As self-employed people, we don’t get sick leave. If we happen to be working on a project for a customer with whom we have a good relationship, it might perhaps be possible to negotiate a extension to the delivery deadline, but let’s face it: generally a bad cold or the flu won’t stop us working. Now this might not be sensible from a health perspective, but it’s what happens, in my experience at least.
But what if you are suddenly taken seriously ill?
Nobody wants to think about the possibility of becoming seriously ill but this year, in two separate incidents, a family member and a close friend of mine were both rushed into hospital and spent weeks (and in one case months) in intensive care. This naturally led me to consider the private and business implications of sudden serious illness.
In this post I’m not going to talk about loss of earnings, insurance or making sure that you have enough money in the bank to survive such situations financially, although these are, of course, also important considerations. What I want to talk about are the practical measures that you can take now in order to make things easier for the person who is going to be left trying to sort out your business-related obligations and dealing with your customers when you can’t.
Keep an emergency file
As freelancers working on our own, a lot of key information is stored in our heads: passwords, deadlines, current and upcoming projects, key customers… If you put all of this information into a file, put it somewhere safe and make sure that someone knows 1) that it exists and 2) where it is, this will make things much easier in an emergency. The file should also contain a list of the steps which you would like the person left dealing with your business to take. It might not be necessary for them to send an email to all of your customers explaining the situation but it will certainly be necessary for them to contact the customers you are currently working for and the customers you have committed to working for over the next few weeks.
It is your business, so the steps you would like this person to take are up to you. Here is a list of the things I think it would be useful to include in your emergency file. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten. If you can think of anything else, do post a comment.
1) User names and passwords
2) Important customers – address book
3) Bank account information – does someone have power of attorney for your business account?
4) Tax deadlines – contact details for your tax advisor or accountant
5) Status plan – current and upcoming projects and the names of the contact persons
6) Regular payments you need to make
7) A list of the steps you would like the person dealing with your business to take – should they contact all of your customers?
8) If you have a close working relationship with another translator, the name and contact details of this translator – perhaps this translator will be able to take over some of your projects and keep your business ticking over
And on a final note: don’t forget to keep your file up-to-date!