During an economic downturn, the world can feel like it’s falling apart. Every news headline is about market crashes, companies going under, or whole departments being laid off. There’s been a lot of panic in the world.
But here’s the good news: in every financial upheaval, there are also unique opportunities.
So we want to encourage entrepreneurs to start companies today. That’s right—during an economic downturn. After all, some of the most famous companies in the world were founded during recessions. That includes Trader Joe’s, HP, Burger King, and Microsoft, just to name a few.
If you’re willing to take a little risk and bet on yourself, you may just start a business that changes your life and career.
Two characteristics of recession-proof businesses
- Get down to the basics. During a recession, many people slow down their spending. They buy fewer luxury items and stick to more essentials. That means the most profitable businesses during a recession usually focus on handling our most essential needs like food, shelter, and safety.
- Consider affordability. Many people try to hold onto their cash when things get scary. If a person or business has more than one option for solving a problem, they’ll likely default to the more affordable one.
We’ve put together a list of recession-proof business ideas along with tool recommendations and resources that can help you along the way. All of these are lifetime deals—just pay once and you won’t have to worry about pesky monthly fees.
Here are 12 businesses to start during an economic downturn.
Hiring often tightens during an economic downturn. But businesses still need to cover their bases. Many companies will pause full-time hiring during a pandemic. However, they’ll continue to work with freelancers because of the flexibility they offer—a freelancer can work for the length of any project as needed. If you have an in-demand business skill, you may be able to start selling that skill as a freelancer. A few popular freelance services include:
- Graphic design
- Web development
- Content writing and copywriting
- Community management
- Video editing
- Photo editing
There are two easy ways to get started freelancing.
- Reach out to people in your network who work full-time in roles that overlap with your services. If you’re a designer or copywriter, reach out to people in marketing agencies and marketing departments.
- Join freelance websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and more. You can create a profile and begin bidding on projects within minutes.
Want to stop scrolling through endless job listings? Vollna is an AI-based aggregator that uses Machine Learning to search for freelance projects on the top freelance sites and alert you to projects that fit your skills.
- AppSumo Blog | Freelancing
- How to become a consultant, freelancer, or coach
- Freelancing and Consulting as a Side Hustle
Like freelancers, agency owners have the flexibility to provide ongoing services to their clients without being part of the team. A company that wants to stay lean during a recession may choose to outsource certain projects to specialized agencies—that way they can get the services they need without as much financial commitment.
Starting an agency is different from starting freelancing because agencies typically tackle larger projects of a broader scope. Freelancers may help with writing or developing tasks on projects, while agencies can handle entire branding overhauls or launching custom apps for businesses.
If you already have a network of talented people that you enjoy working with, then teaming up to start an agency might be best for you. Be prepared to showcase detailed portfolios and reference results that your prior work has driven to snag clients. But for people with a lot of experience and connections in their field, starting an agency could put you in a very valuable position for companies with bottom lines on their mind.
Agencies tend to fall into many of the same categories as freelance services. Here are a few agency ideas that are always in demand:
- Web development
- Social media
To reduce your own hiring risk as an agency owner, you can start by working exclusively with freelancers. That way, even if your client needs fluctuate, you don’t have to carry as much risk as you might with full-time employees.
Starting an agency is similar to starting a freelance business. You can often find your first clients within your network or on freelance sites. As an additional tip, try attending a few business events in town. You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone in the market for a good agency.
Agency owners are on a ton of calls. GabMeet makes it possible to easily connect and engage with clients and team members using one-click video and audio conference calls. Best of all, this Zoom alternative requires no downloads.
As a rising agency, you want to make sure you’re ranking ahead of your competitors. SheerSEO is an SEO platform that helps you analyze and optimize your keyword and backlink strategies, as well as monitor your site health.
- How to Start an Agency (Even When You’re a New Marketer)
- So You Want to Start an Agency? 11 Things That Actually Matter
- How to Start an Agency After Successfully Freelancing
3. Expense reduction consultant
Just like individual people, companies need to save money and get more out of their resources during a bad economy. Sometimes that even means working with consultants who specialize in helping large companies cut major costs. (You’ve gotta spend money to spend less money…as the old saying goes.)
For example, lean logistics consultants specialize in helping businesses get more function with fewer resources. Certain technology consultants specialize in helping businesses maximize their current tech stack so they don’t have to pay for more tools than they need.
Often you can find tech consulting gigs by finding software companies that work with implementation partners—and then applying to be a recommended partner. The easiest way to find these gigs is by reaching out to the software companies directly or by creating a profile on Upwork.
Invoicing, creating proposals, and managing accounts receivable is a full-time job. With Incomee, you can forecast your monthly profit, know where your accounts receivable stands, and automatically send invoices for your clients to pay online in seconds.
Looking for a simple, effortless, and genuinely intuitive CRM platform that gets the job done? Samdock CRM is designed specifically for small businesses to manage leads, customers, and tasks in a structured and efficient manner.
