09/01/2010 05:10 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Seven Signs the Recession's Still Ramming Us

This is not a rant. It's a reintroduction to something you knew in 2009 all too well: The Great Recession.

People tried to tell us it was over. I, like you, was skeptical. Here is a look at how to recognize that we are back in the throes of a tough time, when we need to rely on our own instincts. What follows is information that might help you get through these difficult months.

Deep breath.

Most of us are going to make it just fine when this is over -- even if it's years. And incidentally, you should be proud of each of your gray hairs, earned by stress and success.

The best indicators of The Recession That Would Not Depart? I see them daily, especially as I lead RLM Public Relations through this, dare I say it, quagmire.

1.) Clients say they need to stop paying for services for budgetary reasons, but they request a pass from the agreement terms. Their idea: "We thought you would want to help us." We what?

2.) A so-called friend (SCF) says please do a presentation/in-person project/bit of work they don't want to do -- which will take lots of your time -- for free because "it'll be good for you." Really? Oh, and I doubt the SCF says please either.

3.) When you ask someone how he or she is doing, this person changes the subject, and you both laugh.

4.) You read a post like this and nod like a bobble head doll. When you woke up to this recently, no one around you wanted to admit it! Now you say, "Damn it, I was right."

5.) Having insufficient funds suddenly is neither painful nor shocking. You can't complain because everyone has these pains. What can you do? Do you have un-payable bills? Send them back with a let-me-tell-you-why note -- respectful but explanatory. (Writing thoughtful notes about your money woes will get a response that will surprise you. Communication is key in recessionary times.)

6.) A regular gig is less accessible and interesting. You start to wonder how you can get paid for your honed skills -- whether it be "migrant working" (term for a worker freelancing for a company that once paid you a salary), setting up shop and making it official via incorporation or LLC, or picking up the killer app (or the telephone) and asking everyone you know what they have for you. Keep in mind that....

...Flexibility is key during this period.
Don't be quick to say no to anything

And 7.) People are really surprised when you ask for a fee! Someone in Israel actually said that even though Ernst & Young is a huge corporation and was bringing in all their clients to see me speak, well, let's hear it from the horse's mouth: "The fact they are giving the stage and the publicity without asking for a sponsorship fee is not uncommon."

Yeah, whatever.

I have to say, based on research, doing whatever is necessary is how earlier societies made it through tougher times than this. (And also by ignoring the ignoramuses who feed us the above BS.) In the past, folks didn't think of themselves as being on the hunt for a job. They just thought it was a break between chapters! So, 2010 and 2011 will be "survival of the fittest". Man, that Darwin and Spencer knew their stuff

Remember that being fit means "being in the know" about topics way outside your field so you can jump in and help where others are clueless. That's how you earn money where others fail: You are so IN on what's happening that people who interview you for freelance jobs really want to spend time with you.

The following is self-promotional and worthwhile. That's what my book 2011 is about. If you are broke just write me; I'll just send you the chapters you need to read! I also highly recommend Sally Hogshead's Fascinate for more on how to "fascinate" others--now, when they need it most. But this isn't a book review.

You got tough times. I got tough times. But I have one request: I would like it if Americans stopped focusing for a bit on the trivial like the JetBlue guy, Levi Johnston, and the girls who ran from the Playboy Palace. We get through with nonstop focus and non-distracted concentration. A constant discussion of what's unimportant is problematic in an era of dribbled shit, and it explains why the celebrity magazines are down more than 10 percent. (Good riddance, In Touch Weekly. Enough about Jessica Simpson already.)

A recession brings out the best in people. Did you know that Aug. 25 was the National Day of Action to help the folks most hurt by the BP disaster? That day my friend Geoff Livingston (co-host of my weekly podcast "The El Show" ) and I co-hosted a benefit in New York at the Village Pourhouse (they donated the place and 15 percent of the bar total!). This was for families who lost their livelihoods in full part due to British Petroleum... And it was our way of giving back.

You can donate too! If you would like to help, here's a link.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. Hey, do you think Justin Timberlake will do a song called RecessionBack? Just askin'.

Comments, questions, or compliments? Tweet @laermer. Let's get this party stopped!