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Are Freelancers Recession-Proof? Turn Uncertainty Into Favor
As we stare down the barrel of another recession, I am incredibly grateful that I work for myself.
When you work for other people, you put your life in their hands. When you lose your job, you lose your only source of income, your benefits, and your livelihood. Freelancers are naturally more resilient than the average 9–5 employee because we’ve built flexible, decentralized business models that mean we never rely on income from just one source; we have decreased our dependence on the opinions and control of others.
On top of all the reasons freelancing is more secure than a 9–5 job, freelancers are better positioned to find work in a recession economy.
Hiring freezes don’t mean that the work stops; it just means that there are fewer people to do it. Companies are turning to freelance talent to fill this gap.
A recent study by Upwork found that a majority (56%) of hiring managers that engage independent talent say they have increased utilization of independent talent over the past 12 months. And 58% plan to increase the utilization of independent talent over the next six months and the next two years (66%).
Freelancer.com reported that job postings for software developers increased by 54.7%, and coders increased by 45.5% in the third quarter. This is compared to new job postings by U.S. employers for full-time IT workers, which fell 12% according to CompTIA.
On a broader level, companies are leveraging freelance talent to make their businesses more resilient in an increasingly uncertain world. The same Upwork study found that 79% of companies agree that working with independent talent enables their business to be more innovative. 84% of hiring managers who work with freelancers say they are confident in their company’s ability to respond to disruption, compared to 69% of those who do not use freelancers.
All of this means that freelancers are naturally more antifragile than 9–5 employees — we thrive in uncertain times instead of becoming victims to them.
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Want to thrive through the upcoming recession? Here are a few ways to do that.
Hit Up Your Network
Go on a listening tour with your colleagues and clients to let them know you’re here for them in this uncertain time. This doesn’t have to suck. Pick the people you actually want to reconnect with and send them a personalized email or text, or give them a call and ask if they’d like to catch up. Even if it seems like they wouldn’t be a potential client, you would be surprised at how peripheral connections can turn into solid client relationships. Plus, it is nice to have an excuse to reach out to someone you haven’t seen in a long time and reconnect. When the shit hits the fan, you will be at the top of their list of people to ask for help.
You know the saying: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. And yet, society wants us to believe that getting all of our income from one source is somehow “secure.” Spread out your risk and dependence however you can — more clients, more income streams, more investments, more people to rely on — when one fails (and it will), you’ll have others waiting in the wings.
This rule goes so much further than money and material goods. You also want to diversify your ideas and not get stuck in one definition of what’s true, right, or possible. Give yourself the freedom of an open mind — diversify your sources of information, explore divergent opinions, and have real-life conversations with people who don’t “think like you.”
Never Plan Further Than Six Months in Advance
A year ago, would you have predicted where you would be today? Do you believe the same things? Do you have the same goals, the same problems? Do you spend your time with the same people?
I’m not saying don’t save for retirement, put money in your kid’s college fund, or take out a 30-year mortgage; I’m saying make the majority of your plans shorter-term to balance out the inherent instability of long-term strategies.
Planning in shorter cycles will make your plans more effective because you’ll be able to adjust with new information you didn’t have before. The person making that five-year plan today is not the same person who will be living that plan in five years. Plan your life and goals in short cycles so you can do what you want now and not marry yourself to some theoretical definition of success in the future.
Freelancers can leverage tools to make our businesses more resilient in uncertainty, even as we help our clients navigate the same struggles. As systems and structures around us fail under the pressure of uncertainty, we can build antifragile structures for our own lives, laying the foundation for the new structures that need to be built in society.
Top-down solutions, rarely successful to begin with, are no longer serving us. The complexity of the problems surrounding us has to be addressed from the bottom up; by those of us who have skin in the game have everything to lose.
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Freelancers are at the forefront of this new world where we take control of our livelihood and help other businesses thrive in uncertainty.