Freelancing During a Recession

Recession special (by j1myi)

Recently Freelance Folder posted an article called Should You Freelance During a Recession that contained lists of things to consider for current freelancers and for those who are considering freelancing. They also made the point that you can have a regular job and freelance – it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Somehow I’m glad I didn’t see this article before I made my decision because I might have felt like I didn’t have all aspects in order. But the recession is what kept me from making a decision about whether I should freelance full time for quite some time.

Originally I planned to start freelancing full time in January. My job gave the time between Christmas and New Years as paid time off and I didn’t want to pass that up. ;-) But then a combination of factors made me decide to keep my job; my Mom passed away, the recession got worse, and my ex got laid off.

My Mom passing away didn’t directly affect my ability to freelance full time but it hit me hard and I didn’t have any motivation to do anything except what I had to do for a good month.

By the beginning of the year the recession was really being felt all over even if it hadn’t been directly impacting your life. Prices were getting higher for food and other goods, friends were losing jobs and there was this overall feeling of insecurity. I thought that it would be stupid for me to let go of a full-time job and that the best thing to do was to work full time and freelance in order to have multiple income streams and to earn as much as I could.

My ex got laid off in January. Child support was reduced and we lost the health insurance for the kid because he was providing it. This frightened me and made me feel like I should work non-stop to cover everything.

But I got through these things. I started to feel better about my Mom, found health insurance for Alex and stopped depending on the child support. Sometimes we need it but for now I’m trying to save it and not consider it reliable income.

And once I got past the fears and made my decision everything fell into place. I’m continuing to get work, have time to actually do it now, and have a lot more time with the kid. I’m calmer and my house is slowly becoming cleaner.

I often thought that maybe I was an idiot for leaving a job in a recession. It’s not like I can find another one right away if the freelancing doesn’t work out. But so far, so good. And everyone, even people I didn’t think would be like my Dad, have been super-supportive.

But back to the article. I think it offers some really good things to think about. And if you still have a full-time job do what I did – freelance part time and see how it goes before leaving your job. I’ll also say that it’s easier to go for it if you have an employed partner who is providing you with benefits. Makes it a lot easier.

What do think? Is full time freelancing during a recession foolish? Or do you think the recession is creating more opportunities for freelancers?

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  1. says

    I think freelancing may get more opportunity in recession period , as more people have to find an effective and inexpensive way to get things done. I believe you will be proud one day that you have done such a challenging decision in critical time and get thought it.

  2. says

    Hi Kim – I think, as Jonathan Fields more eloquently states, that we are our own best security. So many people hang on to a job in recessive times because of the “security factor.” It’s a sure thing . . . until you get laid off, right?

    Transitioning into freelance work will do two things: diversify your revenue sources and establish a client base that will be a more comfortable cushion when you do go full time. In fact, there’s no reason not to develop a secondary gig, ever. BUT, there’s nothing wrong with taking the plunge, as you did, either. I wouldn’t second guess at this point. You’ve made improvements in your family life – which should be the first priority anyway, and could be the sole reason to make the move in the first place.

    I think some people might have the tendency to remain half in and half out of total freelancing with only a half-hearted part time attempt because of the (false) sense of security – which is really an excuse for inertia – having a job provides. It’s tough to remain on the edge of the pool without taking the plunge. :)

    Betsy Wuebker´s last blog post – IDEALS, ICONS AND INDEPENDENT THINKING

    • says

      Hi Betsy – Financially it probably made the most sense to continue to do both jobs but I couldn’t keep up the schedule. That’s a really good point that it is a false sense of security – regular job can be taken away at any time. My employer was quite elderly and there was a concern that if he passed away we would all lose our jobs as I worked for him directly rather than the actual company.

  3. Jenn Long says

    Hey there, Kim! I’ve worked a regular freelance gig for several years now in addition to full-time work. I have some significant fears about the viability of my full-time job in the recession but the benefits are great and I love the flexibility I have in addition to the work I do. So I’m hanging in there. But there are enough rumblings to make me wonder about the full-time work and so recently I’ve taken to exploring some other freelance options. Sometimes the balance between the two sides is difficult for me but I’m working on a plan and some options.

    • says

      Hi Jenn – I’m so happy to see you here :-) I love it when people I know it real life visit the site.

