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10 Business Survival Tips Business Advice To Designers To Assist During An Economic Downturn

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

In this article, we encourage designers to maintain a positive mindset and prepare themselves for the impending economic downturn by employing simple precautions and engaging proactive strategies. Being realistic about the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on our businesses is incredibly important. Arming ourselves with facts, and avoiding sensationalised opinion, is vital.

We have been overwhelmed by the care and compassion that is currently flowing through our community. From all accounts, we know that things are going to get worse before they get better. As the situation becomes more serious, people will forget to operate with this positive and caring mindset.

Fear is a natural reaction to the negativity flooding our lives from all sources. It drives us to make irrational decisions and blocks the sort of clear and lateral thought processes that will enable us to weather this economic storm.

We encourage everyone to choose love and compassion over fear and negativity.

Remember, together we are so much more powerful.


1. Perform a quick Business Health Check.

It’s important for business owners to understand where they sit financially, especially in times of economic strain. Once you are equipped with the facts, you can formulate an overview of the health of your business.

Take our free TDC online Business Health Check by logging into the TDC Member's Lounge. If you haven't joined already, it's free.

From a well-informed position you can make measured decisions.

2. Seek help.

Don’t try to go it alone. Now is the time to reach out to someone to help you manoeuvre through the difficult decisions about managing your business. Look to a trusted friend or family member who understands small business and can provide you with sound advice. Alternatively, reach out to a mentor or business coach for support.

If you are struggling financially, assistance is available from the government for small businesses in the form of cash-flow assistance, tax breaks and loans. Speak to your accountant about your options.

Review the Government document on “Cash flow assistance for businesseshere.

3. Focus on looking after your existing clients.

These people are the life blood of your business. Don’t wait to get in touch - do it now.

Keep abreast of any changes with your suppliers, manufacturers and trades and maintain regular communication with these important clients.

Ensure that you use reassuring language and confirm that you are ready to continue business as usual, to the best of your capabilities.

Offer care and consideration to clients who are suffering, but don’t waiver from your payment terms (more important than ever in times of economic strain).

4. Be proactive rather than reactive.

Create strategies to counteract future change. Think 3 steps ahead at all times and come up with creative solutions to what otherwise feels like hopeless situations.

As the government increases restrictions on social connection, change all meetings to virtual and let your clients know that you plan to continue on the design program as previously planned.

Update your Terms and Conditions now! Make sure your terms are tight and release you from as much risk as possible.

5. Stay positive and communicate positively.

Don’t panic and make rash decisions. Be considered in your communications with clients, trades and suppliers.

Look after your team as they will be worried. Schedule regular meetings (via Skype/Zoom) to alleviate worry and uncertainty.

6. Think like the boss.

Imagine you are the CEO of a large corporation. Tough times call for tough action.

Make considered, financially sound decisions and don’t be swayed by emotional attachments. Be honest about the current health of your business (refer to Tip #1) and make choices that are best for your future.

If you are currently stretched and have the opportunity to remove yourself from situations that pose a financial risk, make the tough decision. After considering all of your options (ideally after seeking help – see Tip #2), you decide that the best decision is to close your doors, act fast to mitigate further damage. Know that there is no shame in making this brave decision.

7. Trim the fat.

Be brutal. Review all of your expenses and cull unnecessary costs. Look at subscriptions that might be able to be put on hold. Postpone photo shoots. Keep costs that are essential to the operation of your business, and review the rest.

Find new ways to keep overheads to a minimum. Once the economic situation improves you can re-evaluate whether these overheads even need to be reinstated.

8. Be agile.

Don’t be too attached to existing business structure. Review your skills and consider ways of meeting clients needs during these tough economic times. For example, offer service packages to clients that include work arounds for the current restrictions (remote meetings with suppliers to review stock, digital presentation of materials, etc.)

If you are used to selecting items by shopping in showrooms (eg: fabrics and furniture), create new processes to replace the need to visit showrooms. Talk to your suppliers about how this might be achieved.

Where possible, allow staff to work remotely. Upgrade your software systems to allow remote time tracking and video conferencing.

9. Utilise down-time effectively.

If you find that you are left with time on your hands due to project delays or cancellations, use you time wisely. Revise your systems and update your Terms and Conditions. Upskill by setting aside time to take those online software classes that you’ve been postponing for months. Create a marketing strategy. Implement that marketing strategy!

Set time in your calendar for these activities and continue your work week as per usual.

10. Practice kindness and empathy.

Start by being kind to yourself and ensure you are taking care of your physical, mental and emotional health. Continue (or start!) an exercise regime. Replace face to face catch ups with video calls (and virtual hugs).

Understand that the people involved in your business (team, clients, suppliers and trades) are all suffering and may not be the best version of themselves at this time. Before responding to a negative client with negativity, consider their position and offer care and understanding.

We still have no idea how long the COVID-19 restrictions will affect our community, nor do we know the full extent of the economic downturn that will follow. History reminds us that we will most certainly recover. Unfortunately, some businesses will not survive. Others, however, will make it through and shall go on to thrive.

The Design Coach team are committed to doing our part to assist you on the road to recovery and future success.

Stay well, be kind and keep in touch.


Andrew and the TDC Team

Find out more about our coaching here.


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