Preparing For Lean Times

February 13, 2009

The one constant in freelance work is that it isn’t. Sometimes you have so much work to do you can’t possibly finish it all and then there are the times when you have no jobs on the horizon. 

Recession is happening all over the country. Layoffs are rampant and budgets are being slashed and slashed again. Most of the time one of the first things to go will be the part of the budget out of which a freelancer is paid. Its the new web design, the new mailer or promo video that clients decide to hold off on for a while. Those things seen as not integral to the bottom line, otherwise known as the stuff most freelancers make their money doing, is what gets cut first. 

If you make your money as a freelancer you need to be proactive. If these times haven’t hit you yet…they are coming. So how do you “recession proof” yourself/your business so that you don’t go under if times get lean?

First off, if you’re in debt, get out as fast as you can. Debt is a noose around your neck and it will hang you. There are lots of places around that will teach you how to get out of debt, its hard and it requires discipline but its so worth it in the end. There are way more benefits to being debt free than there are in whatever you bought that got you there. Once you are debt free you’re half way there. Here are some tips to keep you that way, even in the rough times. 

1. Save up 3-6 months income. Put it away and don’t touch it. It isn’t your slush fund for a new guitar, computer, or lens. Its insurance for when jobs stop rolling in. Most people with steady employment need only a couple months but because freelancing is much more unpredictable, you need more. 

2. Live on less than your making now because tomorrow you might be making less. If you start by not living at your max you have less of a chance of becoming overextended. 

3. Set up an emergencies fund of $1000 or so, that way if something breaks down, falls apart, or burns up you won’t go reaching for your credit card. Having a good cushion of cash between you and disaster has a way of keeping disaster at bay. (Dave Ramsey calls it Murphy)

4. Diversify. Work for more than one client, surely they won’t all stop calling at once. This will help insure that your cash flow dwindles slowing instead of shutting off all at once.

Finally, if you have spare cash floating around consider investing it in a business different than your own or starting that new venture you’ve been kicking around but didn’t have the time to pursue. 

You can weather the lean times if you are proactive and prepare. Don’t be caught in the cold without your coat!

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