Corrected on 3/14/08: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the address of Anita Campbell's website. The correct URL is smallbiztrends.com.
If you're a small-business owner concerned about a recession, worrying won't help. But these tips about what to do in a recession just might.
Keep your name out there. When money is tight, it's tempting to hold on to what you have and not worry about expanding your brand. But if you stop advertising and marketing, you'll do your business serious harm. "If you cut back on advertising in the face of a recession, then the customers stop, and it's basically a self-fulfilling prophecy," says small-business consultant Karl Paluchuk of Sacramento, Calif. "What you've done is created an environment where you've foreseen this recession, and you've taken an action that results in your own personal recession." If you are really having trouble with your advertising budget, there have never been more cheap ways to get your name out. For example, you could start a blog that will give your business a personal face.
Watch your invoices. Anita Campbell, editor of smallbiztrends.com, says "a couple of slow invoices can be the difference between being in the red and being in the black" in a recession. Use online billing services to keep yourself on your toes. Examples of these services include freshbooks.com and paysimple.com.
Break your product up. If it's a recession, your customers will be trying to cut back. They may not be able to afford your products. Counteract that by distributing your products in forms that are more affordable. For example, suggests Dawn Rivers Baker, editor of the MicroEnterprise Journal, "if you have an information product and it costs your customers $79 to buy it, you might think about breaking it up into little reports that are a chapter each."
Outsource. In today's Internet-driven world, it's not always necessary to have an assistant in your office. Business consultant Elizabeth Kanna says that some of her small-business clients are saving money by using "virtual assistants" who work in other parts of the world, such as India, but can set up your conference calls and meetings here. Kanna says that the salaries of virtual assistants usually run $10 to $15 an hour. You also can share an assistant with other companies to further hold down costs.
Don't get discouraged. Just because a recession is going on in the broader economy, that doesn't necessarily mean it has to affect you. If you expand your business during a recession, you might reap the rewards from markets that your competitors are too scared to enter because of the bad economy. "It might be by the time the economy turns around and other people notice the opportunity, you're already there," Rivers Baker says. And if you conduct your business too cautiously, you might be at a disadvantage when the economy does perk back up.