Recently I was reading on a bulletin board about how photographers are getting by in this economic climate. The replies varied: making prints for other people, unemployment, programming, teaching orchestra, photographing traffic accidents for lawyers, various part time managers, and even donating plasma.
For me, the last two months have been very lean in terms of photography income. This morning I am doing a free job to stay in good favor with my best client. They are doing pro bono work, so I am doing pro bono work. It will pay off in the long run, so I'm happy to do it.
But on to the main point. If you're not shooting for money, you no excuse not to work on your portfolio, or better yet personal work. And here's why: Be careful what you do well, you will be asked to do a lot more of it.
You could sit there and wait for the economy to recover and then pick up where you left off, doing the same work you did last year (or the year before). Or you could look at this recession as a window of opportunity to produce new work. This is the time to take advantage of your sabbatical, recharge your batteries and foster creativity.
Think of it this way, later this year, or whenever clients have budgets for photography again, they won't want to hire last year's photographer.