3 Tips for Handling an Unexpected Life Event as a Freelancer
On Monday, August 24th, 2015 at just after midnight I awoke with abdominal pain.
Pain that wouldn’t go away no matter how I tried to lay, sit or stand. Pain that reminded me of birthing contractions, but which didn’t offer any reprieve in between.
Halfway through a phone call to the hospital’s nursing line (during which my husband was frantically googling symptoms), I decided I’d be going to the emergency room no matter what they told me. The nurse agreed, my mom arrived to care for our young children, and Wade whisked me off to our local hospital.
Not five hours later I was in recovery, sans appendix. As the anesthesia started to wear off, I briefly wondered if it was all a dream? All it took was a glance down at my hospital gown to confirm it was definitely not.
I sit here typing just over a week out from surgery, three new scars on my abdomen, feeling about as normal as I can. I’m sharing my story not for sympathy, but to hopefully better equip you in handling unexpected life events as a freelancer.
Here are my three best tips!
1. Work Ahead
Let’s face it, emergencies are…emergencies. They are not planned life events. They’re unexpected and often occur at the least opportune time.
But here’s the thing: If you practice working ahead as part of your normal freelance routine, it can provide a lot of grace (or wiggle room) during an unexpected life event.
Honestly, this is what saved me during my emergency!
I actually try to get the majority of my writing work (client and my own blog/projects) done in the first half of the month. So when I unexpectedly checked into the hospital, writing deadlines were the furthest thing from my mind.
Bonus tip: if you don’t have an unexpected life event crop up in the last two weeks of your month, you can use the extra time to market for new clients, pitch new ideas to existing clients, or work on your own passion projects (that you probably never find time for).
Trust me, it’s a great feeling when you have a week or two of lead time on client work!
I run a diversified freelance business. I’m a writer, virtual assistant, and business coach – and I offer a course that has an active Facebook group.
So even though I was caught up on my writing work, I still had tasks and appointments on my calendar that needed attention or rescheduling. Luckily, I make it a point to be in regular contact with all of my VA and coaching clients, making this situation a bit easier.
I sent out a text to my two VA clients and posted a message in the course’s Facebook group (which my coaching clients are also a part of). I was able to use technology and social media to my advantage and communicate my unavailability in less than five minutes.
I would recommend that you keep in regular contact with your freelancing clients, too. Form a bit of a personal relationship (when it makes sense) and have multiple methods of contact for them (phone, email, and social media).
Most people are buried in email, but if you direct tweet them or tag them in a Facebook post or message, they’re pretty likely to see it.
The last tip I have for you is to connect with other freelancers in your niche. You never know when you might need to help each other out. If you’ve partnered on projects already, it’s easier to trust them with your client load should you fall behind.
It could be your goal to grow your business from a one-person show to that of an agency, or you might want to stay small. Regardless, making friends with fellow ‘webpreneurs’ makes good business sense.
I didn’t have to subcontract any work out (luckily my hospital stay was less than 24 hours, and my work isn’t very physical), but if I had to I’d know exactly who to get in contact with depending on the client. That makes me feel pretty good about my business and planning for the unexpected.
I also love having a network in place that provides me work or client referrals – a favor I try to pay forward as much as possible.
Unexpected life events are bound to happen. It could be a medical emergency, relationship stress or something else. Heck, you might just really need a break from freelancing every once in awhile!
Do your best to plan for the unexpected by working ahead, staying in constant communication with your clients, and forging relationships with other relevant freelancers. You never know when one of these (or all three) could save your freelancing butt in the future.
Have you ever had an unexpected life event pull you away from client work for a period of time? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Photo Credit: ErikaWittleib.