Skip to content

Campfire 23: How to survive a recession as a freelance designer?

We all know it's coming. Most people treat it as a bad thing. Some people will thrive after it. It's better to be prepared for a recession (as much as you possibly could be) than struggle.

Alex Dovhyi
Alex Dovhyi
2 min read
Campfire 23: How to survive a recession as a freelance designer?

Let's start with a short definition.

Generally speaking, a recession is a significant decline in economic activity that lasts for months or even years. During this time, countries' economies struggle, people lose jobs, and companies make fewer sales.

But we don't want to let someone else decide our future. And the good news is that we don't have to be experts economists to prepare for what's coming.

Instead of sitting around and waiting till it hits you, there are a few things you can do to secure yourself as a freelance designer.

Find a full-time gig

We are all seeing that the big tech companies stop looking for new talent full-time. Others will follow and do the same. So if you were not looking for a full-time gig – it's time to think about it and prepare.

If you're a generalist designer, it might be harder for you to find projects next year. On the other side, if you have a niche skillset, it opens up many contract work and consulting opportunities.

By the way, Nagarro is hiring product designers of all levels across the world.

Join a company making essential product(s)

During the recession, consumers stop spending money on nice-to-have products and services. So if you're working for companies that make non-essential products and services for the consumer market – they might start laying off people.

But you can still make yourself useful before it's too late. Be proactive and find something that will help your client or company save time and money, especially if currently you're doing low-value work of fixing small things here and there.

If you want to become a designer but don't know where to start – consider becoming an Explorer of Alex's Camp. Explorers get access to subscriber-only content, helping you become a better professional and make a living doing what you love.

It's for you if you want to switch careers and become a product designer, or you're a professional who's been in the game for a while but didn't get the results they wanted, or you're a freelancer struggling to find new clients and build a solo business that will set them free.

New joiners get 34% off the first month.

Specialize in a narrow niche

Companies will look to hire narrow niche specialists on a project-by-project basis. Now more than ever, being a niche product designer will help you stand out among an endless number of designers competing on price.

But before you move forward, make sure your offer has a clear business value. You can:

  1. Facilitate workshops to identify new revenue opportunities
  2. Create a design system to ship products faster
  3. Lower the risk of product failure by prototyping and testing with users before building

Even with advance planning, going through a recession can be terrifying. But no matter how horrible it sounds, remember that recessions do not last forever.

So be mindful of all those things and, as they say in crypto — WAGMI (We are all gonna make it.)


Alex Dovhyi Twitter

Product designer exploring design’s interplay with product, business, and technology, and answering your questions about freelancing, career, and personal growth.


Handpicked for you

Members Public

Create slowly, Taste, Good design is intentional

151: Embracing the process to figure out the most elegant and sustainable solution, Examining taste more objectively, Why intention matters.

Create slowly, Taste, Good design is intentional
Members Public

Bad design managers, Write like you design, The future of design systems

149: The damage of bad design managers, Derivation of Dieter Rams’s principles to illustrate how writing is often the same as design, Unlocking design theming and logic with Figma Variables.

Members Public

How to sell design, No handoff, Unlocking creativity within design system constraints

147: Using storytelling to sell designs, How be a designer that developers love to work with, Design system as a set of constraints that guide the behavior and look&feel of the product.