I’ve freelanced through blizzards, brush fires, the first five seconds of an earthquake and a few other natural disasters. I haven’t worked through a hurricane yet, but it’s just a matter of time.
Getting the work done at those times is generally surprisingly easy — but the mechanics of actually handling clients and other details can be a big problem. Losing power means something very different when you live in the heart of a big city and when you live out where a county is the main authority. At a minimum, it can mean a couple of days difference in how quickly your power is restored. Internet access can be similarly problematic right after a natural disaster.
Clients can be fairly easy to deal with when there’s such problems, provided you can keep them updated. That means that setting up plans ahead of time can be crucial. These tips have helped me keep my client list intact through everything Mother Nature has thrown at me so far — and when that hurricane comes, I’ll be ready for it.
- Keep a current client list, complete with contact information: It’s easy to keep everything in your head when you’re a one-person shop, which means that few enough of us actually have any sort of list in place that we could send along to someone else. But in an emergency, that’s one of the easiest things to do — have a shared document through a site like Google Docs with someone well outside of your geographic area. Then it can be a matter of a text to ask that person to email everyone on that list that you’re without power or internet access and will be in touch as soon as possible.
- Get ahead and stay ahead. We all swear that we’re going to do it. We’re going to get a week ahead on all our client work so that minor emergencies (or major ones) can’t throw us off. It’s not all that common to find a freelancer who actually has managed to do so, though. Do whatever it takes to stay ahead, though, and nothing will phase you.
- Set up an off site back up, preferably far away. I have a hard drive sitting in the house of a friend of mine two states away. He’s got one in my house. All our files back up automatically (with the help of a little software). It’s certainly possible that certain types of natural disasters could impact both of us, but the odds of both our houses and hard drives being wiped out are pretty slim.
- Put together an emergency plan for your business. Lots of people have lists of what they need to do in the event of an evacuation or a similar level of emergency — which medications get packed, where there are print copies of emergency contact information. Put together the same sort of list for your freelance business. What do you absolutely need for your business if you had to evacuate? How do you get in touch with the clients and contractors you work with in the event of an emergency? It’s impossible to remember everything in the middle of a stressful situation, so having it written down is a must.
- Print out everything you need in the event of an emergency. If the power goes out, what’s the use of a great emergency plan saved on your computer? Even if you’ve got a generator, having hard copy of all vital information is a must.