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Lessons on Surviving a Recession

6 Lessons On Surviving A Recession I Learnt From Small Businesses In Singapore

Lessons on surviving a recession

As a relatively-new working adult, the uncertainty during this recession makes me a little antsy. With the pandemic hurtling into our lives without warning, holding onto my job has become a top priority – which I’m sure is a sentiment that many of us feel as well. 

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), in particular, have taken a particularly brutal double whammy in the form of the pandemic and the resulting recession. But even then, they’ve found numerous ways to keep themselves afloat, and we can all afford to take a leaf out of their books to future-proof ourselves in uncertain times.

P.S. Apart from these lessons, read till the end for more ways we can help these SMEs out.

1. Use social media to promote your services

We’ve seen our fair share of drool-worthy desserts gracing our feeds recently, but home bakers aren’t the only ones using Instagram to their advantage. Numerous home businesses selling everything from handmade masks to DIY projects have taken to social media to market their goods, often to great success. 

What we can learn: Make yourself stand out from the pack if you intend to start your own business. People are naturally drawn to things that are visually appealing, and platforms like Instagram lets users showcase both their creativity and products via aesthetics and great photography. 

Lessons on Surviving a Recession - InstagramFor instance, this prints shop created by fashion graduates promotes themselves with a colourful, eye-catching feed.
Image credit:

Even for employees, first impressions are based on what people see on your Instagram or Facebook profiles. That’s the reason why some employers even skulk through our social media accounts prior to job interviews – they want to get a vibe of who you are as a person. 

To win them over, let your personality shine through your stories, posts and captions, but do keep any potentially rabak photos away from your feed as it may cast you in a negative light. Also, consider using social media to show employable skills like videography or even copywriting – your instagram caption skills could very well be part of your “resume”.  

Doing up your LinkedIn profile is also another way to market yourself and establish an online presence – so if you’re thinking of starting an online business, Visa’s offering a LinkedIn Premium Business Package at 50% off, which is a great way to get started.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for free “advertising”

Lessons on Surviving a Recession - Advertising

We love free things, and that extends to promotions as well. With the pandemic taking a toll on sales, businesses instead rely on the goodwill of Singaporeans to get their products marketed through word-of-mouth. That includes advertisements on online delivery platforms, which are done with no charge at all.

What we can learn: The wider your net, the higher your chances of stumbling upon a great opportunity. Joining job-related Telegram or FB groups is useful, but it also helps if you’re constantly asking your friends for lobangs, because they might know of opportunities that aren’t readily available on the Internet.

LinkedIn testimonialScroll down all the way to the bottom of your LinkedIn profile and ask your ex-bosses and colleagues to leave you a glowing testimonial.
Image credit: Jessica Lai

Additionally, get people you’ve worked with to leave testimonials on your LinkedIn profile. That way, you can add credibility to your resume, which can score huge brownie points with potential employers.

3. Get a side hustle to diversify your income

Lessons on Surviving A Recession - Side Hustle

With Singaporeans staying at home almost 24/7 during Circuit Breaker, businesses that relied on physical footfall had to adapt. Board game cafés like Mind Café, for instance, quickly began selling their games on Shopee to keep their customers entertained at home. That move to e-Commerce proved successful as their games were constantly sold out during CB.

Unfortunately, other businesses were not as quick to adapt, and they have since shut down permanently.

What we can learn: Examples like these, while coming in the form of painful lessons, lend credence to the saying of not putting all your eggs into one basket. Having a steady income every month is great, but we’d be much safer if we had some sort of side hustle. Here are some ideas:

Else, take up these skills and courses to upgrade yourself and ultimately offer freelance services: 

Once you’ve got the necessary skills or discovered that passion to offer a service on the side, you can look through job advertisements on freelance platforms such as Gigworks to find something suitable that’ll earn you some extra bucks. 

4.  Give back to others wherever possible

Helping othersImage credit: @nineteen95sg

Over the course of the past few months, we’ve seen many efforts to help out those in need. Other than the wave of support for our frontline and essential workers, businesses have also stepped up to give back. One such example is Brinda’s, who have been working tirelessly to ensure that foreign workers are supplied with yummy catered food in their dorms.

