Riding Out the Storm as a Freelancer

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Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy’s unwelcome visit to the United State’s East Coast at the end of October left millions of homes and businesses in the dark. When you’re a business of one, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are set up for any kind of weather.

While your main concern during a storm should always be to protect your home and family, it’s also important to have plans in place to safeguard your freelance business.

Plan for a Rainy Day

Set up your business for weather emergencies when the sun is out, the sky is blue and the temperature is mild. Waiting until there’s a storm on the horizon will result in costly, last minute spending. Next time you have some down time, review your preparations:

  • Be sure you have a reliable backup system in place.
  • Safeguard your equipment from power fluctuations with a surge protector. Don’t rely on being able to unplug your computer if the sky looks threatening; you may be asleep or out when a storm hits.
  • Give yourself some time to finish up your work by purchasing an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This allows your equipment to run, uninterrupted, for a short time after the power goes out.  Most UPSs also provide surge protection.
  • Keep receipts for all your purchases over the years.
  • Take annual photos of your home office setup for insurance purchases.
  • If your craft requires a portfolio, scan or download relevant work samples to disk, and remember to update them frequently.
  • Take advantage of cloud based storage for your digital assets.

Choose a safe, weather-proof storage location for your backups, receipts, and disks. Invest in a fire box, or if you live in a flood zone, explore off-site locations.

Red Sky in the Morning, Sailor’s Warning

When the meteorologists warn of foul weather coming your way, take the time to prepare. First, make sure your current work is safe. If you run backups automatically, verify they’ve been running as expected. If you backup manually, take a quick recap at your files and make sure everything is up to date.

If you suspect the storm will cause power outages, let your relevant clients know you may be off the grid.

If you suspect the storm will cause power outages, let your relevant clients know you may be off the grid. Don’t send a mass email to your entire address book, but if you’re working closely with a client, or you’re nearing a deadline, send a brief message to give both of you piece of mind should you become cut off. Be sure to update them again when the threat has passed.

While you’re at the store stocking up on supplies for the house, consider what might make working easier, if you are able to do so. Energy drinks might make a good substitute if you’re unable to brew coffee, and healthy snacks can help keep you energized and motivated if you can’t use your stove.

Ride Out the Storm

With a large storm, it can be unnerving when it takes days for your area to be restored. Rather than stress out about your lost productivity, find some ways to make the most of your unexpected down time:

  • Review your goals and refresh your outlook. What clients have you enjoyed working with? What changes should you make to get more clients like those?
  • Tackle the tasks that get brushed aside during the usual busy day: clean off your desk, sort through your files, or review/update your business plan.
  • Rearrange your office. Is your current setup comfortable and practical?
  • Dust. When did you last peek behind your desk and computer equipment? Improve the air quality by getting rid of those dust bunnies!
  • Keep a stockpile of business-related books or magazines, or if there’s time, check some out of the library. Curl up and learn some ways to improve your business.
  • Give yourself a vacation day. Play board games with the family, read a popular novel, or take a nap. When was the last time you just relaxed?

If an outage lasts for days, once it’s safe for you to be on the road, head somewhere with internet access to check in, tie up any loose ends, or reschedule meetings.

It’s never fun to have your routine disrupted, and when a storm brings an interruption in power, it’s going to impact work. Instead of worrying about the lost time, accept what you can or can’t do, and take advantage of mother nature’s reminder to ‘unplug’ now and then. Soon enough, you’ll be hearing the beeps, clicks, and phone calls that signify all is back to normal!

Was your work impacted by Hurricane Sandy, or another significant storm? What tips can you share?

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by NASA.

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