How To Recession-Proof Your Copywriting Career In 3 Simple-Ish Steps
It’s not fun to think about the upcoming beast of a recession, but you need to.
Because whether you like it or not, it’s coming.
I don’t pretend to have any clue about when it’s going to hit — it could be next year, it could be next week — but we’re LONG overdue for a recession.
(We‘ve never gone this long without one…)
To quote Tessa Stuart, a political journalist at Rolling Stone magazine, “the next recession is going to be brutal”.
And that’s especially bad news for most copywriters.
- You’re stuck in a 9-to-5 job you despise, and you’re desperately trying to make a consistent and secure income with copywriting so you can ditch the rat race for good…
- Or you’re landing a few clients here and there, but you’ve got no idea how to get your ‘breakthrough’ and land a couple of $5k/month (or more) retainers with some big-fish clients…
- Or you’ve managed to land some great clients, but the strategies you used were random and now you don’t know what steps to take to repeat your success…
…then dealing with a recession on top of that will be an absolute nightmare.
Chuck in a pile of credit card debt and a barren savings account, and you’re looking at a devastating period in your life — both emotionally and financially.
So, what’s a copywriter to do?
Step 1: Panic
I’m deadly serious.
Now is NOT the time to relax with your feet up, now is the time to get off your lethargic keister and TAKE ACTION.
(I’ll tell you what to do in a minute, just stick with me here)
If you get just 1 measly thing from this entire article, it’s should be this:
If you wait until the recession hits to take any profound steps with your copywriting career, it’s too late. FAR too late.
We’re in the calm before the storm.
NOW is the time to sack up and set sail — full f*cking steam ahead.
If you’re anchored in the copywriting harbour when the storm hits, lounging in your captain’s quarters with your dingus in your hand, you’ll be finished.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’ll all be fine, and that you shouldn’t worry about the looming recession.
That’s not productive at all.
I’m saying the exact opposite.
It WON’T be fine and you SHOULD worry about the upcoming recession.
Remember — it could come next year, or it could come next week.
No one knows.
In other words, the full force of the next economic crash could hit at any moment.
That’s what makes it so terrifying if you haven’t taken concrete steps to prepare for it!
Dan Peña, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our generation and known as ‘The 50 Billion Dollar Man’, says (rightly) that people only do things out of inspiration or desperation.
And it’s desperation o’clock.
Use this fear of being nuked out the water by the next recession to your advantage.
Don’t tell yourself that everything will be fine.
Don’t tell yourself that you’ll figure it out when the time comes.
Don’t tell yourself that this is all hype.
Tell yourself that if you don’t make massive and deliberate changes to what you’re doing right now with your copy career, you’re going to be toast.
Because you will be.
Okay, now that you’re sufficiently riled up, here’s the next step…
Step 2: Follow the moolah
You know what that means, don’t you?
- Stop targeting small businesses who can’t pay you what you’re worth in the name of ‘experience’.
- Stop applying for sh*t jobs in the Cult Of Copy Fb group.
- And for the love of God… get off Upwork!!!
Even if there wasn’t a recession on the horizon, relying on these bottom-of-the-barrel clients is an AWFUL way to run your freelance business.
Most copywriters I speak to tell me that they feel like they’re spinning their wheels…
They might’ve been able to get a few clients here and there, but nothing has stuck and now their careers have stagnated.
The work has dried up…
They aren’t getting paid anywhere near what their income goals are…
…and they’re desperate for a reliable lead generation system for landing high paying clients.
(Forgive the pitch mid-way through this article — but the ONLY reliable and proven lead generation system for copywriters to land 6, 7, and 8-figure clients on demand is my flaming camel coaching program, where you get me as your personal, 1-on-1, client-getting coach every step of the way…)
Point is — if that sounds like you, simply sacking up and going after (much) bigger clients will help you ‘unstuck’ yourself.
And a looming recession should be the kick in the arse you need to self-motivate and make it happen.
Here’s a quick economics lesson to back up my point:
In a recession, larger businesses (i.e. north of 6 and 7-figures) INCREASE their marketing efforts to outspend their competition, taking a larger market share and boosting their profitability in the process.
^ Read that again to get your head around it.
The companies I teach copywriters to go after are the ones that thrive in a recession.
So by simply going after bigger businesses NOW, you’ll be in great stead for the upcoming firestorm.
So dump all your small-time clients and put all your energy towards finding, attracting, and closing big-fish companies.
Here’s another thing to consider, courtesy of the brilliant Carol Trice from ‘Make A Living Writing’:
The other reason to target great clients that pay pro rates?
As more aspiring writers are laid off, they’ll flood into the bottom of the marketplace.
Competition for those $25 blog post gigs will get stiffer, while those who’ve targeted better clients won’t see those problems.
(She’s talking about freelance writers here, but the same thing is true for freelance copywriters as well.)
Now, if I could attach flashing lights and hula girls to what I’m about to drill into you — I would.
But here it is in black and white:
In a recession, it’ll be HARDER to land dogsh*t copywriting gigs on Upwork or Cult Of Copy (because there’s more competition)…
… but it’ll be EASIER to land much higher-paying copy gigs with some fantastic clients (because there’s less competition)!
^ That’s the recession-proofing secret that only the top-level copywriters know.
Now that I think about it, it’s a lot like investing.
