Deep Thought Thursday: Recession lessons

It's not too difficult to make money when times are good, but only those who are well prepared will survive a major economic downturn.

What do you wish you would have done differently before the recession hit that would put you in better standing right now?

Incidentally, I'm still digesting the results from the survey I sent out about artists and the recession. I promise to share results as soon as they are ready.

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13 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Recession lessons”

  1. I wish I would have had a more solid marketing plan and invested some cash flow towards the top programs. Especially the program of educating designers and architects how the decorative painting, plastering and mural industry has evolved. Educating that vertical on how we can actually improve their business offerings and value. This is especially important in our market which I feel is about five years behind other markets. I wish I knew you were coming to Portland, I would have loved to have a cup of coffee with you. Next time?

  2. I’m a writer rather than a visual artist, and I’m about to answer your question in the opposite way than it was intended — but the question really made me think, so I thought I’d respond anyway.

    Pre-bad economy, I spent a little over a year chasing a dead band around and working on a project that cost me a small bundle in both money and time but made a lot of people happy all around the world. I traveled, made new friends, gained new experiences, and now I’m pursuing a new creative direction that I probably never would have had the guts to take. Those experiences cost a lot — even pre-economic downturn they cost a lot — and weren’t the most clear-minded things to have done, but they also changed my life.

    My husband and I have been living without the everyday luxuries like cable TV and technofabulous phones for many, many years. We purchase frugally and splurge rarely. We eat a lot of beans. And without question, we would be in a much more stable position now had it not been for this one anomalous year — had I saved instead of spent, stuck with a stable job rather than worked on that project and decided to pursue writing, traveled less and earned more.

    But the truth is that I don’t wish I hadn’t done any of those things. I *should* wish to have done things differently, but I don’t.

    Thanks for the question. In a strange way, it has made my morning a bit easier.

  3. Well, I was about to cash in my 401k so that I could have a studio room built onto the back of our house. I hesitated because of the 30% penalties. Really wish I hadn’t hesitated. 🙁

    In the interest of making lemonade, however, I realized I can just move my easel and taboret into the living room every day, and use that bigger space to create the bigger works I have been aching to do. Since, as a freelancer, I now have a lot more time to paint!

  4. From a purely marketing point, my husband should have stayed on the East Coast while I built up my business here. But you can’t make artistic decisions through your wallet all the time. So we took a beating on the house and are together. Money isn’t everything. In fact right now, it’s almost nothing!

  5. This is food for thought. I’m working as a freelance illustrator. I earn income from many sources, but my most regular is from doing political cartoons and editorial illustrations for a small newspaper. While this was fine in the good times, this newspaper is currently struggling to fill its advertising space, making its future uncertain. Had I had foresight, I think I would have tried to diversify my income streams so I wasn’t reliant on only one source. I think diversification is the key for surviving a recession.

  6. I went out on my own several years ago as a graphic designer/illustrator. I’ve never regretted it. Prior to dumping the 9-5, I went out and hoarded supplies. We have a small 30’s home and storage is a challenge, but I didn’t let it stop me. I take a small percentage (from every check) of the money from my graphics and invest into my studio. I want my fiber arts to support them selves very soon, but until that happens the graphics will have to help. The most important thing we have done to make this all happen was we had no debt when times turned sour. My car is 12 years old and we haven’t been on vacation in 3 years, but because of that I’m here in my home and not in some cube.

  7. I’ve seen so many people lose good jobs, homes, businesses this past year and as a result, I feel really fortunate. For the most part I’ve felt more fortunate in recent times than ever before. And from the responses above it seems like many also count their blessings.

    Now to answer the question above, I did everything I felt that I could do last year in terms of marketing and developing my art. Part of what helps is that I keep 0 debt and that allows for a lot of wiggle room in tight times.

    I have no idea how shows will pan out this year but in the least, I’m prepared to continue making the best work possible.

  8. I know this might sound like an old story but I have learned from experience. I went through hard times in past decades. I have lived the bohemian art life. I have lived the life of waiting for sales. I got smashed each time the economy took a dive. I got hit one too many times. So I learned.

    MY WAY (maybe not your way) of avoiding disaster again was to take on a day job which was pretty much recession proof. Yes, I have to work this job about 190 days a year. I get a salary, benefits, and retirement. My paycheck is dispersed during all 12 months. This way, I have a comfort zone. I know I will have money coming in regardless of the economic climate. I can still make my art, order art supplies, and not be worried by the thought of financial demise. It has taken the pressure off. I am FREE to support myself and my art without the worry about the lack of sales. This has been a way for me to cope and alleviate the anxiety of my art life. This might not be the life you wish to have. However, it has worked like a charm for me.
    Sheree Rensel

  9. What would I have done differently if I’d known a recession was coming?

    I think I would have skipped the heart attack.

    When you’re healthy you can work your way out of most anything.

    More marketing, more production, take on a side job, sell your body on the street corner, take more commission work–Oh wait that’s the same as the prior one.

    When you’re sick, you ain’t nothin’ but road kill waiting for a friendly buzzard.

    So it’s not what I wish I had done differently, it’s what am I gonna do now?

    Answer: Suck it up. Work with what I’ve got left and enjoy life.

    Why waste of a good recession when you’ve been offered the opportunity to live through it?

  10. I can’t think of anything that I could have done that would have left us in better shape now – my husband and I try to live somewhat carefully in terms of finances – avoiding large debts, living within our means, saving some, sharing some; so we continue that pattern.

    My husband had planned to retire this April – but after the blocks started falling he decided to stay on for a couple more years – we’re SO glad he hadn’t just retired.

    I do art/craft shows and am adjusting the kinds of things I make to see what will get me through this uncertain period. Have only had one show so far this year – and while mostly the less expensive pieces sold, I did have one commission for a larger piece come out of that – so I’m feeling a little more optiimistic.

  11. I wish I’d paired my studio studies with a marketable job skill.
    I wish I’d done an internship.
    I wish I hadn’t stuck with retail through college.
    I wish I went for the PhD years ago because with this economic depression, who knows if I’ll ever be able to afford it.
    I wish a lot of things. Not having any money is not so great.

  12. The recession is actually helping me to be more disciplined about marketing, and I feel like when the economy takes off, I’ll have things more in place than if I didn’t have to worry about making money. I’ve done a lot more online marketing, blogging, twittering, facebooking etc to spread the word about my art, and the amount of commissions I’ve gotten, at least this month, have drastically increased. Some parts of my sales are slower, but other parts have picked up due to marketing I used to have the luxury of being too lazy to do.

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