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Freelance/contract work in a recession – Top Tips

It’s that time again. Yep, the big ol’ hunt for gainful employment. As a long term freelancer/contractor I have to do this on an almost continuous basis to make sure there’s always another door opening just as the last one closes.

It’s always been a slightly arduous task – although the benefits far outweigh the pain – my mother calls me an adrenaline junkie without the cliff. Presently, times are tough. Pretty much all sectors and industries are tightening belts, cutting back and muddling through. Where does that leave us hobos of the corporate world?

Here are some top tips, in no particular order, on how to survive the next leap and how to keep yourself (relatively) sane along the way. Please do add your input and own tips with a comment! …

  1. Visit your agencies. Their consultants may have changed; they may have new divisions since you last checked in with them; if it’s been a while, they may simply not remember you! A face to face visit is a great chance to make yourself memorable, talk about the ’state of the market’ and tell them all about the fabulous new stuff you created/achieved/learned on your last project.
  2. Remain positive! There’s a good reason you chose to earn your living this way. Try and remember what that was and build on it. Give yourself so many reasons to keep going it becomes impossible for you to give up.
  3. Boost your confidence and your profile. Ask around your previous clients/employers for some testimonials. Ask your current client. If they use LinkedIn, ask for a recommendation. These are gold dust. And reading them yourself can give you that little bump of “hm, you know what, I am pretty good at that” whenever a quick shot in the ego is needed.
  4. Stay calm. Life is so much easier when you just stay calm. This is coming from a renowned neurotic, so I know that’s not always as easy as it sounds! Count to ten, breathe in, breathe out and relax. Opportunities often happen in your peripheral vision; you are far more likely to notice them if you’re not totally blinkered by stress.
  5. Update everything! Any network, group or forum you may be a member of: update your profile. Wherever your CV or resume is or your sellers page is online, update that. Sign up to newsletters and email alerts for the opportunities you are now interested in.
  6. Clean out the closet. Metaphorically. Signed up to newsletters/alerts that no longer apply? Ditch ‘em. Still getting the daily round up email from that forum you never go to? Opt out. When the only things landing in your inbox are relevant things for right now, you are much more likely to actually read them. An overflowing inbox full of irrelevant opportunities is a recipe for tedium and procrastination. (Which kind of contradicts 4. but a balance can be struck, I’m sure)
  7. Be confident. Whatever it takes to keep your confidence up, use it. Your clients/prospective employers are feeling this recession too. Any budget they have needs to be spent wisely. Be confident in your dealings with them and they will be reassured. But don’t just act confident, find ways that work for you personally to truly make you shine. (Me, I talk to myself. A lot. We’re good friends)
  8. Stay sharp. Whether you’re a suited ‘n’ booted or casual type, wear your good stuff. You’re a walking advert now. Work it! ;-)
  9. Be flexible. Promised yourself that you’d never work past 4:20pm again? You may need to put a little extra in right now. Aggravating, certainly, but a few extra hours now could mean clocking off at 3:20pm in the long term.
  10. Treat yourself. Doing all this networking, schmoozing, charming and elevator-pitching while working as well is, frankly, bloody knackering. Be nice to yourself and have some fun. Switch off sometimes and tune out. I’ll be in the garden, fancy a cuppa?


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