Strategy #4: Be visible
This isn't the time to be working from home four days a week. You don't have to be the guy who comes in each day at 6AM and doesn't leave until 7PM (losing balance in your life isn't a good strategy). Just make sure people know who you are, what you are doing, and that you are eager to help in any way they need, going above and beyond your role if possible.
Strategy #5: Get extended
Getting an extension at your current client is probably the single best way to give yourself some job security. Yes, rotating through clients is a good way to get lots of varied and useful experience. However, now is not the time to do that.
During a downturn, new clients are generally scarcer than old ones. Sales cycles (the time it takes from an initial indication of interest in consulting services to a contract being signed) grow longer. Staying at your current client will generally mean work that is at higher rates (often negotiated during better times) and more secure (they know your work better and see your value). Starting over at a new client, all other things being equal, will tend to make you less valuable during a downturn.
Strategy #6: Keep your skills up
Lastly, during a downturn, people often become dejected and so survival focused that they forget to get excited about new technologies. It is easy to get cynical and believe you have seen everything and that learning can take a back seat.
I urge you to avoid that line of thought. There are important new technologies coming out that are likely to change things – things like cloud computing, multi-core technology, domain specific languages, just to name three. Like all other occupations where there exists a vibrant research community, new technology constantly emerges that can help companies lower costs or address new markets, and being conversant in those things is a great way to give yourself some real job security.
If anything should be taken away from this article, it is that there are many things you can do to create your own job security. While there are no guarantees in life, these strategies will almost certainly put you in a better position than you would be in otherwise.
Aaron Erickson is the author of "The Nomadic Developer – Surviving and Thriving in the World of Technology Consulting" (http://tinyurl.com/buynomadbook). He is a Lead Consultant for ThoughtWorks Inc., where he helps the world's most ambitious companies get the most from their technology investments.