5 Urgent Mindset Fixes for the Recession-Proof Freelancer

Carol Tice

Free E-Book for Writers: Recession-Proof Freelancer: A 12-Point Plan for Thriving in Hard Times. Makealivingwriting.com Have you been wondering how to keep your writing biz alive in the current craziness of COVID-19, isolation, and economic recession? This doesn’t have to take down your career — you can become a recession-proof freelancer.


It begins by killing the toxic, negative thoughts running around in your head. The fears that are keeping you paralyzed.

In large part, earning well in hard times is a mind game. Your attitude and how you respond to what’s happening will determine whether you thrive despite it all, or you fold your tent and give up.

I know it’s true, because this isn’t my first recession rodeo. Know when I first became a six-figure freelance writer? In the depths of the last recession, around 2008-’10.

(I unpack that whole story in my new, free e-book The Recession-Proof Freelancer – grab your copy here.)

So. You can earn well during bad economic times. I’m living proof.

But many will not. Their negative mindset will do them in. You’ll soon see them bagging groceries for minimum wage.

How can you acquire the winning attitude of a recession-proof freelancer, and earn well in the coming year? Here are five toxic thoughts, and the fixes that banish them:

1. General economic trends must affect me

When you hear that 60 percent of the economy is currently shut down, what do you think? If the answer is, “OMG, it’s all over for me!” it’s time to stop and reprogram.

Here’s the reality: The freelance marketplace is ginormous. Like, $1 trillion in size. And you’re just one little ol’ you, trying to earn a living.

Even in a contracting economy, there’s still plenty of room for you to earn well. Yes, likely not for everybody. But definitely for you.

As I went through the ’08 recession, the thought I had was:

“Wow, this economy is bad. I bet it’s going to impact many freelance writers. But not me. I’m going to be the exception.”

The fix: Vow to be the exception. In every hard time, there are victors. People who seem to float above it all and continue to do well. Make up your mind that you’re going to be one of them.

The general economic trend does not have to be your story. In times of chaos, there are always winners and losers. Commit to making yourself a winner.

Winners don’t sit around crying when times get tough — they get out there and do twice as much marketing as they were doing before.

2. Everything I hear is true

There honestly has never been a worse time to believe this one. In our current climate where a U.S. president has told over 18,000 verified lies, Russians are lying to us on Facebook to try to influence our elections, and one TV channel with ‘news’ in its name is essentially the American version of Pravda… please remember to take everything you hear with a chubby grain of kosher salt.

I have a friend who’s an epidemiologist. She recently reminded me that everything we’re hearing now about COVID-19 is based on projections…. and that those projections are all based on incomplete data. The full story is yet to be revealed.

Note that a few weeks ago, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci revised the projected U.S. death toll from COVID-19 down from 100,000-200,000 to 60,000. Wow, that is many fewer deaths. New data changed things!

The fix: Check facts before you react. Remember that the verdict on this virus, and where this economy will go, is far from decided. And that means you don’t have to freak out about what you just heard.

Think of what you hear as an interesting theory… one you can tune out, as you go on hustling up clients. That alarming thing is not necessarily real. And that means you can ignore it.

Take all precautions to avoid getting the virus yourself. Not saying you should invite all your friends over right now. The basics of preventing infection are well-established, from past epidemics.

But remember that when it comes to the impact this one will have over time, there’s a lot of theorizing and guesttimating out there, because we don’t yet have all the facts.

3. There’s nothing I can do

I’m hearing from many writers who seem to be at a standstill right now. You’re feeling helpless. You’re not writing, and more importantly, not pitching.

Hearing a lot of:

“I assume that it’s not a good time to pitch editors now, so I’m holding off.”

Try to remember what happens when you assume. Instead, ask. Pitch. Get out there and see what’s really happening. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Because I’m also hearing from many writers who have taken new client meetings in the past few weeks, and booked new work. Some sectors of business are still going — and some are booming (there’s a list of winning business types in the e-book).

Maybe editors are full up on COVID-19-related stories right now, but they need something else, hm? You’ll only know if you inquire.

The fix: Don’t buy into the negative griping you may hear. “Everyone” is not losing all their clients.

Freelancing is a highly individual activity — rely on your own experiences for how it’s working out for you.

Do what is in your sphere of control. Tune out what isn’t, because you can’t do anything about it. Namely, you can do more marketing. You can build your network bigger, so more people can refer you.

4. I don’t even know what day it is

Are all the days flowing together, because you’re just sleeping, staying in PJs, and binge-watching?

That’s not laying the groundwork for successful freelancing in this difficult environment. It’s time to re-create your work routine. Keep regular hours. And take days off.

If you feel like you can’t focus and time is melting, recognize that it may be suppressed grief. Acknowledge that it’s making us feel sad, this new normal of restrictions and masks and staying home. Then, resolve to mourn what was — and move beyond these feelings to take action. Let’s make lemonade, people!

Start prioritizing self-care — get regular sleep, healthy meals, and exercise. Those provide the grounding you need to be that exception and continue marketing and earning well.

