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Freelance After 50 Newsletter

F50 Issue #5: Thriving during a Recession

Published 8 months ago • 5 min read

F50 Issue #5: September 12, 2023


Thriving During a Recession: Five Lessons from George Costanza

The year is 1994. It’s Thursday night. You grab your favorite snack, sit down in a comfortable chair, and turn on the TV.

The Seinfeld theme song plays, and the episode begins with an unemployed George Costanza staring wistfully at the ocean. As the scene switches to a local coffee shop, George strides over to the table where his friends, Jerry and Elaine, are sitting.

He tells them he was at the beach and explains, “It all became very clear to me, sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.”

Do you feel like George sometimes?

As we fast-forward to 2023, many of us are facing challenges in a down economy. High inflation has increased the cost of living. Rising interest rates are affecting mortgage payments.

High rent is making housing unaffordable. And when you go to the grocery store, you may be shocked at how much your favorite snacks and regular staples cost.

Although you’ve likely made better decisions than George has, you’re affected by external events. During this time of uncertainty, there’s talk of a possible recession, and companies are cutting back. They’re implementing hiring freezes and layoffs. Some businesses are even going bankrupt.

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a freelancer and starting your own business, you may wonder if you’re making a mistake.

But the opposite is true.

According to a Business Wire article, 43% of business owners are planning to hire freelancers, and “8 in 10 said independent flexible talent can help companies during times of economic downturn.”

Specifically, “a majority (78%) say they are more likely to engage with freelance talent to fill in gaps in their workforce during times of economic uncertainty.”

One of the reasons why freelancers are more in demand is because companies gained experience with remote working arrangements during the pandemic. Freelancing has become mainstream, and many business owners feel comfortable hiring people who work independently from home.

With that in mind, what can we learn from George Costanza? In this Seinfeld episode, titled “The Opposite,” George decides to change his life by doing the opposite of what he’s done before, and he thrives.

Here are five ways you can follow George’s lead so you can thrive too, no matter what the economy throws at you.

1. Try something new.

Until that day, George was set in his ways. The restaurant server comes over and anticipates that George will order tuna on toast, coleslaw, and a cup of coffee. But he stops her and says,

“I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted, with a side of potato salad, and a cup of tea!”

If you notice you’ve become set in your ways, try something new. Learn a new skill, participate in a new activity, or join a new group. Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish and opportunities you’d like to pursue.

And don’t be afraid to try something that’s the opposite of what people would expect from you (or what you’d expect from yourself).

2. Dare to be bold.

When a woman looks over at George after he orders his food, Elaine encourages him to go talk to her. George is hesitant, listing a number of insecurities including his appearance, lack of job, and lack of money.

But Jerry encourages him, and George says, “Yes. I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing and regret it for the rest of the day. So now I will do the opposite and I will do something.”

As we said in a previous issue, “Dream big.” Dare to be bold and pursue your dreams. Don’t let fear, imposter syndrome, or low self-esteem hold you back from talking to people and seeking new opportunities.

Say positive things to yourself, pursue the skills you need, and be confident!

3. Stay calm.

When a car cuts George off, causing him to swerve amid honking horns, he stays calm and says, “Take it easy. Take it easy. It’s not the end of the world.”

This is the opposite of how George would normally react, and it makes a difference in his life.

Although economic downturns and fears of a recession can make you panic, it’s important to stay calm. If you’re feeling distracted and anxious, find ways to relax and quiet your thoughts. For example, take time each day to enjoy activities like this:

  • Listening to your favorite song
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Exercising
  • Playing games and sports
  • Creating arts and crafts
  • Reading a good book
  • Trying out a music app like Brain.fm.

4. Be authentic.

If you’ve watched a lot of Seinfeld episodes, you’ll remember that George was not always honest about his profession. He liked to impress people by telling them he was an architect or a marine biologist.

But this time, he introduced himself to a woman by saying, “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” To his surprise, she was interested in getting to know him because he was refreshingly honest.

If you decide to become a freelancer, be honest about your achievements. Tell people about your previous work and how it relates to your new pursuits. Tell them about the new skills you’re learning and how they’ll help you offer high-quality services.

Whether you’re retired or working, your journey is as interesting as your destination, so be authentic and share your milestones with others.

5. Make new connections.

After explaining how he did the opposite of what he’d normally do on a date, George tells Jerry and Elaine, “Her uncle works for the Yankees and is going to get me a job interview. A front office kind of thing. Assistant to the traveling secretary. A job with the New York Yankees!”

This new opportunity came about because George was bold enough to walk up to someone and introduce himself. You never know what valuable connections you’ll make when you’re willing to network and meet new people.

If you’re thinking of starting a freelance business, making new connections is especially important. Even if networking is the opposite of what you enjoy doing, it doesn’t have to be painful.

Depending on the type of work you’re interested in, you can find smaller groups of like-minded people to connect with. And, like George, keep an eye out for people you might meet while you’re at a restaurant with friends!

So, don’t despair if your life is the opposite of what you’d like it to be right now. You have even more options than George Costanza had, including the flexibility, fulfillment, and financial opportunities of a freelance business!


Handy Tools

If you’re feeling stressed and distracted by everything going on in the world, try Brain.fm. It’s a handy tool that uses neuroscience to help you focus better and even relax or sleep better.

After signing up, you’ll do a short quiz to determine how the music should be adjusted so that your brain waves remain in a pattern that keeps you focussed. The music stimulates your brain with “gentle rhythmic pulses” and blends into the background so you aren’t distracted.

Use Brain.fm on the web or download the app. Try it for free or purchase unlimited access for $6.99/month or $49.99/year.


Ask the Experts

Now we’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions about freelancing or the Longevity Economy we talked about in Issue #4, please write to us at support@freelanceu.com.

We’ll dedicate a section in a future issue to answering your inquiries and providing thoughtful insights.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate with George Costanza as we change our lives for the better!


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