During the dot.com boom, a pair of friends abandoned their corporate cubicles and struck out for greener pastures as freelance copywriters.

For almost a year, they wondered why they waited so long to freelance.

“It’s so easy” one said. “Why didn’t I do this years ago?”

I just smiled.

Then dot.com went dot.bomb. Seemingly overnight, the VC money went away, and the huge backlog of copy-hungry clients vanished.

One of the writers was quickly gone too. He wasn’t recession proof.

The other? I’ll tell you the rest of his story later. But first, why am I even talking about recessions?

Why Worry?

Economists agree on things about as often as hyenas agree on divvying up a carcass, but even Alan Greenspan recently spoke the word “recession” – and pointed it squarely at the end of 2007.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

Right now, most of us are looking at a lot of work. Will it always be that way?

I’m not advocating panic. I’m suggesting a few key markets could tank, and the current demand for writers could fall off.

In a recession, marketing budgets are the first to go.

Eventually markets get better (and budgets rebound), but if you can’t connect your work to a client’s revenue stream, the slow times can last a long, long time indeed.

What to do?

Add value to your words so clients find you indispensable

When marketing budgets are circling the toilet, you’re better off writing revenue-generating direct response projects instead of marginally useful HR newsletter content.

Getting close to the revenue stream is a good tactic – as is offering a steady stream of new ideas to your client. Make yourself indispensable.

What do you do after things have gone south? How do you find new clients?

Be creative

Marketing budgets are tight, so pitch clients on the value of innovative, money-generating tactics – marketing ploys that generate revenues (and success) but don’t cost a lot.

The most secure freelancers are those that pay their own way. Score once or twice for a client in a new and creative way, and you just created that most desirable of freelance currencies: Job Security.

Don’t buy every new gadget that comes along

Copywriting is a low-overhead business – unless you feel the need to load up on the latest gadgets.

Set something aside for the leaner times. And don’t load up with a lot of monthly expenses that bleed you dry when you should be saving.

Build a Marketing Process During the Boom Times

Are you building your long-term viability during the boom times?

Are you specializing in lucrative markets? Generating “thought leadership” in your field? Building a reputation as a crafty marketer?

Are you building a recession-resistant list of anchor clients–organizations who need your help even when times are tough?

Or are you like too many of us–fighting your way from project to project without any thought of the future?

Generate your own income

I help other companies succeed. Yet it’s not hard to find copywriters who are leveraging their talents to generate their own income streams.

Michel Fortin and Brian Clark seem to have a handle on this, so why not rip off their advice – and make a few bucks for yourself?

Will I take my own advice? Perhaps.

My Other Writer Friend?

I promised I’d tell you about the second freelance writer.

He created a print newsletter, and carefully cultivated a list. It wasn’t flashy, but it helped him grow revenues in a year when the rest of us carefully watched our phones for signs of activity.

He only did one of the things I mentioned above. What if you did several?

And what kind of clients do you think are recession proof?

[tags]writing, copywriting, freelance writer, freelance copywriter, copywriter[/tags]