and (potentially) future. A good contractor is something of a social butterfly, always checking in with acquaintances to get the latest developments, constantly searching for the next opportunity to make their mark. Other freelancers can also be a good source of intelligence, as they may have turned down contracts or missed out on projects that their peers might be unaware of. By keeping an ear to the ground, freelancers should be able to ensure that they do not miss the chance to bid for work.

While working for clients, freelancers should do all they can to fit into the client’s business as seamlessly as possible. It is important that they see the contractor that they have taken on as an asset, rather than a cost that they would like to get rid of as quickly as possible. As such, it may benefit a go-getting contract to take on more than they initially agreed: if they can offer additional services on top of the project they quoted for, they ought to consider offering to do these for the client for a reduced or for no extra fee. This may extend the life of the contract, staving off the prospect of unemployment. If the worst comes to the worst and a client is determined to cut costs, a willing contract may even be willing to renegotiate their pay or the length of the contract.

All is not lost, however. For those freelancers who have found themselves run ragged in the past, fewer contracts may mean that they get the chance to pursue their own projects which have been languishing on the back burner while they have been focusing on their clients. Alternatively, they may use the opportunity of more free time to update their skills so that they in a position to take advantage of new opportunities in the future. Of course, this all relies on the freelancers having been sensible enough in times of plenty to put enough money aside to ride out a prolonged period of unemployment. It remains to be seen whether any will have to start selling their cars and/or homes in order to make things meet.

[Image by Just Us 3]

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