      I don’t know how you keep up your schedule …

      I think everyone, even if they have a secure job, should explore alternative revenue streams as we just don’t know what will happen.

      You have been there for a long time so that should help … and a lot of places always have rumblings – even when the economy is good.

      Are you doing anything with the photography?

  4. says

    Foolish or not. I’m doing it. I have good days and I have bad days. But fortunately most have been great. The freedom, independence and ability to freely do whatever I want every day is pretty invigorating. I’ve also learned a TON about myself and the PR/Social Media industry. I don’t know if I could have learned the stuff I know now in-house.

    • says

      Hi Stuart – I agree – since I’ve had more time to do the freelance work I’ve already learned things that I would have struggled with just a couple of weeks ago.

      I think how much you do or don’t learn depends on the job – I learned a lot from a couple of my jobs. Even working in tech support taught me how to talk to people and how to listen to figure out what they really needed. It also taught me patience, which has never been my strong point.

      And right now I’m out of town for a couple of days dealing with some family issues. I had to arrange childcare but didn’t have to request the time off – it was much simpler to just go.

  5. Rick Wolff says

    My situation is similar to yours, but my reaction is different. I worked as a graphic artist in a newspaper for eight years, until things got untenable in October of last year. There were layoffs left and right, and it was easy to think (to someone who didn’t follow the news as closely as I should have) that all the financial problems were limited to the newspaper industry. I had a grandiose plan, made possible by a nest-egg, to pro-blog part-time, and return to my temp agency, who assured me that the going rate up till then could pay an hourly rate that would match my weekly salary after three or four days. But, as I discovered after I resigned, there was no temp work to be had. None at all. I made a terrible decision, over which I spent many weeks kicking myself. I tried freelancing, but I have zero aptitude and zero experience in selling my services. And the presence of Crowdspring, with its perpetual “logo design contest” business model driving down the price of an hour of work, I just decided that this career wasn’t worth pursuing any more. I’ve been doing it for 27 years, with little meaning to show for it, and there are much hungrier and more talented guys getting what little work remains. Besides, I suspect the recession is killing the whole model of a company equipping workstations and hiring people per diem, in favor of remote commissions—what they used to call telecommuting, except it’s global. It’ll never come back again.

    • says

      Hi RIck – I’m sorry that your experience has been so negative. Do you live in a large or small town or city. I think living in a big city makes certain things easier for me.

      Marketing myself was really hard for me as well. At first I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I traded work for promotion in the beginning and that really helped me get started.

      I run into the same issues – people in other countries can do the same work for a lot less money. It can be very difficult when I am competing against them.

  6. says

    I agree with Betsy. There are always great opportunities for freelancers. It’s all about working smart and being the best you can be. The bottom line is, nobody else is you so be the best you that you can be.

    Writer Dad´s last blog post – 6 Secrets Every Writer Shares

  7. says

    Freelancing is a lifestyle that is liberating, energizing, and health-making, but it’s not for everybody. If you can’t turn risk into excitement, uncertainty into energy, and a lack of a schedule into productivity, then it’s not for you.

    I think you, Kim, have all of these qualities and more, and will continue to do well freelancing. I’m glad that I don’t sense much real second-guessing, and that your resolve seems firmer than ever.

    My first venture into freelancing was during a recession in the early 1980’s. There were some rough times, but I thrived not only career-wise, but as a person. It was one of the most valuable experiences of my entire life.

    I think a recession might be one of the *best* times to start freelancing for the simple fact that many companies and people are looking to have work done without establishing a formal, employee-type relationship. Those with the credentials and ability that you have, Kim, will do well now, and will be leagues ahead when the recession dissipates.

    Mike Nichols´s last blog post – 5 Interesting Articles for You: Your Occasional Reader

    • says

      Hi Mike – Thank you for believing in me. So far, I’ve been incredibly busy and I hope it stays this way. I agree that in certain fields freelancers are being hired rather than full time employees. I guess I’ll see what happens …

  8. says

    Well I don’t really have to work with my husband keeping us afloat with his car business but what you said here… “And once I got past the fears and made my decision everything fell into place,” is a pretty empowering attitude, which when coupled with your combined experience and gut instincts, has GOT to take you to a good place.

    Jannie Funster´s last blog post – Ordering The Funsterment

    • says

      Hi Jannie – How are you?

      I hope it takes me to a good place. :-) Sometimes I wish I had the security of a 2nd income in the house but when there was one I didn’t have the confidence to do this.

