Thursday, March 13, 2008

Serenity Enemy: Recession Fears

If you read any portion of the news these days, you're hearing all about the iminent or current recession. It's enough to make anyone panic in their half-off shoes. And if you're self-employed, perhaps even moreso.

Yesterday, I posted to a freelance writers Web site seeking advice on how to cope with the recession, and here are the suggestions I got:

* Be choosy about which clients you take on: Stick with stable companies. Start-ups may not be the best option right now.
* Market yourself like crazy: Sales is always a numbers game, and even moreso now. Get those queries and marketing proposals out the door, and increase the number you do.
* Build relationships: You're more likely to get the jobs if you have a connection with the editor. Set aside time every week to meet with editors or other writers. Not only is this great support, but these are the folks who are going to offer you assignments.
* Don't be precious about assignments: Take what's offered. You can't always do your dream assignments.
* Build up your reserves: Now more than ever, it's important to have money saved to support yourself during down times that may be even more inevitable now. Some self-employed friends put 10 percent of every check into a prudent reserve. Can you afford that? I can't, not right now. But I am putting a smaller percentage aside.

And I would add to all of this:

* Be mindful of how *your* business is doing, not what the news says.

The last four months have been the most abundant of my short career as a freelancer. It's not hitting me yet. What is hitting me is the fear of recession and what it can do to me. There are lots of reasons for this but one of them is experiential.

My first memory of a recession affecting me was in 1987. Black Monday didn't just conjure images of the Depression, which I was studying in school, but brought real worries to bear: My dad owned his own business and it didn't take long for all his clients to dry up and for the business, funded by his retirement savings, to go under. It was a bleak moment in our family, but we recovered from it.

The important thing for me is to let go of that body memory and focus on my 1 percent: What can I control in this situation? How many queries I send, how much contact I make and how much money I save. The rest, unfortunately, isn't up to me. And the more I focus on what I can't control--the U.S. economy, my clients' freelance budngets, etc.--the less serenity I have and the less energy I have for doing my part.

What's your worry about the recession, and what's the one thing you can do today to help yourself?

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