What we can learn: In the wise words of Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, we’re all in this together. Good begets good, and we depend on one another to survive. In fact, volunteering during the pandemic is actually a great addition to your resume – here are some examples of things you can do:

Giving.sgYou can also find volunteering opportunities at online platforms such as
Image credit:

5. Join online communities groups to network

Help from netizensHelp from netizens can be more fruitful than you think

During the Circuit Breaker, we were ready to #supportlocal businesses like our dear hawkers. That’s evident in the way loads of us flocked to online communities like #HawkersUnited on Facebook to lend a hand to anyone who asked for aid.

But the group didn’t just have hawkers asking for help. Happy customers were also more than willing to post their own reviews, which drove traffic to these hawker stalls to support their business.

What we can learn: As a working adult, we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out online for help as well. Whether you’re posting it on your IG story or shooting a quick post on Reddit, you’ll find that there are netizens willing to jump to your aid – either by resharing your post to reach more people, or by presenting opportunities like job openings to you.

Additionally, you can also join some webinars if you’re a) unemployed, and b) a fresh grad. It’s a great way to network online and find someone who might already have experience working in your dream industry, where you can have a quick chat to see how you’re able to beef up your portfolio.

Zoom callToday, webinars and online networking usually take place on video-calling apps like Zoom
Image credit: Zoom

6. Continue to keep up with technology trends

Online businessesMost businesses have shifted their focus to online means to sell their products

In 2019, we wouldn’t even think that a pandemic could cause such huge changes in our lives. Fast forward a few months into 2020, and we see two trends:

  1. Singaporeans staying at home to maintain social distance
  2. Businesses scrambling to shift their operations online to cater to our needs

Today, even our beloved hawkers have adopted cashless payment methods like PayNow and Visa contactless, as well as using eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce, which comes packed with tools and a secure payment platform supported by Visa.

One such example is Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck, who have made their dishes available on food delivery platforms. It’s a worthy venture, considering that their dishes are sold out almost every day. 

What we can learn: We live in a fast-paced world where new technological advancements happen faster than you can say “online”. Even if you’re the most technology-averse person, it pays to keep up with any breakthroughs like apps or new payment methods, as you’ll never know when you might need them to survive in today’s job climate. 

Upgrading ourselves is the name of the game in these ever-changing times, so consider exploring digital courses to pick up new skills like cloud computing, UX/UI design, coding or even AI studies. The best part? You can use your SkillFuture Credit for some of the courses so you don’t need to fork out a single cent. 

Lessons about the recession that I learnt from small businesses

Just like any rocky period of our lives, there are numerous lessons to be learnt if we look close enough. For 2020 in particular, we can stand to take a few notes from small and medium-sized businesses, who have found numerous ways to pivot and adapt to keep themselves afloat.


E-commerce, in particular, was one of the biggest challenges many businesses faced. But with the help of digital payment companies like Visa, they were able to transition smoothly from a purely brick-and-mortar store to one with a stronger online presence – which helped make them a whole lot more convenient for everyday Singaporeans like us.

In fact, Visa has been pulling out all the stops to support these businesses by launching the Where You Shop Matters campaign, which encourages everyday Singaporeans to lend a hand to local businesses while simultaneously helping SMEs to go digital amidst the pandemic.

Their efforts include working closely together with Shopee to highlight over 2,000 SMEs. To cross that gap from physical to digital, all SMEs under their wing will be given a Visa eCommerce Starter Kit to start their online ventures off on the right foot.

If you’re a business owner shifting online, building brand awareness and an online presence is crucial. You’ll be glad to know that Visa has a slew of deals to help you pivot and adapt seamlessly, which includes:

  1. 50% off on LinkedIn Premium Business Package to connect to potential partners and customers
  2. 100% cashback on your first $100 spend with Google Ads for a risk-free venture

As a bonus, us everyday Singaporeans can also reap their rewards in the form of vouchers and promos – which also serve to boost sales for these local merchants. Here’s how you can snag these deals:

  1. Shop at the “Support Local” brands on Shopee to get $10 off any $90 purchase*
  2. Play Shopee Farm on the app to claim a $5 voucher**

*Limited to 65 redemptions daily.
**Limited to 60 redemptions daily.

Now more than ever, businesses need our help – and together with Visa, we can lend a hand to local brands as we get through these challenging times together.  

Find out more about Visa’s #WhereYouShopMatters campaign here

This post was brought to you by Visa.