Do the words “fiscal cliff” and “economic trouble” fill you with fear? Take heart: copywriting is one of the best jobs in a recession.
First, while there will be a recession at some point in the future (since that’s how economies work), there’s no way of telling if one is on the horizon and how long or difficult it could be. Second, I would never tell you not to be concerned about your finances at all. Save wisely and spend wisely at all times.
With that said, let me tell you when it was that I first hit six figures in my copywriting business: 2008, the height of the “Great Recession.”
And why was that? A big factor is that during those two years, when companies were trying to cut costs any way they could (but still keep their businesses going) they weren’t hiring copywriters on-staff…but they still needed copywriters.
Here’s the thing: There is always copywriting work to be done. Sometimes, like when the economy is “shaky,” it’s more of a challenge to find than at other times. But during those times that it’s harder to find, more people give up on finding it—meaning that there’s less competition for work!
No profession is totally “recession-proof,” but copywriting is a lot more of a sure thing!
Recessions Are Huge Opportunities for Copywriters
I freelanced and I did contract work like crazy. It seemed like every other day a recruiter or a former colleague was calling me with a project or a referral. Copywriting is one of the best jobs in a recession.
**Companies still needed copy because copy drives business.**
Companies couldn’t afford to let their revenues decrease, so they had to work extra hard to keep consumers buying. And that was where I came in.
While companies were laying off staff, they were also bringing on freelancers to help them keep their businesses afloat and continue making money.
It wasn’t a fluke that I first hit six figures in the middle of the Great Recession. I had the skills and I had the systems that let me take full advantage of what was a terrible situation for many but that turned out to be a huge opportunity for me. And that opportunity also supported me in remaining a six-figure copywriter from then on.
Two Things You Need to Have, Especially During Challenging Economic Times
At any point—and most especially during challenging economic times—there are two things you need to make sure you have.
First, you need to have a skill that helps businesses make money. In an economic downturn, businesses slough off tasks, teams, and even divisions that don’t directly contribute to revenue and they focus attention and resources on those that do.
Second, you need a skill that you can do as a freelancer. The great thing is that most skills can be done freelance. The key is that you need to be ready and willing to take on the freelance mantle if need be.
I’m not saying you should quit your job, but if you want to make sure that you weather an economic downturn with as little turbulence as possible, you need to make sure you have the skills—and the systems—to find and market yourself to clients.
It’s probably not a surprise at this point, but copywriting fulfills both of those qualifications. Even if you don’t want to write copy full-time, it might be worth thinking about investing in a side hustle skill—something that can add income in the good times and help keep you stable in the challenging ones.
1. Back-Pocket Skills That Help Businesses Make Money
Also, I’m a big proponent of “back-pocket skills.” These are the kinds of abilities that you’re trained to do, but you might not use every day in a professional capacity. If you’re not ready to move into copywriting full-time, this could be the route for you. Back-pocket skills are the skills that you can reach in and pull out when you want to make a little (or a lot of) extra money.
They protect you from financial problems because you know you always have something to fall back on if your main job goes sour. Think about it: The people who always suffer worst from economic downturns are those who only have one skill set and need to rely on a large company to employ and pay them. Back-pocket skills are fiscal insurance, and copywriting could be one for you.
I’m not dismissing concerns about the economy—everyone has a right to be concerned about whatever they want to be. But I am saying that your livelihood and career success are controlled much more by you than by anyone else.
Caution: Blog Writing Is NOT Copywriting
One quick note, though: Blog writing is content writing, which is NOT the same thing as copywriting. Content writing is designed to educate, entertain, or inspire. Content helps companies establish their expertise, get ranked on search engines, and can help get some traffic to a site.
Copy drives action. Content supports attention. Both have their place in a business, but one earns a writer much more money. Hint, hint: It’s the one that can drive sales.
Unfortunately, content isn’t what’s directly driving sales. Content is important, absolutely, but it’s not a business necessity. Content writers—blog post writers—will have an *extremely* hard time getting work and clients in any kind of economic depression. (And that’s on top of already being faced with a flooded market and competition that’s willing to write for two cents a word.)
2. Freelancing During a Recession
Were there companies that tried to pay me less because the economy was bad? Of course, but I didn’t take the work. I had plenty of other companies that needed me and were willing to pay my standard rate.
Freelancing and being flexible can make you more in-demand during economic downturns.
Again, companies may not be hiring. And they may even be laying people off. But there is still work to do. They get laser-focused on what is going to help the company weather the storm. And your skills can help them weather the storm.
You Don’t Need to Freelance Full-Time, But You Do Need to Know How to Freelance
Even if your goal is to work on-staff for a company, knowing that you can freelance should give you peace of mind. (If you’re one of my Comprehensive Copywriting Academy students, you’ve always got your portfolio site and samples ready to go.)
Knowing how to freelance means even if:
- The economy tanks
- Your company goes through layoffs
- You just don’t like your boss/team
You still have a way to make ends meet. You can contact recruiters and start pitching in a day.
Freelancing is not risky when you’re skilled at what you do and when you have a reliable system for pitching potential clients. What IS risky is trusting that your on-staff job is always going to have a paycheck for you, no matter what.
A lot of people were burned in the last recession, and I feel very sorry for them. I’m not at all saying that I was smarter or savvier than they were. Rather, I was luckier because I was in a career that directly helps companies earn money. And I could do that career as a freelancer.
Again, no one knows if a recession is coming soon. And, obviously, I can’t make any kind of income guarantees. Like I said, everyone should be making smart money decisions around their spending, saving, and investing.
And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be concerned at all. If anything, this should be a reminder to do what to do to make sure you’re as financially secure as you can be, no matter what the economy does.
But if you’re a copywriter who’s planned ahead a little bit—honed your skills, has gotten some experience, and has put up a great website—you might just find (like I did) that not only is a recession not a worry for you, but it ushers in more success than you’ve seen yet.
Beat the “Bad Economy” Blues
Yes, things can get scary during an economic downturn. And no, I’m absolutely NOT promising you smooth sailing.
But what I can tell you is that it’s a good idea to do what you can to insulate yourself against challenges that might come up—especially since that insulation can only benefit you, no matter what the economic situation.
No one can predict the future and, if anything, I tend to be more optimistic about it than many. But I also think it’s just the wise thing to do to help make sure you’re okay, no matter what comes up.
There are only ever so many people who will make the effort to go out, look for work, be extra helpful to clients and go beyond the usual customs of professionalism. Do this, and there’s work for you. I promise.
Economic uncertainty isn’t a time to panic as a copywriter. On this bonus episode of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate are discussing why recessions don’t impact copywriting in the same ways that they affect other industries. Plus, find out how you can have a huge impact on the success of businesses by helping them get through tough times.
Have you worked as a freelance copywriter during a downturn in the economy? How have you “recession-proofed” your career? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on January 24, 2023
I am looking forward to getting started in copywriting.
Nicki Krawczyk says
Good for you! It’s a great career. 🙂
Thanks for commenting!
Working as a copywriter during economic uncertainty can be one of the best opportunities because the smart businesses ramp up their ad/marketing spend in the face of declining sales, not the other way round. Makes sense doesn’t it?
Nicki Krawczyk says
Good point – the smart ones do! 🙂
Thanks for commenting,