Freelancing in a Bear Market

Not sure if this has been asked before but looking for some insight from those who’ve been through a bear market.

I’ve been an independent art director and designer for 11 years. I’m coming off my best year ever but it ended with a BANG.

Most of last year was just working to keep up. I was so busy but so grateful for the work. I finally caught a bit of a break and was able to get all of the major projects done by late October. I felt great about this because I was reaching burnout levels.

By November I was just servicing a couple of clients. One was on retainer. The other was a newer client that had been keeping me busy with hourly work and it was great. We even had talks about the month’s-long need for me to continue helping out. Life was good.

Suddenly in early December that client had mass layoffs and obviously didn’t need me anymore. Then the retainer client hired an outside agency to come in and rebrand (something they had chatted with me about doing but was never made official).

So now I’m feeling like I could potentially be squeezed out of my gig there and this is my only consistent work right now. I have bids out to other clients but those projects are one-offs that might not lead to more work and my phone/email have been readily silent with new work requests.

So I’m a bit panicked/concerned as I’ve never been this slow in the 11 years of freelancing. Granted it’s only been a month and a half since all of this went down but I’m the anxious type. And in my area we’ve had layoffs left and right.

I guess my question is, how have you handled freelancing in a bear market? I know it can actually open doors for companies to use more freelancers but is that true?

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