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In Praise of Cockroaches: What to do if the economic shit hits the fan

If the U.S. economy tanks, I mean really tanks big time, how will that affect the lot of freelance writers? No matter where they live.

In the normal ebb and flow of economies this is what usually happens. In bad times the first thing corporations do is downsize – that wonderful euphemism for throwing their workers on the trash heap with little thought to the human side of the equation. They have to preserve shareholder value don’t you know. Fools that they are they tend to first chuck out what they consider the most expendable part of the operation, the Communications Division. And in one fell swoop they get rid of half their corporate memory.

When the shit hits the fan, and it always does in bad times, all of a sudden when they go to their communications team to explain to the press what went wrong…. whoops they no longer have the capacity to do so. What to do? They temporarily turn to freelancers to fill in the gap.

And when times turn good again they slowly bring their communications shop back up to strength. But the problem is, much of that corporate memory is now gone.

None of which is our problem except to say that if we position ourselves properly we can take advantage of those ebbs and flows.

But if the American economy really does blow up – not saying that it will – but if – then all bets may be off. So as a freelance speechwriter, if I dwell on that possibility and go to a dark place, this is how it might play out.

As oil and travel costs go up, will many of my current crop of clients curtail their attendance and speaking engagements at international conferences. There goes 10% of the business. As corporations ask all their divisions to cut back all costs by 15%, the head of PR insists on no more contracting out of speech work. Another 20% gone. Governments send out a similar message to their various ministries and departments and all of a sudden there is no more work to bid on. And so on.

Since we don’t know for sure what the economy will bring us over the next year, I would suggest you hope for the best but plan for the worst. I won’t go into the various marketing strategies that I have talked about so often before. But I would suggest that you think of as many ways as you can to bring in multiple sources of writing income.

Assuming you are a specialist – and please tell me that you are – then you could, in addition to providing your regular services:

Write articles for magazines on your specialty.
Double up by selling reprint rights for articles you have written for your web site. you do have one of those do you not?
Teach your own specialty at a community college.
Host your own course online or in person.
Write and sell your own eBook.
Hold your own Teleseminars on your specialty.

The secret is having multiple irons in the fire. Out of writing can come the teaching. Add the Internet as a marketing tool, and you would be amazed at how many possibilities can come up.

We freelancers have to be a little like cockroaches…the ability to adapt to any set of circumstances that the working environment sends our way.

But start now. All the above are doable but they take time. It is not as hard as you might think.