Vizologi inspires you to develop brainstorming ideas, provides access to analyze competence, markets, and trends, and is a builder to create unique and creative business plans for your startup.
4. Career coach
Know how to write a powerful cover letter? Got the secret sauce for writing effective resumes? During an economic downturn, people often struggle to find jobs or move up in their careers.
Still, many people still want to grow professionally and earn a better living, no matter the state of the economy. You can start a career coaching company to help people win raises, find a new job, or secure their next title.
You’ll likely work with people who haven’t been in the job market for years, if not more than a decade. These folks need help updating their resume, practicing interviews, and writing effective cover letters.
You can make sure your own application materials stand out using a tool like to assist you, or give clients ideas of how to format their own materials.
Try finding clients via websites like Upwork or by posting on LinkedIn that you offer resume and career coaching services.
Resoume is an easy-to-use resume, portfolio, and cover letter builder that helps you create beautifully designed, ATS ready documents that let your skills shine.
5. Create and sell information products
People still need to learn when the economy is down. In fact, some people see a bad economy as their opportunity to get ahead professionally. It can be a great season to double down on affordable professional development. People want to gain more skills to make themselves less vulnerable to layoffs—and more open to bigger and better professional opportunities.
If you possess a trainable skill set—like some of the skills mentioned in the freelance section—you may be able to find opportunities to teach online. Here are some ideas:
- Offer one-on-one coaching sessions
- Sell ebooks on your topics of expertise
- Sell your own courses
Another approach is corporate training. Businesses will often pay for group workshops to bring their team up to speed on a new skill. You can lead workshops in person or using basic webinar software. Bring your skills to the masses!
For digital products and courses, a user-friendly content delivery system makes all the difference. ProductDyno helps you create and sell memberships, video courses, and digital products. Use templates to speed up the process and plugins to customize your look. It’s that easy.
- 9 Information Product Ideas You Can Make in an Afternoon
- Information products (beginner’s guide + best selling ideas)
Even during economic turmoil, companies still need to advertise. And one of the fastest-growing advertising vehicles is influencer marketing with content creator brands. If you build a YouTube channel, newsletter, or blog that receives regular viewership, you may be able to earn money by simply selling ad space.
YouTube and many blogs use Adsense (or other ad networks) to connect seamlessly with potential advertisers. Newsletter hosts tend to need to seek out their sponsors. No matter what, if you have a loyal following around a certain topic, you may be able to earn a living through ads.
You can also use online platforms to entertain instead of just teach. Entertainment can turn into a great recession-proof business. People want an escape from the fears of an economic downturn. If you create an entertaining YouTube show or podcast, you may amass a large following that enables you to earn a decent living through ads or upsells.
For your YouTube channel or podcast:
For your newsletter or blog:
89% of marketers use email as their primary channel for lead generation. SendFox is an email marketing must-have for freelancers and content creators on a budget. Create, schedule, and automate unlimited customized emails in way less time.
When you’ve got writer’s block, there’s no shame in getting a little help from your AI friends. Writecream is your secret weapon for content creation, whether it’s blog posts, cold emails, or even voice-overs. Use the AI Article Writer to generate a 1,000-word article in 30 seconds!
- Noah Kagan’s YouTube Growth Hacks
- How to Start a Podcast in 2022
- 10 Tips from the Pros to Create an Engaging Newsletter
- Complete Guide: How to Make Money Blogging in 2022
We’ve talked a lot in this article about service businesses. That’s because service businesses are fairly resilient, with high margins and the need for only a handful of clients.
Freelancers, consultants, and agencies tend to have one big thing in common: they do a lot of their work from behind a computer screen. If you create essential tools for these service businesses—like design and editing software—you can form a sticky tool that these service providers rely on.
After all, what good is a writing business without a good word processing software? How much video editing could you do without editing software?
In other words: build tools that make other businesses possible. Before you start developing a product from scratch, meet with a few people in the industry you want to serve. Learn about their needs, pain points, and business goals. Use these conversations as jumping-off points for designing tools that service entrepreneurs truly need.
Launching a software product requires a bit more involvement than some of these other business models. Here’s a quick overview of how to get started:
- Determine the problem you want to solve
- Create a minimum viable product to test the idea
- Create a user-friendly software
- Market and find customers
Find profitable niches within your target audience at the push of a button with Nichesss. Then click one more button to get all the marketing materials you need for that niche.
8. Lifetime deals on software
While we’re on the top of SaaS, let’s explore another approach to choosing the right tool to create: your monetization model.
During an economic downturn, many companies immediately start cutting their unnecessary recurring expenses. That means if you offer a lifetime deal alternative to popular business tools, you may be able to attract amazing clients who all just dumped their old software subscriptions. You could naturally become a more recession-resistant company than your competitors.
AppSumo is the best example. Today, we’re an online marketplace for entrepreneurs. We got our start by selling lifetime deals on software. We’ve seen many business owners save hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars by switching from subscription-based software to lifetime deals. Instead of paying indefinitely for monthly software subscriptions, companies can pay once for a lifetime deal and use the tool forever.
