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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Opportunities for Writers in the New Age of Austerity


Here in Britain, we are in the final throes of a General Election campaign with an uncertain outcome (FWIW, my bet is that no party will gain an overall majority).

Whatever happens, however, after the election we can expect a slew of harsh economic measures, including higher taxes, job losses (especially in the public sector), cutbacks, and so on, as the long process of paying for the bailout of the world's banking system begins.

The same prospect faces many other countries, including - of course - the US. We may or may not be though the worst of the recession, but now the piper has to be paid. The trick, it seems to me, will be to achieve this without plunging the world into another, even deeper, recession.

So what does this grim prospect mean for freelance writers? On the downside, many businesses will feel the pinch as consumers cut back on spending, and some are very likely to go to the wall. Freelances who depend on a small number of regular clients may be hard hit by this.

On the other hand, I can see opportunities arising from this new age of austerity as well...

1. With companies laying off permanent staff to save money, I fully expect more work to be outsourced to freelances in the months ahead.

2. In tough times, businesses have to do more to promote themselves and keep sales ticking over. This will create more opportunities for business writers (and copywriters in particular).

3. And likewise, as the world of commerce becomes ever more competitive, I expect more businesses to come to appreciate the value of good quality writing, both on- and off-line. This should create more, better paid opportunities for writers who can deliver the goods.

4. I also expect that the flexibility and low overheads offered by freelances will be increasingly appreciated by cash-strapped companies.

5. The accelerating trend away from buying on the high street and toward buying online can only benefit freelances and other small businesses as long as they are 'web wise'.

6. The latest software makes it easier than ever for freelances to operate successfully via the Internet, set up professional-looking websites, use social networking to find new clients and collaborators, apply for work, and so forth.

7. And freelances are typically far quicker to adapt to changing circumstances than large companies, who become set in their ways and vulnerable to changes in the market that make their products and services suddenly less desirable.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong - I have a lot of sympathy for people who are in conventional employment and don't know from one day to the next whether they will still have a job to go to tomorrow. But for a growing number of people, like myself, I'm convinced that the future lies in self-employment.

All of us, including freelance writers, are likely to suffer pain in the short term (at least) from the swingeing cuts that are surely coming. Unlike traditional jobs, however, I expect that opportunities for capable freelances will actually increase in the years ahead.

In my view, now is very much the time to be polishing and extending your writing skills, updating your website, seeking new outlets for your work, and ramping up your marketing efforts to ensure you have enough clients to replace any who fall by the wayside. If you can do that, you will be well placed to survive and even prosper in the uncertain times ahead.

Photo credit: Lets.Book on Flickr.



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4 Comments:

Anonymous Andy Gage said...

Another great 'true to form' article from Nick. But having suffered with a sudden loss of clients with my freelance Copywriting/Design company when the credit crunch first started, I think freelance writers need to diversify much more into offering Copywriting Training Courses, E-Books, and recommending tried and tested expert's products (like Nick's writing programs, software and advice). Once you've built up a good reputation, become a recognised source for sound advice, you'll have a profitable, recession-proof business, where you don't need to rely on having 'clients' - only a good list of returning customers. This I think, is less stressful, as a Writer, and can be much more rewarding!

12:16 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Andy. Interesting point. I do agree that Internet marketing/affiliate sales can provide a very useful extra income stream, although it might not appeal to all writers.

Personally, although I earn a steady sideline income from Internet marketing, the greater part of my own income does still come from the fees paid by my clients. But I do agree that having other, "non-client" income streams (maybe also including self-publishing, AdSense advertising, etc.) is very sensible in these uncertain times.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Kathi Calahan said...

Nick:
Very cutting edge article and love the crystal ball image to emphasize the point. You're so right, the times they are a changin' and if we don't change with (or before) them, we'll be mired in old traditional ways that no longer work; and neither will we. Have you read Daniel Pink's work? (A Whole New Mind) You two are on the same page. It's time to think outside the box. Thanks so much for the wake-up call.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Kathi. Glad you liked the article (and the photo I chose to illustrate it!). I haven't read the book you mention, but it sounds as though I probably should. These are indeed interesting times, aren't they?

9:40 PM  

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