Prosper in this Time of Economic Turmoil

The current economic troubles in the United States have been made famous as of late. It’s terribly difficult to make it a few hours without hearing just a little more detail about how the economy in America is upside down. What’s more is the undeniable fact that every corner of the US market is feeling the recoil, and that shock wave continues to echo well beyond our borders.

It’s a natural tendency to consider the fact that economic issues this far gone will indeed have a direct effect on you and your lifestyle. The main question remains, however; to what extent? At what point will the questionable actions of major financial institutions cease influence on your life? We’re all reading every day about another group of employees losing jobs as a direct result of economic difficulty.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take time before the current financial situation rights itself. Considering that fact, you need to prepare yourself for as much as possible. Preparation comes from education and advice, but always keep in mind to question what you read. The advice of others may not be in your best interest, but instead in the interest of someone else entirely. I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I feel strongly about personal education. Read as much as you can to arm yourself with the greatest possible variety of information. You will be much better prepared to analyze everything you read.

The economy. The Web.

I work on the Web. I’m extremely interested in what’s to come for myself as well as my colleagues in the industry over the next few years. I can reiterate what knowledge I’ve gained regarding the possible future of the Web industry, but that goes against my earlier point of researching for yourself.

The general consensus, from what I gather, is that the Web will begin to evolve from its current state, for the better. I say ‘for the better’ because I believe the Web is over-saturated with designers and developers. There are too many companies that exist purely to maximize profit and minimize time. Quality doesn’t come into the picture with these companies, just turnaround time. It’s these companies which have made Web design that much more difficult to truly respect for the general public.

There are a number of ways to interpret that, however. It all depends on your perspective. I have that opinion as a professional designer, constantly bombarded with skepticism about each hour that goes into a project. I completely sympathize with a company and its budget, but I don’t question why your budget is so small.

Analysts mention that the next few years will be the time for small firms and freelancers. That’s comforting for me to hear, as my company currently consists of 16 people. It’s disconcerting because we’re already reading about unjust position terminations from large corporations. People say that the industry will begin to weed itself out, but I have difficulty standing completely behind that opinion. If the industry were truly taking out its own garbage, why are such high profile positions sacrificed so early? I ask that question with complete ignorance, I’m more than sure there are too many factors to consider beyond raw talent, but the facts remain.

What are you doing?

Why did it take economic turmoil to trigger this self-cleansing? I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite some time, wondering if my peers have become a bit too comfortable in their professional life. That sounds terribly negative, but it should be a concern if you’re a professional designer or developer.

I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’m actively pursuing to avoid any significant negative influence the economy will have. It’s important that you keep yourself in check, not only because the economy is in a slump, but always. As always, my opinions are mine, expressed explicitly for the benefit of reading an outside opinion on a subject in which you may be interested.

Keep learning
Are you actively expanding your industry knowledge? When is the last time you read a book on a subject that would positively effect your work? On the Web, you should never stop learning. When you cease to actively expand your knowledge, you become stagnant. You will soon find yourself out of touch, and your work will indeed suffer. If you’re not currently researching various aspects of your professional duties, please start. There is always something to learn. If you’re not inspired to expand your knowledge, branch out into something a bit more abstract.
Minimize overhead
Your best course of action will be examining your current daily habits and the influence those habits have on the big picture. Are there areas of your day upon which you can maximize, not only to save yourself time and stress, but make the company a few extra dollars? That’s not to say you’re wasting company time, but there will always be overhead. Overhead in our industry can be kept to a minimum, but that depends heavily on your process. Are there any glaring issues you’ve picked up on recently? Don’t be shy, bring up your ideas.
Put in the extra time and effort
Perhaps most important is putting in a bit of extra time when you can. That’s not to say you should start working 60 hour weeks out of the goodness of your heart, but a few hours a week for the benefit of the company can work wonders. My company has recently started getting together as a team to work on internal projects over pizza and beers and the effects have been excitingly positive.

Keeping things like this on your mind is definitely not guaranteed job security, but it will indeed set you apart from the crowd should the financial belt of your company tighten. Make sure your company knows how valuable you are.

My strategy throughout this mess is to keep doing what I’m doing. I have a significant respect for this industry and the people in it. My company works extremely hard to prove itself with each project request that comes through the door. We’re confident that the time we have put in over the past decade will provide a strong foundation to carry us through. As a small business, we’re excited about the possibility of working with some bigger clients by capitalizing where we can. The Web will definitely change as a result of current financial happenings, we’ll need to work together to take advantage of the situation and make sure we all come out ahead.

Additional reading