Economic downturns usually mean more work for freelancers, since your customers need to do more with fewer salaries on the books, so extra money is usually available for subcontractors to help out.
Although there will be more business for freelancers, having more people out of work increases the pool of potential “freelancers”. What to do to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd?
Learn how to turn every new client into a repeat client. If you spent all that time landing the client in the first place, you want to get more than one project out of them, because every subsequent project will have a higher profit margin.
Make sure you are offering services and/or products that are important to the financial well-being of your clients. Whether you are helping them improve their top line or their bottom line, make sure you focus your products/services in a way that does one or the other in an obvious way.
The biggest and easiest differentiator that a freelancer has is personalized service. Anyone can get disinterested customer service. If you provide awesome customer service, you will stand out from the crowd. Don’t make price your differentiator unless you have a serious plan to continually increase volume while decreasing your prices further.