Share What You Know, Get Paid for it,and “Recession-Proof” Yourself, Too!

by Don Hauptman

No one is immune from this unprecedented financial crisis. Current and future economic events threaten your livelihood-whether you’re employed, self-employed, or own a business.

But as a regular reader of Joe’s site, you probably have advantages that allow you to protect yourself. It’s an edge that most people lack.

Trust me; I know. For more than 30 years, I was a freelance copywriter. I discovered a strategy that helped me survive and prosper in all sorts of markets and economic conditions.

You see, in addition to writing, I had several lucrative sidelines:

a.. Public speaking: I spoke at industry conferences, professional seminars, trade lunches, and similar events.

a.. Corporate training: I taught and coached at client companies, helping staffers sharpen their copywriting and marketing skills.

a.. Consulting: I showed publishers how to get better results from their direct-mail campaigns.

a.. Critiquing: I evaluated companies’ advertising and suggested ways it could be improved.

For each assignment-and most didn’t require a lot of time-I charged between $2,000 and $10,000.

But I’m far from alone. Others, in numerous fields, have done it. I discovered how pervasive this phenomenon is while researching my new e-book, The Versatile Freelancer. I interviewed scores of people who successfully made this transition..

A career counselor became a consultant and corporate trainer. A psychotherapist morphed into a wildly popular speaker at business gatherings. A travel writer gives travel writing seminars. A book editor critiques manuscripts for authors. An employee quit his job, turned his former employer into his first client, and wound up making twice his previous salary – for one fourth the time.

Consider a friend of mine. For a while, he was well compensated by a major airline – for teaching its mechanics how to write better! Who would have guessed?

This example demonstrates that hidden opportunities lurk in the most surprising places. You just need to exercise some imagination and creativity to ferret them out.

You too possess knowledge-about marketing, business, self improvement, or perhaps another subject-that’s of potential value to others. You may be able to communicate that knowledge in any or all of the above ways-and make money in the process.

So what does all this have to do with protecting yourself in this painful climate? The answer is simple..

By diversifying, you can boast a wider portfolio of skills and services. You have not just one source of revenue, but multiple streams of income. If one declines, another can take its place. This strategy gives you an “insurance policy” of sorts against a recessionary economy.

This claim may sound far-fetched or excessively optimistic. But I confirmed it while researching The Versatile Freelancer, my new ebook. I wrote the book in 2008, during a period of economic gloom, unemployment, bank failures, foreclosures, plunging stock indexes, and fears of recession.

Yet all the people I interviewed told me that their businesses were unaffected and that they were doing as well as ever, or even better! Many attributed that happy situation to their versatility: their services and specialties include some or all of those cited above.

The experience of Barbara Kaplowitz, a veteran copywriter, is typical. Her primary work keeps her busy in prosperous periods, while consulting and critiquing assignments pick up in bad times, such as those we’re living through now.

In late October, while many people were tearing out their hair or contemplating whether to jump from a window, I asked Barbara how the financial disasters were affecting her business. Here’s her response:

“Tough economic times are not necessarily bad for consultants who are proven performers. Although a number of my clients are holding off on new product launches, they’re still trying to make current marketing efforts as strong as possible. Surprisingly, in the last few weeks, inquiry calls have been more related to ‘old school’ direct-mail copy. That’s a marked change from last year when copywriting inquiries tended to be more electronic-channel oriented. On the consulting side, I’m seeing the focus on improving communications plans for an integrated, multi-channel world, and on retaining customers-whether through improving renewal series or creating value-added items.”

Barbara’s story helps explain why career diversification can work so well in a down economy. But wait; there’s more..

During difficult periods, companies trim their staffs or don’t hire as they normally would. An outside consultant or trainer, a one-time project, a lower-priced service-these can be appealing options.

You’re also in an ideal position to promote yourself by speaking at business conferences and other industry events. When people are desperate, they’re eager to hear solutions.

You say you’re not equipped with terrific public speaking abilities? No problem. To do these things, you don’t need to be a spellbinding speaker. I’m not, yet my presentations were always well received. What’s most important is the quality of the content you deliver.

How do you begin? Try this three-step procedure. For best results, do it in writing.

  1. Take an inventory of your background, experience, skills, achievements. Do you have a track record of proven accomplishments-for instance, increasing revenues and profits, cutting costs, solving problems, coming up with innovative ideas? These are all “bottom-line” benefits that companies value, even-or especially-in tough times.
  2. Determine who might pay you for that knowledge. Consider firms or organizations where you have contacts, or others you can research. As mentioned above, opportunities may be found in unexpected places. Think creatively.
  3. Match your expertise to the market’s needs and approach your targets. Submit a proposal. If you know the appropriate executives, you have an edge. Cold calls are more challenging, but not impossible.

Of course, your expertise may not lie in the corporate world. But perhaps you have the ability to coach individuals and help them overcome problems and challenges in such areas as time management, organizing, motivation, success, marriage, childraising, work, school . or something else.

Aside from money, these “presentation activities,” as I call them, bring you numerous other rewards. I can testify to that from my own experience.

First, don’t forget that whenever you speak, train, consult, or critique, you enhance your reputation and boost your credibility as an expert. That, in turn, helps you land new clients. In fact, speaking may be the single best self-promotional and business-building strategy.

In addition, you win applause and acclaim. You have the satisfaction of helping people. You’re stimulated and energized, especially if your regular work has become boring or routine. You might have opportunities for expense-paid travel, possibly worldwide. You benefit from all sorts of valuable contacts and synergies.

Let’s say it again: There’s a good chance you have a great deal of valuable knowledge and experience that others want to learn and benefit from. You can share what you know-and get paid for it. In the process, you create a form of insurance against difficult times.

Of course, limits exist. According to a Wall Street Journal article, no industry or profession is 100% recession proof. But expanding the range of skills and services you provide may come as close as possible to the perfect strategy for protecting yourself in all types of economic climate.

Don Hauptman is a longtime direct-response copywriter. The above article was adapted from his recently published ebook The Versatile Freelancer: How Writers and Other Creative Professionals Can Generate More Income by Seizing New Opportunities in Critiquing, Consulting, Training, and Presenting. The book comes with a free bonus report and a 100 percent money-back guarantee of satisfaction. Order your copy without risk here.

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