The Recession Proof Web?Summer is in full swing where we are but I probably wouldn't have noticed if it took a miss due to how busy we are these days. That is a bit surprising. When I look back at our revenue breakdown over the last 10 years, July has traditionally been our slowest month (with December a close second). That's not too surprising… summer holidays, end of the fiscal year for many clients and good ol' hot weather seem to slow down the pace of business.
So when looking at our numbers for this month (hours and revenues), it struck me as quite interesting that we're seeing the busiest summer ever – and one of our busiest periods in the last several years (stretching back as far as January). That got me thinking about the reasons why.
It could be just the 'normal' things; we're doing good work, we've been pitching a lot of new jobs and doing a lot of marketing. However, while I hope the first reason is always true, the last two aren't. So perhaps it's just a coincidence; maybe it's just another busy wave to ride. My hunch though, is that it's more than that. To be precise, I think we've got nothing but a good old recession to thank for the volume of work we're handling.
Everyone's been reading (and in some cases, experiencing) the doom and gloom of last year regarding the recession and how the expected recovery has been sputtering this year. No doubt last year was tough on a lot of people and this year is still struggling in a lot of sectors but it doesn't seem to be the case in the web design world.
My colleagues are all very busy and even struggling to find bandwidth for new work. So what is driving this in such an economy?
I think it's a simple answer – the web delivers good ROI.
It's taken a lot of years for the web to mature to the point where it can help grow a business in substantial and measurable ways – and do it all with overheads which can be much smaller and more agile then traditional media channels. So when the economy sags, companies are looking to outlets that can respond to the changing economic landscape quickly and efficiently.
That by no means makes the web recession proof but it does give us a leg up on a lot of other industries. As long as we, as designers and developers, never neglect the fundamentals we should find opportunities always available. Whether we're riding a peak or negotiating a valley, we should always keep these fundamentals at the fore – and I believe it's more critical to focus on them when you're busy as that's the easiest time to let your guard down.
- Never cut on quality. No matter how busy and how swamped you are, always deliver the same quality of work with the same attention to detail. This is an obvious "duh!" sort-of-point but it's very easy to let it slip when time and pressure are pressing.
- Never let a relationship suffer. Again, it's a busy-factor. When things are slow, there's a tendency to reach out more to clients to feel out new opportunities but it's when things are running fast and furious that your clients will really appreciate the ongoing attention – even if you're not actively doing any work with them. A simple "how are you doing?" or "did you know about…?" can work wonders.
- Keep Your Cash Flow Healthy. Don't neglect the small work even when you're busy because it's that small work that can keep a cash flow healthy in slower times – and even busier ones. Larger projects are great and hitting milestones and getting payment is great but you always need something to fill in the gaps. Even though we tend to work with 25% - 50% down on larger jobs, you can still encounter gaps and the smaller billable work can be a lifesaver.
- Keep Improving. This is another tough area to focus on when you're busy – who has time for exploring new trends and ways of doing things when those design comps need to get finished? However, this is a critical area and if you fall behind on what other companies and developers are doing, you'll soon be looking for another career – or just building $1000 websites for your in-laws. We're always trying to read up on and follow emerging trends and technologies. And when things are so busy that we can't find the time to play with them on our own time, we'll look for opportunities to pull them into existing or upcoming projects and build in some non-paid time to explore and implement them as part of the project.