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Which industries are more likely to be recession resistant for graphic designers and how to win with them?

While no industry is entirely recession-proof, some industries tend to be more resilient than others during economic downturns. It can be helpful to identify recession resistant  industries you are interested in working with and develop a strategy to work with them.

Similarly there can be industries which are significantly impacted by a recession but smart business owners will take an opportunity to pivot and transform their business at this time which also creates fresh opportunities for designers.  

Recession resistant industries

Here are a few suggestions of industries that may be good to target during a recession:

The healthcare industry tends to be more recession-resistant than others as people require healthcare services regardless of the state of the economy. 

The education industry, including both public and private schools, tends to be relatively recession-resistant as well. Schools may require graphic design services for branding, marketing, and other design projects. Collaborating with the students to create school websites like we did with Cambridge High School  can make the project more interesting and cost effective for the school too.

The government is generally considered to be a stable employer and may require graphic design services for a variety of projects. In inflationary times governments do have to be mindful of spending and they may be more open to working with smaller providers rather than the larger more expensive agencies.  

Food and Beverage
The food and beverage industry, including grocery stores, restaurants, and bars, tends to be more resilient during economic downturns as people still need to eat and drink. I have heard it said that lower cost treats such as a drink or meal out can increase in a recession while bigger ticket items taper off.

The recession generated opportunities

Just as we saw during the Covid peak business opportunities can emerge too as businesses innovate and new opportunities are created. Being ready for the idea that recessionary times can help open your eyes to new opportunities emerging and position yourself to move fast.  

Websites for Plumbers
As an example of emerging opportunities, we’ve seen an increase in website and marketing activity from the plumbing industry. In many countries there have been construction booms off the back of low interest rates and plumbing services have been at a premium and marketing hasn’t been necessary as there is so much work on offer. In the current period of high interest rates and recessionary storm clouds in many countries construction has slowed and fewer plumbers are needed in construction. However, taps still leak, toilets still block and hot water cylinders need replacing. Savvy plumbers who have never wanted a website before as they had enough construction work are now getting a website designed and engaging digital marketers to help with SEO, digital advertising and social media. 

How to win with these recessionary opportunities?

Breaking into new sectors can be difficult but there are some simple steps you can take to help.

Set up industry specific landing pages on your website 
If you were wanting to target plumbers as an example, a simple step is to create a page on your website dedicated to showcasing what you can do for plumbers.  If you’ve previously done work for plumbers it would be great to have a testimonial or even better a case study about a plumber you’ve helped.  If you've not designed for a plumber perhaps you have worked within an adjacent industry such as with electricians or builders that you could showcase on your site.

Write industry specific blogs and case studies showcasing your expertise
To complement the website landing pages you could create some blog posts and case studies that showcase your expertise.  For example you might create some blog posts about web site design best practice for plumbing websites or brand design for plumbers.  With the help of ChatGPT the creation of blogs can be very efficient as you use ChatGPT as a starting point to give you some ideas and structure to your blog and then you add in your knowledge and flair.

Connect with industry bodies
Most trades like plumbing, painting and electrical have industry membership organisations.  Following what these industry bodies have to say can be a great way to provide insights on what is happening in  the industry.  We’ve learnt though that you can’t just make a connection and expect the business to flow. These groups are protective of their membership bases.  Seeking out ways that you can support them without expectation of anything in return such as doing a design review, exhibiting at their conference or supporting key members can be a way to open doors.  

Formal networking opportunities
When we ran a design business we found that formal networking groups were the best way to establish connections with the industries you want to connect with.  It’s not an instant win but by being a regular contributor and helping others in their business journey you’ll build the connections you need and make new friends too. Your local business chamber will also host regular events and at those events will be a wide range of industries represented which creates a very cost effective way to make new connections.

If you are facing tough times in your design business don’t hesitate to reach out via any social channel or start 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.