Getting started as freelancer in a slow economy

Ilise Benun on your online marketing planOn the Creative Freelancer Conference LinkedIn Group, one ready-to-be freelancer wonders if now is the right time. In other words, is it smart to be getting started as freelancer in a slow economy?

“I’m an experienced, part-time freelance graphic designer scheming to make it a full-time small business, but I’m concerned about leaving my secure, full-time GD/AD job while the economy is still in dubious shape. Some say a slow economy is good for freelancers/small businesses, others tell me to “hang on to my job with both hands.” I am curious to hear from folks who are currently running a freelance/small business – has the economic downturn affected you, and what would you advise a gal like me to do? Wait it out? Take the plunge? “

What do you think? Comment here on the blog or on the LinkedIn discussion.

7 thoughts on “Getting started as freelancer in a slow economy

  1. Scott Saunders

    The reality of the slow economy over the last 5-6 years has actually been a blessing to the freelance design community as a whole. The economy has, unfortunately, caused the small to large business communities to decrease their marketing budget (a fact that is unfortunate because down economies is actually when those budgets need to be increased). This decrease in budget has largely hurt the design firms and agencies, who in turn have had to lay off their in-house staff. However, with a downsized staff, they have had to outsource to freelancers.

    At the same time, due to the economy, the small to larger business community has shown greater discernment to analyze how they are spending their marketing dollar. This has caused them to bypass the small to mid-sized design agencies and firms and seek out the sole, freelancer who, for the most part, will provide the same services, but at a lower cost due to the lack of overhead the agency has.

    The slow economy has done nothing in short but help foster a freelancer industry. But with the spike in need, the number of freelancers have grown considerably. The end result is that it is becoming a very aggressive field now. Competition is high. So, designers, stay sharp, keep the creative juices flowing, and be business-sauvy and informed. That is the only way you will stay in this field.

  2. Mauricio Pavón

    Just make sure that your “secure” job is such…

    If for any reason your employer has to “let you go” then you’ll become a forced freelancer…

  3. meredith

    The glut of freelancers is not as serious a problem as one might think since few artist really understand how to market themselves. (In spite of spending all their work time marketing others!!!!!!!)

  4. Tim Blake

    I don’t have much to add to what Scott has already said above. It’s a tough market out there and there’s lots of talented competition. But as Ilise advises, find your niche market(s) and focus on reaching those contacts.

    I would also advise you to make as many contacts as possible, before leaving your full-time position. I don’t know what your level of client contact is, in your current position, but try to involve yourself in as many client meetings as possible. Let them see your abilities and talents. Who knows, when you do eventually make the leap, some of them may follow you. But don’t just limit yourself to those clients. Get out there, make new contacts and let those contacts know about your intentions. You never know, it may take just one large client for you to decide to pull the trigger.

  5. nc

    Are you nuts? I’ve been self employed for 22 years as a writer and designer, and have been trying to find a full-time job. My longstanding clients expect twice the work for half the compensation, and I’ve had zero luck getting away from them. With a deep background in working with not-for-profits, of course, I’m really stuck, given that NFPs have no money in this economy. Unfortunately, all that great experience effectively prices me out of a job, and the few agency jobs I see probably won’t consider someone my age.

    If you’re lucky enough to have job (and benefits, including health insurance, which I dropped two years ago when the cost went nuts), don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Freelance on the side, if you enjoy the work and don’t mind paying self-employment taxes, but don’t risk going broke just for the sake of freedom.

    I’ve loved my independence, but if someone offered me a job right now, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

  6. Tony Johnston

    I am just starting a freelance business; but not by choice. I was laid off out of the blue and have been looking for job for over 8 months. While I was looking I volunteered at a local non-profit to keep busy. I got my first client about 3 months ago after really cutting my rate. I worked a month on various projects then BLAMO nothing no money paid that he owes me, no phone call or email returns. He owes me about $525 and has become a ghost. Some of the big time freelancers may not have this problem but at least when I worked for a business I got paid for the work.

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