Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Real Life Goes Awry Will You Be Prepared

My Memorial Day weekend was spent in a hospital with my mother after a trip to the ER to have a nasty injury treated resulted in surgery and an extended hospital stay. Thankfully she's doing much better, but Friday was complete chaos where my business was concerned. I was forced to conduct one client call in the ER examining room because my mother didn't want me to leave her alone. Thankfully my client was quite understanding and allowed me to reschedule our call for another time.

I've successfully navigated my freelance writing business around  unexpected emergencies before. It was much easier to do when we were still in Atlanta and had an awesome network of support in place to turn to. Now that we've relocated to my hometown, it's pretty much just me and hubby right now. The reality of the matter is when you're dealing with an emergency, that's your problem - not your client's. Your client still expects the project he/she paid for to be completed according to the terms of your agreement (Yes, I'm automatically assuming every freelancer is utilizing some kind of agreement BEFORE starting a project).

This morning I came across a really informative blog post addressing the issue of emergency planning tips. I realize my plan needs updating. A few of the writer's suggestions that stood out to me:

Include a Force Majeure Clause in Your Agreement

This clause protects both parties from liabilities and obligations due extreme, unexpected circumstances - anything beyond you control that could keep you from fulfilling the terms of the contract. Examples include "acts of God," war, etc.

Identify Your "Vulnerable Points"

Every freelancer's circumstances are different. If you're a 25-year old, unmarried freelancers with no children or other responsibilities your vulnerability points are fewer than a single mom with two kids and a mortgage. Take it from me, kids get sick, schools spring unexpected vacation days on you - you have to recognize the circumstances that can turn into obstacles and plan ahead for these kinds of situations.

Have an Emergency Savings In Place

It's important to get into a habit of setting aside savings from each job you complete. If an emergency results in you being unable to work for a period of time, you'll need funds in place to float you until you're about to work again.

Create an Emergency Communications Plan

As soon as things go wrong, you'll need to immediately contact your clients and keep them updated.

Do you have an emergency plan in place for your operation?


Cathy Miller said...

Oh, I am so sorry, Kimberly. I wish your mother well.

After my Dad died, I moved in with my Mom to help her out so I understand about the family health issues. Knock on wood, my Mom is very healthy, but at 89, there are what I call maintenance issues - two cataract surgeries, foot surgery and a knee replacement.

I think it's a good idea to have a back-up writer buddy that could take on work in case of emergency. Your clients will appreciate that you have a contingency plan in case of emergency.

Great food for thought, Kimberly.

Kimberly Ben said...

Thanks, Cathy. It's tough sometimes, but I'm so glad I was able to move and be here for her. Glad to hear you mother is doing so well health wise!

You just might be on to something your idea that I have another writer to rely on. It sounds like a solution worth considering. I just need to review a couple of agreements first to make sure there will be no problems.

Lori said...

I hope your mom is doing better now, Kim.

Here's my plan -- I work ahead of schedule. I get it done before it's supposed to be done, get things in place (like interviews) the day of or day after the assignment, and I work on "portable" things whenever possible. I remember once working on a brochure (on paper) while my car was being serviced.

Not that the plan works every time. If it's a magazine, I ask for a small extension. If it's a client, I explain and work through a weekend, if possible.

My savings is a constant up-and-down situation anyway, but I do try to have a few thousand tucked away for emergencies/vacations.

I've been known to contact clients via cell phone or via children before (they open the email and I instruct them what to write while I sit miles away). It's made me want to move my entire operation onto the cloud, but I'm not quite there yet.

Kimberly Ben said...

Nice plan, Lori. Mom seems to be on the mend - she's pretty stubborn and loves her independence.

I'm also interested in operating completely in the cloud as well. I manage some aspects of my business in the cloud already, and there are definite benefits.

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