      This week it has taken me to Vermont – not sure if this is a good place or not ;-)

  9. says

    Having been laid off about 4-5 times in the past almost 12 years, I was never able to rely on a job for security. Now I’m on a forced mini retirement (disability) and I’m not sure if I would even have a job when this is over. Where’s the security in that?

    As long as you have everything in order, savings, health insurance, and a few clients why not?

    carla´s last blog post – Green + Chic Baby Gift Sets

    • says

      Hi Carla – I think that there really isn’t such a thing as true security and that being alive in itself is risky. But we fool ourselves into thinking that we are safe and secure. Then we are so shocked when something happens to break apart this imagined security.

      I’ve actually never been laid off so I don’t know what that is like. I think I’ve just been lucky with that. It seems that it’s taught you a lot about self-reliance.

    • says

      Hi Tess – That’s true to a point but things we don’t expect to happen still do. I don’t like the reverse of that which implies that if something negative happens than that is what I expected.

      “Live like there is nothing missing” – that’s good – I can’t think of anything important that is missing right now.

  10. says

    I agree with Betsy and Writer Dad.

    And am going to get up on my soapbox and say this is why we need universal health care. Can you imagine what awesome things people could do if freed from the need to find and pay for health insurance for their families? Hello! It would make capitalism booming, y’all!

    /off my pink soapbox

    The Original “Gross Lady”´s last blog post – 5 Super Creepy Songs

    • says

      Hi Tracy – I completely agree. I do not think that health care should be tied to employment. I believe it should be part of being a citizen. And people would take risks and try things they might not otherwise.


  11. says

    I’m sorry to hear that your mom has passed away. Like her my brother passed away lat March 4, 2009 and I know how hard it is.

    It has affected my energy to my daily task online. I am also in the freelance industry.

    • says

      Hi – I’m very sorry about your brother. Losing someone does make it
      had to be productive and get much done. I went through a time feeling
      like everything was pointless.

      What type of work do you do?

  12. says

    I think freelancers probably do get more opportunities, as companies are trying to find ways to get things done without having to take on a full time employee + benefits. So that is definitely a bonus.

    Plus it seems like with freelance work, you have the opportunity to take on jobs that fit you better, whereas the regular job seeker in this economy will be looking for anything just to make ends meet.

    Glad to hear that it is working out for you so far, and thanks for sharing all of the thoughts going into making that decision.

    ~ Kristi

    Kikolani´s last blog post – Fetching Friday – Resources, #FollowFriday, WordPress Security, and Amazing Animations

    • says

      Hi Kristi – Thanks :-)

      It’s only been a couple of weeks but I’ve found more than enough work so far. I hope it continues through the summer.

  13. Tamlin says

    Recently read a book about “The new Capitalism” by Rich Sennet, the theme of which is that skill no longer matters and that the most efficient way to secure an income was keep an eye out for opportunity and socialize a lot.
    Suffice to say when people tell me to retrain I feel like telling them to p*ss off and that I wish all those making the suggestions would retrain themselves and shut the heck up. Instead of being opinionistas let ’em dig ditches and clean toilets. That’s very zen and a surefire way to compassion, empathy and etc.
    Actually skills do become obsolete, but the underlying purpose or need doesn’t.
    Butcha know when the northeast went belly up and lost all the manufacturing jobs invariably some clown would suggest they’d replace the jobs with tourism!
    Ha Ha visit Cleveland – sun and fun spot of Ohio!
    Let me keep this short. At some point we judge, truly, people not by what they say – because we’re all robots and tape recorders, repeating what we just heard, but by what they don’t say. Because silence may be golden but it also drives a person insane.
    The cruel fact is that professional organizations exist not to propagate a trade, but to restrain the number of people entering a trade so as to; A) ensure a measure of expertise among the practitioners and B) make sure that only people supporting prevailing dogmas are paid.
    Once a kind hearted woman wrote to Sam Clemens and asked in effect “How do I go about being a rich and famous writer like you.” And he, for reasons that escape me at the moment gave a straight answer. “In every trade one must serve a period of time as an apprentice.” In other words there’s no royal road to philosophy and even if there were it would be so covered with the corpses of would be heroes that it would be impossible to navigate.
    I say this to save you a broken heart.
    Good luck, Aiine,



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