Always Have a Backup Plan: Freelancer Lessons Learned the Hard way

I have to stop and pinch myself when I realise that I’m now into my second year as a freelance copywriter. 

This is no longer something I’m having a go at, this is no longer the experiment to see if I can do it. This is doing it. For real.

Not that it was easy getting here.

I made a lot of mistakes in that first year, mistakes that I’d happily make again if it meant learning the same kind of valuable lessons.

I learned not to put all my eggs in the one basket. I learned not to sell myself short or go around offering to do too much for too little just to land a gig. I learned to stop promising impossible deadlines and taking on more than I could realistically handle.

I also learned that you never really stop learning.

Just when I thought the freelancing life had taught me everything I could ever need to know, it threw another lesson my way:

Always have a backup plan.

Though freelancing is something I’ve always wanted to do, actually winding up in a position where I was able to do it came as something of an accident. That was some 14 months ago, and ever since I’ve pretty much been chasing my own tail, caught up all in the excitement and frustration that comes with being a self-employed writer.

I simply never had a moment to stop and think about what I might do if something bad should happen to me until it happened.

Even when I had my knee surgery a few years ago, I fully expected to be back writing copy the next day.

OK, so it didn’t quite work out like that, but I somehow got through it, and a few days later I was back working a full-time schedule.

So far, so good.

Then, within the space of two weeks, I was dealt a double blow.

Help! I’m a homeless freelancer!

First, through no fault of my own, I was made temporarily homeless and had to scramble around looking for somewhere else to live. If you never had to run a business using crappy hotel WiFi whilst devoting countless hours searching for somewhere to stay, visiting properties, and generally trying to manage the countless other things that get thrown our way on a daily basis, trust me, it’s no fun.

As if that wasn’t enough, no less than two days after I landed in my new home, I developed the most painful stomach ache imaginable and subsequently spent the next seven days laid up in a hospital bed with pancreatitis.

Whether I wanted to or not, there was no possible way I could work, and yet there were still deadlines to meet, projects to complete, and clients who fully expected to have their copy delivered.

If I’d thought ahead, I may have had a contingency plan that I could put into action, but I’d been so busy swept up in this exciting new life as a freelancer, that I hadn’t given a second thought to something like this ever happening to me.

Stacy to the rescue

It’s for this reason that I’m incredibly grateful not only to my clients for their patience and understanding but also to my dear friend, Stacy, who worked miracles to ensure I survived those two weeks without losing a single client.

It was Stace who spent hours on the phone with me whilst I dictated my handwritten copy during my week living in a hotel. The WiFi was so bad that Stace typed up every word, proofed it twice and sent it on to my clients.

When I was in the hospital, it was back on the phone with Stace, this time with her emailing each of my existing clients to explain my situation for me.

My pancreas still intact (though still quite sore), I came out of the hospital this past Saturday and, when I returned back to work on Monday morning, was able to pick up right where I left off.

Yet what if Stacy hadn’t been around? I’d be screwed, that’s what.

Not only would I be in a much worse position than I am right now, I would have never learned about the importance of creating a backup plan for those unforeseen occasions when things do go wrong.

I’d love to tell you that I came right out of the hospital, immediately set up about creating this wonderful, helpful contingency plan, and can now share it with you here. I can’t because I didn’t.

I’m still figuring the details, but for now, it mainly involves making sure my iPhone is always fully charged and that Stacy is always on standby to help me out in a pickle.

You may also like