America's 59 million freelancers need to buckle up and assume the 'brace' position; 2023 is going to be a very bumpy ride according to Roy Sheppard a full-time freelancer for over 40 years and founder of the newly launched online community www.FreelancerSupport.online.
He adds 'With 63.6% of American freelancers under the age of 34 (Edelman Intelligence 2021), they've never experienced a recession. That is about to change.'
Sheppard explains 'As someone who has been a fulltime freelancer since 1978, I have worked through two global recessions. Because of increased competition, for existing freelancers, the predicted US and European recession will make their lives even more challenging and insecure than usual. For those who get forced into freelancing following a layoff, it will be worse.
Due to financial pressures, businesses will need to make savings, cutting budgets to the bone. All non-essential expenditure will be put on hold and in many cases, some business owners will stop using freelancers altogether. If companies continue to lose money, they will look to make non-essential employees redundant, as has been seen recently with many thousands of job losses at Google, Twitter and Meta. It's highly likely that a recession will lead to huge layoffs globally in hundreds of thousands of organizations.
People with transferrable skills are likely to choose freelancing because they have no other option, so a massive increase in competition is expected by people who'll be prepared to work at rock bottom prices.
We freelancers don't have a safety net at the best of times, so it's essential you do whatever you can now, before the downturn takes a grip.'
Here are Sheppard's top freelancer survival tips for the next couple of years (although he stresses, there can be no guarantees).
- Firstly, you have to ask yourself whether your service is a 'must-have' or a 'nice-to-have'. If your role is non-essential, you will be vulnerable. Do an audit of your existing skills and sharpen up how you present them, so they sound more 'must-have'.
- It might be worth investing time to learn new skills and register with online freelancer platforms such as www.Fiverr.com, www.Upwork.com, Freelancer.com and PeoplePerHour.com to sell your new digital expertise, so you can earn as you learn.
- Cost reduction, especially before you are forced to do it, is a secret weapon. You need to go through your bank account statement and identify every regular non-essential payment and stop spending on those items, especially seemingly inexpensive things like daily cappuccinos!
- When the economy eventually picks up again, you may think you've survived but make sure enough money is set aside to pay all of your tax liabilities, always remembering that the money that goes into your bank account does not all belong to you.
There's a saying "Dig your well before you're thirsty." NOW is the time to pick up a shovel! From today, proactively build your LinkedIn network and attend local MeetUp groups (not just those relating to your business). This is all about building a reputation for being a trustworthy, agreeable individual who others will choose to introduce or recommend to THEIR contacts. For the same reason, it's also important to develop networks with other freelancers in your field. When you have these trusted connections, you can feed overflow work to each other.
Roy Sheppard is a veteran freelancer and a former BBC TV news anchor in London, England. He is the founder of www.freelancersupport.online which includes a free online video course "Be Stronger: Mentally, Emotionally, Physically and Financially", to help freelancers (who often work in isolation) to protect their mental health.