Economic Uncertainty

Q1 was weird: a breakdown and a gameplan

Looking forward while a flailing tech industry has everyone spooked

By Shea Lord |
April 1st, 2023
Economic Uncertainty

Q1 was weird: a breakdown and a gameplan

Looking forward while a flailing tech industry has everyone spooked

By Shea Lord |
April 1st, 2023

Read time: 3 minutes

Inflation, layoffs, AI, rate hikes, SVB. The tech sector is in belt-tightening mode (aka it’s a dumpster fire rn) and everything it touches is feeling the effects. I’m getting mixed messages from freelancers on LinkedIn.

  • Good news: when studios/agencies become too expensive, freelancers usually become the go-to
  • There’s still plenty of work— there are more screens to fill, more interactions, more video content, more meta-verses, more social, and more ads to make than ever before.
  • Companies are just moving slower and more carefully right now. It’s a reset.

What I’m hearing

I got a text last night from a freelancer who usually works 6 months out of the year and travels for the rest.

  • Studios gigs have dried up. He’s thinking about getting a job.

Outlook 1: The economic environment has everyone spooked, but sunny times are around the corner.

  • My thought: Yeah, this will level out. We’re seeing all of that crazy pandemic growth finally come back down to earth.
  • Notably: we’ve still NOT officially seen the “recession” everyone’s been talking about. Rate hikes seem to be doing their job to prevent it.

Outlook 2: Q1 was great, but the clients are different.

  • My thought: Samesies. It’s unsettling to not be working with the same people, but sea change is probably healthy.

Outlook 3: Motion design is dead. The well is dry. Everyone hang up their hats. Let the robots take over.

  • My thought: Nah. Right now new AI tools are creating a lot of buzz, and they can even be useful sometimes— but they’re not ready to replace us.
  • Motion Designers are still best positioned for the future of production. Full stop.
  • If you’re not finding work, time to re-evaluate your positioning and portfolio.

My Q1 Numbers

Total invoiced: $50,985.41

(No course revenue included here. But that’s only ~$3,200 YTD because I stopped advertising it.)

Current projects value: $15,000

(These are bleeding across quarters, so not sure how to include?)

Notably: a lot of my typically on-time clients are late to pay me…about 20k of that.

Projects: ~17 (breaking up some batches)

  • Explainers
  • Event graphics
  • Podcast videos
  • Paid Ads
  • YouTube series GFX
  • Video editing
  • Color Grading

Clients: 8

New Clients: 3

  • One through a LinkedIn referral
  • Two through a previous client referral

Lost clients: 3

  • One company was acquired. Creative team let go.
  • One company hired a new CD/AD. Creative team was replaced.
  • One company laid off half their creative team, including my contacts there.

This is the scary part. The clients I’m losing have been solid return clients for a long time.

However, the people who were let go may bring me new clients later.

Despite having a good Q1, since I can’t rely on some of my regulars and the economy right now is in flux, I’m still going to be making some adjustments moving forward. It’s the first time in years I’ve felt insecure about where my next gig might come from.

Adjusting for Q2

If companies are being more careful, we have to be more intentional.

  • Portfolio revamp. Yep, it’s been on my mind. Now is the time to make it a priority.
  • Re-positioning with productized offerings. I love the idea of a pre-packaged offering.
  • Retainers. Create a package that can keep businesses coming back.

For example, there are a lot of new companies popping up offering video editing as a monthly subscription, with limitations on how many concurring projects a company can have depending on their subscription tier.

This could be translated for YouTube videos, social posts, or paid ads.

All the 200k people are doing it…

Okay, not all. But I’ve been seeing a trend with the majority of the highest earners that I meet.

A lot of them have jobs.

They might not all call them “jobs.” But they have some kind of recurring “stable” income—and they freelance on top of that.

  • Retainer clients
  • Permalance positions
  • Long-term contracts
  • Part-time work
  • Literally full-time employment in some cases

Turns out, these gigs aren’t always so demanding that you can’t do more work on top of it.

Of course, that depends on your appetite. I’m not telling anyone to go work 3 jobs. I’m saying there are a lot of people fitting all of it into their weekdays, and scaling up or down to fit the seasons of their life.