4 Tips to Recession-Proof Your Writing Business
By Kristine Hansen
News outlets release joblessness reports on a weekly basis. You can probably name half a dozen people in your life struggling to hang onto their homes, remain employed or pay down credit-card debt.
While your writing business may be prospering now, how do you know it won’t suffer tomorrow? Last year I woke up one morning to an email – sent overnight – from an editor stating that effective immediately I was no longer blogging for three AOL sites due to a purchase by HuffingtonPost.com. When various airlines merged three years ago, my steady gigs writing for inflight magazines took to the wind.
As a freelance writer, when and if you lose a client, you likely won’t gain job-loss benefits. But, still, there are ways you can recession-proof your business to lessen the impact.
Focus on three specialties in your writing career, as opposed to one. These specialties don’t have to be completely divergent – such as pets and music. Think of it more as broadening within a topic.
For example, I’m not just a travel writer who reports on hotels. I also report on food and wine trends in my hometown as well as in destinations around the world. My third specialty area is sustainability, which could translate to green hotels, keeping an eco-friendly home or locavore cocktails. The three specialties often play off of each other.
This way you have more markets to reach out to when a publication folds or a budget is all dried up, leaving you with a hole to fill in your income.
2. Aim High
When you sit down and decide how much money you want to make each year, don’t firmly declare the dollar amount you settle on — instead, aim above your income goal.
Say you want to earn $35,000 in a given year. Great! But you are far more likely to reach that goal, and perhaps exceed it, if you bump the figure up to $38,000 or even $48,000.
Entrepreneurial people tend to have a competitive streak and the adrenaline you use to reach your goal doesn’t have to stop at the finish line. Use that extra $3,000 to start an emergency-savings fund to get you through lean times.
3. Line Up B-List Markets
Even if you’re a regular contributor to, say, Entrepreneur Magazine, take the time (even when you’re slammed with assignments) to reach out to other business-minded magazines that are not direct competitors.
Drop the editors an email with a short paragraph about who you are, where you’ve published and what topics you cover. Attempt to lure them in with tangible story ideas and start working for these B-list publications on the side if at all possible. Even if it means lessening the time you write for an A-list client (in this case, Entrepreneur).
It’s important that you widen your reach. What’s going to happen if Entrepreneur stops using freelance writers? Or you have a rejected query from Entrepreneur that’s hot and needs a buyer? It’s easier to repitch your article queries when you have the relationship in place. If you absolutely do not have time to write for other markets now, then make a list of B-markets for when you’re ready.
4. Spruce Up Credentials
If you’ve got the time now, use an hour a week to update article links on your web site, your letter-of-introduction email template or the contents of your résumé.
In a suffering economy, you’ll have to send more cold pitches to nail assignments. Having these tools in place helps. Besides, it can’t hurt to polish up your supporting materials even when you absolutely can’t take on any more clients. When you’re busiest is often when you’re most productive – and your confidence will shine through.
How about you: What steps have you taken to recession-proof your business? Let us know in the Comments below.
Kristine Hansen writes about her passions: flying to far-flung locales and sipping rare wines. She’s based in Milwaukee and has published stories in publications that include TIME, Wine Enthusiast and on Fodors.com. Learn more about her work at http://www.kristineahansen.com or follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen.
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