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Building business resilience: Effective strategies for consultants during uncertain times

By Chinmay Bhagat

Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat, dreading the next email notification because you know it might be a client cancelling your contract?

Building business resilience: Effective strategies for consultants during uncertain times

The potential effects of crises like an economic downturn or recession on the freelancing industry is uncertain. Some companies might lay off in-house employees to save the payroll expenditure. They might allocate a fragment of those funds to hire freelancers to save on employee benefit expenses like insurance, taxes, and pension. Other companies might indulge in cost-cutting at the collective level, committing to regular expenses such as payroll. In that case, they will rely entirely on full-time staff, eliminating the need to outsource projects to freelancers. 

As a freelancer, the feast-or-famine cycle is a constant worry. During a recessive economy, clients tend to shrink budgets. In the worst scenario, your consultancy services could be at the top of the company’s cost-cutting list. The thought of being incomeless is enough to keep even the highly experienced consultants awake at night. 

But what if you could build a business so resilient it thrives even during economic uncertainty? With recessionary clouds looming large, here’s how you, the independent consultant, can weather the storm and emerge even stronger.

5 ways for independent consultants to build resilience

Some businesses barely survive when the economy slows down, whereas others thrive. Here are five practical ideas to improve your resilience as an independent professional:

Embrace flexibility and digitisation

It is crucial to adopt flexibility and sculpt your solutions as per your niche industry’s dynamic realities. Adaptability is the foundation stone of every resilient business.

During the pandemic, many companies digitised their routine business operations. According to a survey by McKinsey comprising over 800 executives around the world, 83% and 70% of executives from the United States and India, respectively, reported more rapid adoption of automation in their businesses.

Another viable option is to adopt flexibility to cope with dynamic market conditions. As an independent consultant, you should be efficient in navigating your way out of a challenging situation and changing your business model when needed. This can be done by developing different skill sets to stay relevant in the market. 

For example, if you are an IT consultant, try to upskill yourself and expand your domain of expertise. Anticipate what’s in demand now and in the future; maybe take a course in cybersecurity, become an expert in a niche area of cloud computing, or maybe get down on the latest when it comes to data visualization.

Smart budget management for tough times

An effective way to increase resilience if times get tough is by cutting back on avoidable spending. Yet, whatever you decide to cut must not impact client-related work. For an independent consultant, knowing the difference between investment and cost-cutting is crucial. 

Create an excel sheet and record all your monthly expenses, whether big or small, to keep track. To make things easier, classify the spending into the following category:

  • Essentials: Costs crucial for basic functioning and vital for maintaining professional well-being.
  • Treats: Reasonable indulgences that offer immediate satisfaction or short-term benefits.
  • Postponables: Non-urgent purchases or investments that can be sensibly deferred.
  • Expendables: Non-essential expenses that can be eliminated without impacting core business operations.

If there are any subscriptions, memberships, or services that you can survive without for a while, cut them down. On the other hand, continue investing in services directly associated with your productivity and upskilling. Funnel money into resources such as books, courses, and anything that broadens your scope of expertise and instils value in your business.

Remember one golden rule: any expense that helps you stay efficient at your job should be retained, while the avoidable luxuries can take a backseat for some time.

Create an action plan beforehand

Actively engage in scenario planning to develop well-considered action plans before a crisis occurs. Being proactive not only keeps your business resilient in turbulent times but also enables you to seize and create opportunities. Consider the following strategies:

  • Skill development: Continuously upgrade and diversify your skills to stay relevant and competitive in your field.
  • Leverage your network: Reconnect with your professional contacts to explore potential collaborations or project opportunities.
  • Personal branding: Regularly update your social media profiles and content to enhance your online presence and personal brand.
  • Portfolio enhancement: Consistently work on enriching your portfolio to remain attractive to clients, even in a slow economy.
  • Allocate budget for growth: Allocate a specific budget for key areas such as marketing and advertising, ensuring visibility and outreach during downturns.

Streamline your offerings with productised services

Instead of spending hours creating customised solutions for clients, adopt a productised consulting model. This approach can significantly reduce the time and effort spent on tailoring bespoke solutions for each client. As a consultant, focus on creating a structured, repeatable service package that addresses common client needs and objectives.

Develop a clear and concise customer journey map that details the steps clients will take with your services, outlining the outcomes at each stage. By defining what clients will receive and at what price point, you create a scalable model that can be marketed and sold repeatedly. This not only streamlines your process but also provides clients with a clear understanding of what to expect, improving efficiency for both parties.

Productized services allow you to focus on delivering quality and value consistently, while also making it easier to attract and serve clients with similar needs, ultimately saving time and enhancing overall productivity.

Keep the marketing going

Always continue marketing your services, irrespective of how the economy performs, but find relatively low-cost ways of doing so if necessary. Incorporate the following measures to streamline your marketing campaigns:

  • Track marketing performance: Regularly monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) for your marketing activities. This will help you understand your return on investment (ROI) and identify areas where you might need to reduce spending, especially on underperforming campaigns.
  • Engage through content: Maintain or grow your presence on social media and on your website. Share insightful, informative content that highlights your expertise in your niche. This not only reinforces your brand but also provides value to your audience, and is relatively low cost.
  • Outreach and follow-up: Proactively reach out to potential clients with cold emails. Don’t forget to follow up with previous clients too. Re-engaging past clients can often be more cost-effective than acquiring new ones.
  • Online advertising: Continue with targeted online advertising campaigns to raise awareness about your services. Tailor your ads to appeal to your ideal client base, ensuring your marketing budget is used effectively to attract quality leads.


In an uncertain market environment, it’s important for independent consultants and freelancers to be able to adapt and remain agile.

While economic shifts can present challenges, they also offer opportunities for those prepared to navigate them with strategic foresight. By implementing, or at least being prepared to execute some of the above tactics, will ensure you remain resilient, ready to seize opportunities as they arise in the ever-changing professional landscape.

About the author

Chinmay Bhagat is the Manager of the Talent function at Outsized, leading a team responsible for identifying, vetting, and onboarding highly skilled and relevant independent professionals. Chinmay has deep background in the talent space, having worked in various talent roles at Maven Workforce and Tech Mahindra. Prior to joining Outsized in 2019 he was Global Talent Acquisition Manager at Plethora, a boutique investment bank.