I think technical writing is one of the best writing niches in an economic depression. The reason is simple. Think of all the things people quit doing in an economic depression. First of all, they stop buying and shopping. That takes a chunk out of the incomes of copy writers in general because when people start to save their money, there is less to do for most copy writers since main purpose of commercial copy is to sell something.
SIDEBAR: That actually may work well for the top echelon elite copy writers with well-established track records since, in an environment that does that forgive any mistakes, the employers would not like to take any chances with rookie writers. The business owners and direct marketers would play safe and hire only the “proven entities.” Thus, veteran copy writers may actually see an increase in their incomes. But during a recession a great majority of average copy writers may see a drop either in their business volume or the rates they are charging.
Same goes with journalism. At this writing, print journalism is in a deep decline. There are almost no daily newspapers in the United States that are turning a profit simply because people, especially the generation under thirty, are not purchasing and reading newspapers. Especially not when the average weekday edition sells for 50 or 75 cents these days and jumps all the way up to $5 for weekend editions! People don’t have that kind of money to spare in a recession for an item that you throw away within 24 hours.
And when it comes to online journalism, the alternatives are so many, it’s again hard to make upfront money as an online journalist in this new environment where every blog is a potential source of free news and commentary.
But technical writing has less (what the economists would call) “demand elasticity” in economic depressions simply because people still need to learn how to operate systems, how to take medication, what to do with their lives, health, property, and money. And it is a technical writer’s privilege to describe how a savings account works, the advantages of a new training program that one can take while the economy gets better, or how a new time-saving productivity software should be configured properly. Main purpose of technical writing is to instruct, explain, and tutor. And the need for that will never diminish in times good or bad.