Recessionary Periods

In late November 2001, the federal government came out with an alarming disclosure: The U.S. economy was in a recession, and had been since March of that year.

Well, thanks for the information, Uncle Sam. By the way, here’s a news break for you: Entrepreneurs who’ve had their pulse on the American economy had been feeling that reality for months—pre-dating March 2001.

Recognize the problem

Already, we’ve felt the pinch of the slowed economy. Though we work alone as independent contractors earning Form-1099s at year’s end, many of us received pink slips from clients who’ve been forced to cut back their freelance budgets. We’ve seen fees and assignments cut, our list of pending work whittled to a pittance of what it was only a year earlier, and our future prospects dimmed.

Find solutions

Businesses, however small, are businesses—and no matter how young or how mature, require nurturing to foster growth during slow times. So crack databases, call on old clients, ferret out new prospects and keep the words flowing out and the money flowing in.

Keep the marketing and new business development efforts moving like the gears of a clock. While many entrepreneurs might be tempted to cut back on marketing during an economic slide, advertising executives recommend business owners keep marketing budgets or efforts intact.

Cutting back on your public exposure can result in lost customer awareness and market share, and give competitors a chance to catch up.


Here’s a short list of business development and sustenance strategies for a slow—or even strong—economy:

  • Recreate or refine your image. When was the last time you hit Kinko’s or opened card-making software to create a new business card? How old is that stationery you created in Microsoft Word? How old are the clips in your portfolio? When did you last refresh your “look”?

    Use your free time to create the “marketing collaterals” you need to spread your image. You can even update the “sig file” or electronic footer in your e-mail to better reflect who you are today.

  • Network with prospects. With your new cards, clips or resume in hand, get out where your prospects are. If you live in a metro area with a number of publications in town, call the appropriate editor or assigning editor and arrange a lunch. If you have peers who have worked with some of these publications, beg for an introduction or recommendation to get your foot in the door.

    If you’re a contract marketing or public relations writer, grab some of your clips or examples, and hit local meetings of the Public Relations Society of America, advertising federation or other trade group (call any large PR firm or ad shop in town—or log onto the Internet—to find out who the organizations’ local representatives are). Pitch yourself and your skills.

  • Network with peers. No doubt your writing peers in the local or regional market are feeling the same crunch you are. Find out how others are feeling, commiserate, and know you’re not alone. If misery loves company, share some ideas, news, leads and prospects with your peers over a meal. Create an online discussion group on Yahoo! or a similar free service.
  • Become a trend watcher. Many editors are focused on putting out publications from offices far removed from the world’s daily affairs. Agency executives or other contract writing clients have been forced to cut staffing in the slowed economy. Yet, they all rely on input, feedback and fresh thinking from correspondents or contractors in the field.
    Here are quick tips you can perform to solidify your business as a writer:
  • Keep marketing and new business development efforts moving.
  • Don’t cut back on marketing—keep your budget and/or efforts intact.
  • Make phone calls to pitch article ideas or to seek out new assignments.
  • Concentrate on contacting old clients, in addition to ferreting out new prospects.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Become that lifeline to fresh ideas. Staying atop trends and news will help you keep a finger on the pulse of the economy, and develop a feel for how quickly your own tidings may be changing.

  • Maintain a positive mental attitude. Always remember that the economy runs in cycles. The boom that was the mid- to late 1990s was preceded by a slowdown in the late 1980s.

    While surviving the cycles may seem long and arduous, know that it takes stamina and a positive outlook to ensure the enterprise emerges stronger when the storm has cleared.

    Watch how you talk to clients and prospects. It can become habit to call clients frequently begging for new assignments or asking when new assignments may come along. Soon enough, your call could be avoided because you’re perceived as a pest. Track your calls in your datebook; each time you get a “No,” ask when you should call back. Note that date and follow up.

    Be persistent, but not a pest. Remember that whether they’re clients, prospects, peers or others in the business world, people can benefit from an upbeat voice speaking in a positive way.

  • Stay focused. It is easy to slide into idle as you lament the downturn. Stay focused on the enterprise—and envision ways to revive your business. By keeping true to your business and working to keep your wheels in motion, you thwart any chance to lose your way and slow down—or worse, to wallow in the misery and worry that can come with idle time.

    In time, recessions or economic downturns slide into history, and like spring itself, give way to the flowering rebound of a new season. By keeping business trim, marketing in shape, contacts close and prospects closer, today’s entrepreneur can emerge stronger and more confident.

    This article appeared in the April 2002 issue of Writer’s Digest.

    You might also like:

    • No Related Posts