Saturday , 23 March 2019
Home > Starting out as a freelancer > Surviving redundancy

Surviving redundancy

In the last ‘recession’ I was been made redundant thrice. Here’s a tale about surviving redundancy.

Platform to successYes. Thrice. A hat trick of doom as I jovially call it.

As morale-beating as this can be, the crucial thing is not that you were made redundant but how you react and what you bounce back with as a platform to success.

The first time I was made redundant I had only been in the strategy consultancy business four months so was pretty annoyed that I had left another, completely stable job to then get punted from my new one a few months in.

I was 23 at the time and had always assumed redundancy happened to older people – as naive as I know that is now – so I was quite shocked but figured that this was the time to get away from the corporate, client side machine that I had no great love for working in London and take a break.

As luck would have it, on Christmas eve (which is when the official letter was served) I got a call from a the head of HR for one of the London-based strategic design agencies asking if I knew anything about strategy – I did not really, not from a design perspective anyhow – but said I was willing to give it a go. They needed someone for one month’s cover and said I could learn it as I went along.

This call had come on the back of a six-month long email conversation with someone I knew was in the field of ‘branding’. I had been trying to arrange time to get together and have a chat about my love of brands and branding but having no knowledge of how to effectively apply it to my working life.

He had asked the HR person to call… He turned out to be the chairman of 20.20… I did not know this until I got there on day one.

After two years there I was made redundant (as noted in other posts) and I took this as my cue not to get angry or hateful (although I was upset as I really loved the team there and we had been through some really intense times and built some amazing projects and brands in that time) – instead I got ambitious.

Surviving redundancy using it as a platform to success

Here is where I did one of the best things I could have done at the time – I spent five days designing my personal brand and building a project portfolio as well as a perspective on brands in my own tone of voice and a few ideas for what we may have seen in the following year in the branding world.

It is a rare thing for strategists to do but by putting together project summaries and taking this document to interviews I could prove to interviewees (for full or freelance gigs) that not only could I talk the talk but I could give them a feel for my methodology, how I think and how I approach projects without them having to believe on a wing and a prayer.

I said goodbye to London and headed to New York with the portfolio document in my bag and a friend’s apartment to stay at and literally started knocking on agency doors and leaving them with business cards saying ‘Gregory .T. Dillon, strategist for hire‘ on a bold red background.

Eventually I was in Starbucks after a meeting had gone quite badly – the person was barely interested and wish she had just said no room at the inn – and was sending a message to one of my friends back home but weirdly reading it out loud as I said it. A tall guy said ‘ah, finally, a fellow Brit – why you annoyed mate?’ so I explained, turned out to be head of client services at a packaging design agency round the corner, set up a meeting for the following day and landed a freelance contract in New York for a few months! All because I dared to ask the question and approached every interaction as an opportunity.

I’m going to leave my redundancy stories there but am curious as to whether you have ever been made redundant and what you did about it? Did it inspire you? Would it inspire you or give you that not-so-gentle push needed to get out there and go it alone? What advice do you have to help people in surviving redundancy?

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About GregDillon

Greg is the founder of strategy consultancy GD | Inspires and spends his days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world - see more at He is also a prolific entrepreneur having launched - a website aimed at giving advice and insight to new, existing and veteran freelancers as well as commenting on all things strategic. Feel free to email him at: or follow on Twitter @StratTalking


  1. Great story Greg. I particularly like the upping sticks and going to NY, very inspiring!


  2. Thanks Ben – yeah was a fun ride. Glad it can inspire, was a particularly daring idea to relocate and have to say I enjoyed every minute. Ended up using the time over there to see a new State every weekend too so managed to make the most of it. Redundancy has been the best thing that could have happened – each time it has pushed me to do things I wanted to do but used the excuse ‘I’ve not got time’ – not anymore!

  3. I love this site! I found it through LinkedIn just now and I’ve popped it on my bookmark list.
    I am trying to move across agency-side but have found from past experience that my (perceived) age is an issue. People keep trying to offer me internships, but I’m 30!
    I have client side experience and have done some pretty awesome things… Do you think my youthful appearance is an issue. (on average people say I look 22-23). Your thoughts would be appreciated :)

  4. Hi Marie,

    Thank you for your very kind words, always appreciated.

    Quite strange that there is an age perception thing going on, I used to get that a bit too (although I look older!) so know it can be frustrating. I guess the key thing to do is to put together a proof document… like a portfolio but less design-y and more ‘how I think’. This way you can demonstrate what you have been working on and what you can do. Then age, or perceived age, is irrelevant as you can get the job done.

    What kind of thing are you looking for?

    I saw your note on LinkedIn invite about meeting up at some point, definitely happy to – where in London are you based? I’m out west much of the time but can be in the city for work so lets work out a few dates and get one in.


  5. Hi Greg,
    Thanks for adding me, and for replying! It’s such a nice change from the Arctic non-response that I am immune to now! I’m based near Wimbledon and free to travel into London any time next week. Will get cracking with my “how I think” prezi. Fab advice. Thank you!

    • Sorry for the now very slow reply!

      Been one of those weeks and Easter has gotten me out of sync with everything… feel free to email me your pres if you want a second opinion? Next week I’m based in West London also, are you able to meet in Ealing for a coffee Tuesday afternoon? say 4pm?


  6. Greg, this was a very good article and a push for all us newcomers to just take that leap of faith and go with what life has to offer us.


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