Hard times. Particularly for an out of work kid with no real experience in his chosen profession. (I was an electrician)
Nobody was hiring, and whenever I called for a job they closed it about ten minutes after the call in time. Hardest days of my young life at the time.
The problem wasn't that I couldn't get work. The problem was that I couldn't get work doing what I normally did. So I needed to change what I "normally" did.
In a remote part of the state they had trouble finding people to pick grapes for making wine. They needed people who would work in harsh conditions in a remote environment.
So I went grape picking.
When I came back I found that there was a company who had trouble finding an electrician to travel to the furthest reaches of the north of the state to work on the power stations of the aboriginal communities up there.
They needed a person who could deal with different cultures and lots of travel.
So I became the crocodile hunter for a year or so...(Phenomenal experience actually, but thats a story for another time)
And then there's the story of being destitute in Chile with funds for a week and no way home... but that really is another story.
Even in the worst recession of my lifetime, I was able to turn a buck. And not because I'm superhuman or supersmart, which I'm not, because I was willing to look for other opportunities.
We've covered a few of the industries around the place where there are very real opportunities. But you can dig new niches even where in your current client list.
You just need to go where the need is.
If their revenue is falling...
- Help them find new ways of reaching the unreachable clients
- Work with them to cut inefficiencies in their operations
- Help to boost their use of existing capacity. (Easy one for quick large scale $$$)
- Work with them to push non core work out to more cost effective sources. (Yes, outsourcing!)
If their costs are rising:
- Show them how they can replace "old architecture" beasts like SAP with light and cheap SaaS options
- Work with them to give them personal productivity tools - reducing the "guff" of work processes
- Help them to cut out their inventory, go for Just-in-time or whatever works. Just do it quickly
- Help them through more accurate and cheaper sourcing
- Show them how to negotiate. (You'll have to do better than that. Best negotiating line EVER!)
If their sales team is failing under the economic pressure:
- Show them how to get their clients together for value added networking
- Help them organize an event extraordinaire with all the leading players of their field. And how to turn it into a sales event.
- Get them to embrace other relationship sell methods.
- teach them how to produce best practices reports showing quantified value that can be onsold with services
- Explore the levers for commoditizing their services alongside their products.
You get the point.
You can chase the sectors where the work is. Great strategy - I recommend it fully.
But don't count out your existing client base. They've been good to you, if they're in trouble then go where their need is and help them to be a better client for you tomorrow.