The fix: Create a work routine. To succeed right now, you’ll need to ramp up how much marketing you do. Set big goals for your marketing activity and then break them down into daily actions you need to take.

To break it up and tell the days apart, discover fun things you can still do, like baking or gardening, rewarding yourself with online games, or doing virtual karaoke with friends (all things that are keeping me sane, right now).

5. I’m worried about the future

I recently had one writer tell me:

“All the reports I’m hearing, and the figures I’ve seen about what may happen in the months and years to come have me too upset to do any work.”

So now you don’t have enough trouble today, eh? And you want to go take out a loan from the future worry bank.

No, no, no.

The fix: Focus on today. In a way, the only time that is real, that truly exists, is this moment. If you’re well and able to work on your business today, give it your all.

I’ve found that if you take care of today, and strive to be as productive as you can, each day, the future tends to take care of itself. (Also, remember what we talked about up top about projections based on partial facts, and that you can tune out a lot of this speculation.)

One thing is for sure: The world economy cannot stay at a standstill very long. This situation won’t last forever. Those who build their business straight through the recession will emerge stronger than ever, and in the best position to capitalize on the recovery.

Think like a recession-proof freelancer

Did you recognize yourself in any of those toxic thoughts above? If so, it’s time to recalibrate.

If you need to, write out some positive-mindset statements to keep near your computer.

You don’t have to believe the hype. You’re in control of the thoughts in your head, and the actions you take each day.

You can do marketing, you can find clients, you can become a recession-proof freelancer, by aggressively marketing your services and not falling into a vat of negativity.

What’s your freelance mindset, right now? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Free E-Book for Writers: Recession-Proof Freelancer: A 12-Point Plan for Thriving in Hard Times. MakeaLivingWriting.com


  1. Ted

    When the economy, society, and the planet need so much immediate caring and intelligent help, your concentration on your own career seems a bit self-centered and non-social; no offense meant, but not my groove.

    • Carol Tice

      Ted, I guess I think it’s difficult to give society and the planet the care they need if my family becomes homeless.

      The 700,000 writers I serve, who read this blog each year, are looking to survive this and keep paying their bills. The resource I created is free. I literally worked around the clock, on top of my own freelance assignments, to create a new, free resource to help other writers not end up living in their cars. But it’s ‘self centered’?

      Thanks for the reminder that no good deed goes unpunished…

    • Kaitlin Morrison

      First, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

      If I put on my oxygen mask, I can then help my neighbors put on theirs, no?

    • Carol Tice

      Right on — I think of keeping finances stable as job one… not sure what’s selfish about that! Especially during the many years when I was the sole support of a family of five… other people are certainly involved besides myself!

  2. Maria Veres

    Great suggestions. I was talking with a colleague at a marketing agency today. She said some clients have pushed “pause” but others have ramped up or pivoted. The work is still out there.

    • Carol Tice

      Exactly! The pace of change has accelerated, and more marketing is needed to maintain or grow your freelance income, to make sure you’re insulated against clients that are pausing everything. But there are DEFINITELY others that thrive and boom in hard times. Think of how fast Zoom must be hiring right now, or telehealth companies!

  3. Kaitlin L Morrison

    Good, sensible advice. I’ll bookmark this post for when I need another mindset reset later. These days, that’s often.

    I’m reading a book right now (and telling everyone about it) called Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. This journalist looks at all these incredible ‘solo survivor’ stories to find the mindset differences survivors have.

    A core mindset difference of survival that this book talks about is being able to keep your cool long enough to actually USE survival advice.

    It’s one thing to know skills for surviving in a jungle, it’s quite another to use these skills when all hell breaks loose and you’re feeling a need to panic, or you’re traumatized because you just lived through a plane crash.

    There’s a part of our brains that wants to shut down and have us just not do anything when we’re in crisis, but that’s the exact moment we really need to stay in control of our actions and be taking action.

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like a good perspective-setting resource, the sort of thing I find is really helpful during times like these. Also sounds like a good companion to ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl’s seminal work on the mindset for surviving in adverse circumstances. I find myself referring back to it often these days.

      Frankl found concentration camp prisoners survived when they had a sense of purpose. They found a reason they needed to get through it. Every freelancer should be revisiting their ‘why’ and posting it where they can see it daily, if need be!

  4. Tami

    Great pep talk!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad you enjoyed, Tami! I’m doing a lot of coaching around winning the ‘head game’ of freelancing in a recession, because I see so many writers drowning in negative thoughts, consuming news, worrying about the future. That’s not how you get through this!

  5. Katherine Swarts

    For the past several weeks, the DIY and home-leisure industries have been booming as people fill their extra time (and work to counter the helpless-and-worried effect) with all those useful activities they’ve been “meaning to get around to when I’m not so busy.” Gardening suppliers, hobby shops, and toy-and-game manufacturers–and many book publishers–have all they can do to keep up with demand. If your niche is related to any of these industries, it’s an ideal time to pitch the advantages of hiring a telecommuting freelancer. (Crossword-puzzle writing, anybody?)


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