If we’ve learned anything from recent events, it’s that we need to be prepared. Hopefully we’ll be able to avoid disasters, but as freelancers, we also need to think seriously about mitigating the effects of temporary disruption, partly because our livelihoods depend on it and partly because our clients depend on us.
Start with protecting yourself
Without going into the realms of financial advice, I’d strongly urge any freelancer to ensure that they have adequate insurance cover for themselves in case of accident or serious illness. If you’re banking on state benefits or using your savings, you might find yourself getting a nasty shock in a bad situation. Those with pets might also want to think about pet insurance in case a significant bill arrives when your finances are already tight. I’d also recommend taking care of yourself as much as you can (like eating a healthy diet) because this really does make a difference, but even so, realistically, you are going to find yourself facing times when you really are too under the weather to work. You therefore want to have a back-up plan in place for when this happens and this is probably going to involve some level of delegation. PPH is the obvious place to look for your support team, but you probably want to make sure that you are comfortable with how the buying process works before you find yourself needing to use it when you’re already feeling blue.
Document your processes
If you had to teach somebody to do what you do, what would you teach them? Document it clearly and to an appropriate level. Appropriate means that you take time to think about what could be reasonably expected of anyone you hire to help you out when you are unable to work yourself. For example, if you’re a professional photographer and you hire another professional to replace you, then it’s reasonable to expect that they already know how to work a camera and can choose the right lens for the job, but it might help them a lot to know what is kept where in your studio. Likewise a good VA will have excellent secretarial skills, but will still need to be guided as to how you, specifically, organize your work. It will therefore help a lot if you keep your admin and email in order and if this is one of your weak points, then maybe you should think about handing the task over to a VA on a regular basis. If you’re using password-protection then you need to think about how to manage passwords, so you never get stuck trying to remember one when all you want to do is sleep.
Think about your tech
Ideally, you want to have some sort of back-up for all your key pieces of technology and this can be a whole lot easier and more affordable than it may sound. For example, you probably do most of your work at a desktop or laptop, a tablet could be a feasible back-up, especially if you buy a case with an integrated keyboard. It may be far from ideal, but it can be enough to keep you going. Speaking of keyboards, they’re a common point of failure on laptops, so it’s a good idea to keep a spare along with an extra power adapter (another major point of vulnerability). These days, for many people, the single, most important piece of technology in their lives may well be their internet connection, so think very carefully about what you will do if your main connection goes down. If you’re using WiFi the issue may be either your internet or your WiFi adapter (if your phone’s still connecting it’s the latter). Even if you have an internal WiFi adapter (such as in a laptop), you can still use an external dongle if it breaks – provided that you have one and enough USB ports, which may mean using a USB hub or a laptop dock. Alternatively, you may be able to switch to a wired connection, again if you have the appropriate cable handy. If it the actual internet connection, then you need to take a different approach. Depending on where you are and what you do, you might want to look at using a mobile data connection or heading to a WiFi hotspot or internet café, but in all seriousness, think carefully about your plan B because you absolutely need one.
Even if you work in one place, do what you can to make yourself location independent
In spite of the common image of freelancers as digital nomads or coffee-shop pros, the reality is that many of us tend to work wholly or mainly out of one location and arrange our business around the assumption that we’ll be in that place. This is fine, most of the time, but you do have to be aware that you may need to vacate your usual work area at short notice, for example, if it experiences weather damage and needs to be repaired urgently. With this in mind, I strongly suggest you aim to use the cloud as much as possible so that if need be, you can go to a completely new location with a completely new device and just connect and go. If you have your own domain, you will probably have access to a web portal through which to access your emails – you’ll just need to make sure you know the link and password. If you need more functionality to manage your messages, then you can have them auto-forward to one of the mainstream email providers, such as GMail and Outlook.com, both of which have excellent email-processing options to make email management a breeze, plus they can also synchronize with mobile devices for extra flexibility. There are plenty of options for cloud-based productivity apps, both free and chargeable along with cloud storage. This is much safer than just keeping data on a hard drive. If you want a local copy of it then use a portable storage media, such as a USB stick and keep it protected.
About the Author
Writer and translator, Kit has recently started her own blog “beyourowndoor.com“, which aims to provide helpful advice and support for people taking control of their personal and professional lives. She is also author of “Inbox Peace”, which is available on Amazon.
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