To launch this business, start by researching the most popular online software industries. Try to find industries where the standard is monthly subscriptions. Now, you can build a similar product and sell it as a lifetime deal. Plus, you can upload your product to AppSumo (Sumo-lings love a good deal).
Before you launch your app, you’ll want to make sure it works properly first. Blisk is a browser that helps you build and test web applications with customizable, multi-functional dev tools to streamline your workflow.
9. Commercial cleaning and maintenance
There’s a lot of money in “boring” businesses, even during times of economic crisis. Codie Sanchez made a name for herself in this space. Many families forgo luxuries like house cleaners when a bad economy hits. But some businesses don’t have a choice when it comes to cleaning. For them, maintaining a clean office or storefront is a necessary cost of doing business.
In that case, hiring a regular cleaning team allows the business to maintain their pristine appearance, while giving employees a comfortable place to work. That’s why commercial cleaning, lawn care, window washing, and maintenance companies can be a strong business to start during a bad economy.
You can start these businesses very affordably. In fact, if you’re worried about risking capital, you can find clients first. As you market your services and win a few clients, you can even rent the equipment you need from a local hardware store. Once you’ve proven demand, then you can begin acquiring the tools you need.
As your client base expands (go you!), you’ll want to clean up your bookings and meetings, too. Use TidyCal for simple, streamlined scheduling and calendar management. We love the embeddable widget for easy booking.
10. Same-week home services
Even when the economy goes bananas, there are certain home expenses that almost everyone will continue to pay for. Most of them have to do with personal home emergencies.
Plumbers, HVAC, and handypeople save homeowners from crises. No matter how bad the economy is, when your AC stops working in the summer or your sink breaks and spews water, you call upon these experts as quickly as possible. That’s why same-week home services professionals are always in high demand. It’s also why these businesses do well, no matter the state of the market.
The catch here is that some of these professions require special licenses in order to conduct business. If you have a knack for maintenance and construction, you can research the certification process, follow those steps, and hopefully launch your own business within months or a couple years.
Sellix is an ecommerce platform where you can sell any type of service or digital product with a custom storefront.
Invoices are usually the most boring & tedious things you have to do on a daily basis. It can be draining to keep track of clients, professionals, services, and charges. Refrens is a simple yet powerful tool for managing invoices & client information.
Use DottedSign to securely eSign your agreements, sales contracts, lease agreements, permission slips, and more. Just import your document, assign signers, and sign with your mobile, tablet or PC.
- A Comprehensive Guide to Selling Services Online
- 10 Steps to Starting a Service Business
- How to Start a Service Business and What You Need to Succeed
11. Repair shop
When money is scarce, people want to get more out of everyday home items. Families might not have the budget to constantly replace every little thing that breaks. When a phone, car, or laptop stops working during an economic downturn, people are more likely to seek repairs instead of replacements. That’s why opening a repair shop for vehicles, consumer electronics, or home appliances can be a great recession-proof business idea.
You can find your first clients within your network. Post on Facebook—or text a bunch of your friends—and ask if anyone needs their phone repaired. Once you get a few repairs under your belt, you can learn skills like Facebook or Google ads to pay for local leads.
SMS is the next frontier of marketing channels. With ShortySMS, you can use text messages to engage and motivate your top customers, clients, and leads.
System Repair Status ($89)
System Repair Status is an easy-to-use, repair law and GDPR-compliant software to record and track electronics, manage invoices, and more. To quote one reviewer: “Perfect PC Repair tracker system for the solopreneur! Not overly complicated like some other tracking/ticket systems.”
12. Reselling goods
People still need basic goods like clothes and furniture during a downturn. But paying full price might be a no-go. When finances are tight, more people are willing to thrift shop for everyday commodities. Customers prioritize price.
If you have the skills to source quality in-demand items, you may be able to start a flipping business. You can source items for free or cheap through garage sales and thrift stores, sell them online at a higher price, and profit from the difference. Flippers commonly resell their findings on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Craigslist.
The best way to succeed is to find a niche. Don’t try to flip everything. Go for products that you know inside and out. For example, if you know popular men’s clothing brands, you may be able to find luxury items that other people would overlook at a garage sale. With a few quality pictures and a nice description of the product, you can list the item online to turn a profit.
If you’ve got inventory to sell online, you’ll need a robust platform to do it. Dukaan is an ecommerce solution that helps you create an online store in seconds. Once you connect to a payment gateway and set up your plugins, you’ll be able to process payments, manage shipments, and more!
Find opportunity during an economic downturn
Some of the biggest business opportunities exist in the scariest markets. With a careful assessment of opportunities in your area and skill set, you may be able to turn the fear and pain of an economic downturn into an opportunity to build a powerful business.
Yes, starting a business is never easy. But it can also be an incredibly exciting and fulfilling venture. Hopefully, this list of recession-proof businesses sparked a few ideas. We can’t wait to see what you create!