In a recession, all the amateur investors soil their britches and sell everything they own in one fell swoop.
But the pros?
They know that everyone else’s fear is their opportunity — and they snap up fantastic stocks for bargain prices.
So listen up and listen good:
You need to have that same contrarian mentality if you want to recession-proof your copywriting career and do better than the legions of Average Joe copywriters who get screwed by the crash.
But remember -
That’s NOT an excuse to wait until the recession smacks you in the face to target big businesses.
You need to get some momentum going ASAP.
The sooner the better.
Then when the recession hits, triple down your efforts. Yes, triple.
Okay — here are some more steps to take during a crash to recession-proof yourself:
Step 3: Spread Your Risk
*NOTE: This is what to do DURING a recession, not before*
This goes against conventional copywriting wisdom (it even goes against what I teach in the flaming camel), but in a recession, you need to spread your risk.
By that, I mean don’t limit yourself to just one niche.
Yet again, Carol Tice from ‘Make A Living Writing’ delivers the goods:
“If you’re a freelancer who only has one client, or only works in a single industry, you’re at high risk in a recession.
Companies have a way of suddenly shutting their doors in downturns — and that includes mass online job platforms (remember oDesk?). You want a fairly large, varied client base to spread your risk when the economy gets wobbly.
Imagine being a real-estate writer in 2010, for instance. Poof! Overnight, there was no work.
Branch out now and build your client list. Your top job is to be cranking a lot of marketing out the door, every week.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
A recession is not the time to stubbornly stick to one niche.
It’s the time to be fluid. To be super adaptive. To be a f*cking copywriting chameleon.
This is ESPECIALLY true if you’re in a rogue/obscure copywriting niche, or you’re writing for a client who sells something that consumers can very easily write off as non-essential.
But at the same time, remember that people still buy stuff in a recession -
So don’t dump your client at the first sign of trouble because you assume their stuff is non-essential.
Be patient and keep working with them, but at the same time keep your pipeline full and don’t rely on them as your primary income source!
And as I said in step 2, you want to be marketing yourself to bigger companies BEFORE the recession (whether you’ve got a few clients under your belt or not) — i.e. right now…
…then when it hits, triple down on your marketing efforts, ideally across a few different niches.
(To the people in my coaching program reading this, you’ll just need to crank out more flaming camels and you’ll be a-okay. You can stick to the niche you’re in because it’s evergreen, but you may need to pivot to different business types. Drop me a message if you want to talk more about this!)
Another great strategy to bust out in a recession is to market yourself in the SAME niche, but in a DIFFERENT part of the world (where the economic downturn might not be as profoundly felt).
Let’s say you’re writing copy for a fitness entrepreneur, helping them sell more online training programs.
They’re based in the US, which is — without a doubt — going to be the epicentre of the next recession.
So instead of switching niches and/or marketing much more aggressively to other US-based fitness entrepreneurs, how about targeting Australia?
Yes, a recession in the US will obviously have a massive impact on the world economy.
But there’s every chance that things will be much less bleak in a different part of the world — so use that to your advantage!
As Lief Kendall from ‘Pro Copywriters’ says on the topic of copywriters in recessions:
Don’t trust that your clients will keep giving you projects.
(Especially if you sourced the work from Fiverr or Upwork or something)
Don’t trust that your retainer deals won’t suddenly cease to exist.
And don’t trust that your ‘amazing client relationship’ will be enough to keep the money rolling in for you.
I want to add to that list:
Don’t trust your 9-to-5 job to be secure enough to keep you afloat in tough times.
It’d be a really sad irony to be out of a job after the next recession inevitably hits, when you’ve been spending these last few months (or years) desperately trying to leave that very same job for the greener fields of freelance copywriting.
But seek solace in this nugget of wisdom:
There is no security but your ability to produce.
Ben Settle introduced this powerful Dan Kennedy teaching to me, and it’s been at the back of my mind ever since.
Here’s the thing -
As a copywriter, you have 2 MAJOR abilities to produce that you should be constantly working on, improving, and investing in:
- Your ability to write great copy that converts
- Your ability to land high-paying clients on demand
If you have some solid copy skills (you don’t need to be an A-lister), AND you know exactly how to land high-paying copywriting clients on demand, you’ll be completely fine.
No recession can take that away from you.
Just make sure you 1) market yourself harder to keep your options open and 2) don’t limit yourself to one niche (or one country), especially if your niche isn’t evergreen.
But if you have just 1 of those things (or neither (yikes)), it’s time to use the surge of fear I’ve hopefully drilled into you and take some concrete steps towards getting there.
Because make no mistake -
The big bad recession is knocking on your door and without your 2-pronged ability to produce, you’re screwed.
I’ll leave you with that happy thought ;-)
P.S. I can’t help you to write great copy that converts…
…but I CAN help you land high-paying retainer clients on demand with my repeatable flaming camel process.
If you don’t fancy figuring things out on your own with the economic crash on the horizon, I don’t blame you.
But ongoing, 1-on-1, client-getting coaching directly from me (that goes in tandem with the entire flaming camel process, taught by yours truly, which you’ll get access to via a course portal) will help you recession-proof your copywriting career and get you that ‘breakthrough’ you’ve been after — ASAP.
(Heads up, I’ve only got a couple of coaching spots open for now)