#320: The Resilient Mindset—What It Takes to Thrive in the Face of AI and Economic Uncertainty

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

–Maya Angelou

Worried about the threat of AI on your writing business? Anxious about a possible recession and its impact on your income?

You’re not alone. There’s enough happening in the world to keep everyone up at night. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 30-year career is that how you respond to the current and potential challenges will determine how well you come out on the other end.

In this episode, I discuss the four different scenarios you might be in right now, and what each of them asks of you. I then lay out three high-level strategies for shoring up your business and becoming stronger, better and more resilient.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Key Topics and Bullets:

  • Planning and taking action now to make our business different in the next 12-18 months.
  • Creating a four quadrant matrix to map out goals and actions.
  • Maximizing opportunities for growth even when things are going well.
  • Managing fear and uncertainty during recessions to avoid trouble.
  • The importance of mindset, thinking strategies, and adopting tactics over the next year.
  • Adaptations to make in the current environment, including lower-priced offerings and fixed-fee services.
  • Utilizing extra time and resources to invest in projects you didn’t have time for previously.
  • Building connections and visibility through podcast appearances and attending conferences.
  • Pivoting and reframing messaging to match the current environment.
  • Targeting valuable markets such as higher education and tech companies.
  • Overcoming fear and anxiety through creativity and resourcefulness.
  • The importance of continuous improvement and not neglecting your business.
  • Building authority through content creation, social media, and writing a book.
  • Shifting from a freelancer’s mindset to a consultant’s mindset.
  • Embracing the concept of the “future self” and seeking advice from our future selves.

Timestamp Overview:

04:18 Ed– The next twelve to 18 months are going to force you to think creatively, think critically, be more resourceful, keep fear from overwhelming you, keep fear from making you do stupid things, make stupid decisions, and take action even when you don’t feel like it, even when you feel unfocused. We have to keep moving forward. We all have to remember that challenging times, at least at this level of magnitude, won’t last forever. Business always has its challenges. Being self-employed is always risky. That never changes. But the situation we’re facing now, these specific sets of challenges, they’re going to evolve, and you need to evolve with them. At the end of the day, we can’t control what happens out there.

06:46 Ed– We can only control ourselves, and more specifically, how we respond to every challenge and every situation in front of us. I think the big question really right now is how do you want your business to be different in twelve to 18 months? And what can you start doing right now to not only survive what’s ahead of you but come out of this thing stronger? So you may be in a couple of different places right now. If you’re currently struggling, the key right now is to respond and not react. If you’re doing fairly well or very well. I talked to a lot of people who are doing better than ever right now. So not everyone is struggling. The key, if you’re doing well, is to maximize a situation and not neglect your business, because it’s very, very easy to stay really busy and not work on the things that are going to ensure that your business remains strong and is better positioned than ever before. So I want you to imagine, and if you’re somewhere where you can actually draw this out on a sheet of paper, I want you to draw a four quadrant matrix.

14:47 Ed– And this wasn’t this is not my term. I forget where I heard this, but I love the term. It’s called texting roulette. Okay? The idea is if you have people in your contact lists on your phone, people you’ve worked with in the past or colleagues, sources of referrals, et cetera, when you’re sitting around or you’re standing in line somewhere rather than going to social media or doing something mindless, go to your texting app and then just type some random letter and let’s say it’s R. And the first person that comes up who would fit these descriptions, meaning a professional contact let’s say it’s Robert Smith. So, Robert, go ahead and send them a quick text. Robert, been a while, how the heck are you? Hope all is well. Check in with people randomly.

17:17 Ed– Don’t be afraid to make more contact attempts than you normally would. That’s another key thing that I want to remind you of. Maybe in the past when things were going well, you had time to really think about that, and maybe you shied away from following up. This is not the time to be shy about following up. If there was ever a time to follow up more than you feel comfortably or comfortably doing, this is the time to do it. Identify adjacent markets. Okay? So what do I mean by that? If you work with, let’s say, higher ed, adjacent markets, are other markets related to that particular market. In our example, higher ed that are close enough to it that you could actually approach.

