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How should a graphic designer prepare for a cost of living crisis?

Businesses typically spend less on marketing during a recession. When demand decreases, businesses often need to cut costs to maintain profitability. Design and marketing budgets are often one of the first areas to be reduced.

However, it's important to note that not all businesses will reduce their marketing spend during a recession. Some businesses see a recession as an opportunity and increase their marketing efforts.  

Preparing for an economic recession is essential to ensure your business's survival during tough economic times and ensure that you are able to continue doing the creative work you love. We launched Rocketspark in 2009 during the fallout of the GFC and as a new business we didn’t know any different but we did learn some great lessons on growing a business in tough economic times.

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

Create a financial plan

Understanding your finances is a key step to ensuring an economic downturn is less stressful. Making a detailed financial plan that outlines your current revenue, expenses, and cash flow will help you understand upcoming challenges. This plan should also include 2 - 3 projections for various scenarios, including a recession, to help you understand how your business will be impacted financially, for example what happens if a key client closes down or doesn’t pay, can you afford your various software licences if their prices increase by 10%?

Cut unnecessary costs

Take a close look at your expenses and look for opportunities to cut costs. We looked at our software licences recently and recognised that we could save costs. For example, many of our team had Dropbox licences that they didn’t use as all of their applications were cloud based plus our Google Workspace solution included cloud storage and was sufficient. Similarly some of our project management tools were on higher level plans for features we didn’t use even though they seemed cool. Chatting to a group of graphic designers recently they recommended that reviewing software licences and other subscriptions was often a simple pain free way to reduce costs.  

Diversify your client base with more recession resistant clients

Dependence on a few key clients can be risky and even more so during an economic downturn. While no industry is entirely recession-proof, some industries tend to be more resilient than others during economic downturns. Are there opportunities to expand your client base and focus on building relationships with new clients?  

See our related article on more recession proof industries for graphic designers and how to win with them.


Kim Godfrey from Frank Communcation mentioned at a gathering of graphic designers that having regular retainer clients was helpful in maintaining cashflow in more uncertain times and having retainer clients in more recession resistant industries helped keep good work flowing. 

Take a breath, recharge, connect, give back and learn

At the same gathering of designers Tonia Reid of Greenhouse Creative said that she valued the quieter times in business to take more time with the important things in life that refresh and recharge. Tonia also said that the quieter times were a great opportunity to invest in training as up-skilling yourself can be a great way to ensure that your business remains competitive during a recession. Invest in learning new design skills or expanding your service offerings to stay ahead of the curve. Tonia also recently signed up as a business mentor to give back to help others on their journey and was spending more investing into helping people in focussed business networking groups. Our own experience with networking groups when we ran a design business was that as you give more you tend to receive more in return too so it’s a lovely way to grow your business and help others at the same time.   

Taking the time to assist not for profits with their graphic and web design needs is also a great way to maximise your opportunities at quieter times. It feels good to give and doing design work for a not for profit will build your portfolio and create opportunities to build new connections too. Kim Godfrey also highlights that not for profit organisations can receive grants that can be used towards new design projects

Focus on customer service and value for the customer

During tough economic times, customer service becomes even more critical. Providing exceptional service can help you retain existing clients and attract new ones. Communicate regularly with your clients to let them know how you can help and be responsive to their needs. See our article on 8 little wins for clients and designers to create value. When we started out we found that going the extra mile to delight clients and ensuring you were delivering true value for them were the secret sauces to growing well in tougher economic times. 

Develop a marketing strategy

Even during a recession, marketing your business is crucial to maintaining and growing your client base. Consider developing a marketing strategy that includes both traditional and digital marketing tactics to help you reach your target audience.

See our related article on more recession proof industries for graphic designers and how to win with them. 

While there may be a decrease in demand for marketing services during a recession, it's important graphic designers remain adaptable and flexible to changing market conditions. If you are facing tough times in your design business don’t hesitate to reach out via Instagram or Facebook for a chat to bounce around some ideas and ask us about our experience. We no longer design for clients directly ourselves but have years of experience at the coalface and we also have a unique perspective that comes from helping thousands of designers and small business owners. The Creative Launchpad community is also very giving with sharing their knowledge and expertise so be brave and reach out.