A Gig Worker’s Guide to Navigating the Recession

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Like a nasty smell, the threat of a recession has been in the air for a while. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, the stock market is jumpy, and billionaires like Jeff Bezos are predicting a significant economic downturn. If you’re a gig worker, it’s time to assess how a recession could affect your life—then prepare accordingly. 

What is a recession?

A recession is a downturn in economic activity that is both sustained and significant. While less intense than a full-blown depression, it still represents a serious rough patch for the economy. Many experts say we’re in a recession if the economy contracts over two successive quarters. Whether or not this criterion is met, the coming months and years are likely to be challenging for workers. That’s why it’s so important to make smart, responsible choices.   

How to navigate a recession as a gig worker

Set money aside and pay down your debts

Recessions bring uncertainty, and you never know when an unpleasant surprise could slash or eliminate your income. These are the times when savings become especially essential. Do what you can to reduce your monthly spending, and pay down your debts before interest payments become an unbearable burden. As a lofty goal, see if you can give yourself enough savings to meet 3-6 months of expenses. The recession is looming like a storm on the horizon—so your financial ship needs all the reinforcements it can get. 

Expand your network 

Jobs that were once consistent have an obnoxious way of disappearing in an economic downturn. Gig workers are especially vulnerable because they often work with multiple clients at once. When clients suddenly stop asking for your services, you’ll need a way to replace them – and that’s where a strong network is essential. Take some time now to find new people who work in your industry. Be bold about introducing yourself, and use digital platforms to your advantage. A larger network brings its own kind of resilience, giving you access to new clients when your current jobs dwindle.

Maintain an active network

Networks are like plants—they only thrive if you water them. Your existing network could be a lifeline during a recession, but you’ll need to do whatever it takes to keep your contacts engaged. Reach out every so often to see how your clients are doing. Remind them that you’re willing to work extra hard to meet their expectations. Be bold about asking them to refer you to other businesses in their orbit. These simple steps can make the difference between success and failure during tough economic times. 

Invest in your personal brand

As the economy tightens and clients fall by the wayside, the competition for work will become even fiercer. One way to beat out your competitors is by enhancing your personal brand. Freshen up your social media accounts, update your online profiles, and give your website a once-over. You can also beef up your resume by taking online courses and adding new credentials These simple steps could help you land a client that would have otherwise passed you by. 

Diversify your skillset and offerings

A niche is often the ticket to success, but it can also pay off to diversify your skillset—especially during an economic downturn. One great thing about the digital age is that upskilling is easier than ever before. Did you learn a bit of Spanish but never got fluent? Use a language app to brush up on vocabulary. Is there a certain technical skill you’ve been meaning to master? Toss it into the internet search bar and see what tutorials appear. There’s no telling what jobs these new skills could land you—and your versatility could be what gets you through the recession unscathed. 

Take advantage of government aid

The government has programs in place to limit the damage in times of recession, and it could be easier for you to stay afloat if you take full advantage of them. Many self-employed workers are now eligible for unemployment benefits when they find themselves out of work. The government also provides sick leave benefits for self-employed workers who fall ill. While these programs might not make up for the loss of a lucrative gig, they can still provide a genuine lifeline. Not only will they help you make ends meet, but they can also alleviate some of the inevitable stress that accompanies financial uncertainty.


A recession may be fast approaching, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. It means it’s time to prepare. With the right mindset and a bit of willpower, you can turn yourself into a more resilient gig worker. In the process, you’ll strengthen your resume, improve your finances, and set yourself up for a successful career. 

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About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.

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