When you work in a typical office job, you just call in sick when you have an emergency pop up in your life. Your co-workers pick up the slack, or your projects get put on hold. If you are a salaried employee, your pay continues like nothing happened.
When you own your own small business things are very different.
As an entrepreneur running my own freelance writing business, there are no other co-workers. Instead, there are clients. Most clients are sympathetic, especially if they are not also in “emergency mode” and will graciously offer to extend a deadline or two. However, none of them will offer to pay you anyway for the projects you weren’t working on while you were scrambling around to get your furnace repaired.
Furthermore, a freelance writer with a full schedule ends up with a problem similar to what happens when airlines have to cancel flights due to weather. You not only have to catch up on the projects from Monday that got bumped when you had your emergency, but you also have to take care of the projects that were originally scheduled to “fly” on Tuesday. Just like the airlines, you only have one “plane” to use to handle both sets of paying customers, and there are more waiting to be taken care of on Wednesday.
Fortunately, as a freelancer, I have the flexibility to not only work short days and take off an afternoon to play with my kids, I also have the flexibility to work at 3:00 a.m. when necessary. In an emergency it is often necessary.
That flexibility only gets you so far, though. Here are some tips for catching up after a personal emergency.
- Communicate — Most importantly, stay in contact with your clients. If your situation didn’t allow you to stay in contact, make your first priority re-establishing communications. People worrying about a deadline passing or a project update being missed can stop worrying once they know what is going on. Otherwise, it just builds up.
- Post to Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed — Catching up while using valuable time to call, email, or otherwise contact business associates is impossible. Directly contact anyone who has a deadline or you have otherwise committed a specific time to. Then, post a quick status update to all your social networks. Don’t apologize or make a big deal. Stick within the Twitter character limit and say something like, “My furnace is dead. Scrambling to catch up.” That will give people that are used to a 24 hour response a little reassurance that just because it has been two days, that you haven’t forgotten them.
- Write a Blog Post — See current ArcticLllama Freelance Writing blog post 🙂
- Use the Weekend — A big mistake a lot of freelancers make is underestimating how long it takes to do something in the first place. They are even more likely to underestimate how long it takes to do something under less than ideal circumstances. For clients who are fine with a delay, tell them you’ll be back to full speed on Monday or Tuesday, not Thursday or Friday. You can use the weekend to take the edge off of the blade of time.
- Communicate — Don’t bury your head in the sand and wait to come up until everything is fixed. In the meantime, people will be worried that things are getting worse not better. If you keep them informed, they will know that you are doing your best and will back to your old self ASAP.
Get back to it right away. (I’ll see you when I get caught back up 🙂