22:36 Ed– If you haven’t invoiced somebody in a while, now is the time to get caught up there. Now is also the time to figure out what you can do to ensure this doesn’t keep happening. Why is it that you’ve gone two months without invoicing? Client A? Might sound like a no-brainer, but if you’ve been busy, if you’ve just been kind of freaking out about what’s going on out there, you might be in that situation. And it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up, but let’s get all that stuff straight. Lower costs at home in your business, but you want to maintain investments. Okay? So I’m talking about lowering costs with things that maybe you’re not using, tools you’re not using, services you’re not really getting value out of, but make sure not to cut out investments that are serving the business. One example, I actually invest in my business every year. I have a budget for that. Just three months ago, three or four months ago, I invested in coaching. A lot of money in coaching. And I’m constantly looking for opportunities to invest in my mind, my heart, my soul. I’m constantly investing in new ideas, information, books, courses, things that make sense. I’m strategic about it, but I make sure that I’m always investing in myself. That is my biggest asset, is my mind. It’s my heart, it’s my soul.

30:36 Ed– So just because something is hot doesn’t mean that this is where you should go. This is really more about pivoting as needed and carefully and strategically and reframing and clarifying your message and how you add value in this environment. One example is when COVID hit, I think it was like a month in like April 2020, I realized that my messaging was really geared toward kind of regular times, and some people were maybe struggling a little bit, but many people had momentum. But they had momentum and they were just focused on working in the business. So my messaging was all about, okay, let’s take a step back. Let’s work on your business and make it stronger, better, give you a business that enables you to earn more and less time. And this is all well and good, but it doesn’t work as well. That kind of messaging when everyone is freaking out, when everyone’s losing sleep every single night.

35:04 Ed– You may want to start going a little bit upstream to maybe VP level, maybe even C level, depending on the organization. And you want to do that with a different value message. You want to frame your value. And what you do is the fiscally smart thing to do to continue marketing, but doing it with less. Okay, maybe you present yourself as someone who helps clients get much more value out of the content marketing dollars they’re already spending. And you don’t have to use those exact words, but I’m just kind of giving you the sentiment and the people who respond really well to that are going to be higher up the organization and not so much at the manager level. So again, this is not for everybody and not in every situation, not in every market. But you may want to consider moving upstream at the executive level.

38:25 Ed– Or maybe you create a workshop that’s well suited for this environment and the fear levels that you’re seeing. And for those clients and prospects who are cautious, maybe you ask yourself, okay, how could I help them with lower priced offerings that are still high margin for me? Meaning content calendars, content repurposing, which I mentioned a minute ago, things that, hey, this is not a $5,000 engagement, maybe it’s 1000 or 1500, but it gets me in the door. It’s something that I find enjoyable, it adds tremendous value to them and it could lead into other things. So pick something. Pick a few things you do really well that maybe you’re not currently charging for from an advisory standpoint where you’re providing ideas, advice, insights and package that somehow promote it. Create a productized service around it. Productized meaning that it’s a fixed scope and has a fixed fee. Now, one last word about financial runway because I’ve mentioned that term a few times.

43:09 Ed– I love this concept of the future self. So my future self is someone who is much better, stronger, and smarter than my present self. And the cool thing about the future self is that that pattern keeps repeating. So right now, I’m better, stronger, and smarter than I was ten years ago. So my past self was not as good as my current self. And if you look back at your life, I’m sure you can find the same things. I mean, it’s not a straight line, but certainly if you look back long enough, you have definitely, in any ten year period, probably gotten better, stronger, smarter. So if that pattern keeps repeating, what makes you think that in ten years you’re not going to be better, stronger, smarter? So if ten years ago you were not as good as you are today, why wouldn’t that pattern continue? Okay, so with that in mind, I want you to ask yourself, what would your future self tell your present self? What advice would he or she give you about what’s going on right now and what you need to do? And I want you to write this in a journal as a letter from your future self to your present self.

50:16 Ed– I’m sharing this with you because sometimes it’s during our darkest moments, during our moments with the biggest fear and anxiety that we can muster all the resources we need to actually turn our business around. So I urge you not to give up hope. This is not going to last forever. So if you’re in a difficult spot, just trust that you are where you’re meant to be and that you’re going to come out of this stronger than you have before. If you put forth the work, if you show up every single day and just do your best and if you are actually doing really well right now, this message is still very relevant because I don’t want you to forget that. I don’t just want you working in your business.

By the way… whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

  1. Grab a free copy of my book.

    It’s called Earn More in Less Time: The Proven Mindset, Strategies and Actions to Prosper as a Freelance Writer. The title says it all. 😉 — Click Here
  2. Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’re earning $5k+/month (or the part-time equivalent) from your freelance business … and you’d like to grow your income quickly with better clients … just email me at [email protected]

  1. Work with me privately.

If you’re a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time, with less stress, I might be able to help you get there faster than you think. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Breakthrough” in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you with more details.