How to Build a Recession-Proof Design Business

Is your creative business primed to thrive or wither?

Benek Lisefski
Published in
7 min readSep 16, 2019


Photo: Jason Roberts

EEconomists may argue about when it’s coming, but most agree that a global recession is on its way. Some say it’s starting already. With speculative headlines flying around, it’s only natural to worry how a changing economic landscape may affect your design business. Whether you’re a freelance designer or run your own creative studio, it’s prudent to take preventative steps to ensure your design work doesn’t dry up.

I’ve been reflecting on my own 18-year freelance design business. Here’s how I plan to not only weather the storm, but grow and thrive in an uncertain economic landscape.

Note: These are valuable tips to help any creative business thrive, whether the economy is booming or crashing.

Be a professional expert

Expert designers will always be in demand. As businesses get more risk-averse during a recession they can’t afford to gamble on unproven talent. If you’re seen as an experienced design expert you’ll stay busy, while less established designers may struggle to attract new work.

Expertise doesn’t have to mean narrow specialization. You can be T-shaped or a specialized generalist and maintain one or two areas of expertise, complemented by a broad range of other design skills.

Expertise isn’t just about your craft; it extends to how you run your business as well. Trusted, reliable designers will be easy choices to work with during a recession, while those who fall short on communication and professionalism will be seen as too risky.

Make sharpening your experience and building your reputation a priority.

Align yourself with healthy clients

Some businesses get hit worse than others during an economic downturn.

Vice industries like booze, porn, and gambling tend to do well in hard times — people need an escape more than ever. But your moral and ethical code may preclude you from working with those businesses. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a warning from their success.



Benek Lisefski
Writer for

I’m a UX/UI designer from Auckland, New Zealand. Writing about freelancing & business for indie designers & creatives at