My friends who are independent contractors and freelancers are always planning ahead, lining up their next projects so that they can keep a steady flow of income. However, many independent contractors and freelancers forget the most important part of planning ahead: determining a Plan B if they are unable to complete jobs due to illness, accident, or another unexpected life event.
For clients, this part of the planning process is even more important than your next source of income, so it is imperative that independent contractors carefully consider their contingency plans.
Aliza Sherman, author of “The Importance of Contingency Plans,” shares valuable advice with independent contractors who are ready to develop a Plan B.
Consider the people around you. If you work as a member of a team, likely someone else can step in and help out while you are away. If you’re flying solo, identify a responsible and capable person who can complete the work while you are away but not someone who can replace you. You want the client to be satisfied while simultaneously realizing that you are an irreplaceable member of their team.
Get it in writing. Depending on the case you may want to consult a lawyer, but generally speaking, writing down each party’s responsibilities will be enough to serve as a reference for the two of you.
Be prepared for things to look much differently than you left them. You may have found a fantastic replacement, but everyone works differently. The spreadsheet that you created, for example, may not be color-coded any longer. It will take some time to readjust to the project, especially if your replacement did not leave you as well informed as you left her.
Consult a family member who can communicate for you. Ideally, you should talk to your client and discuss necessary time off. But there are certain situations, like a bad car accident or an illness that requires hospitalization, where it is impossible for you to communicate with the client immediately. Plan ahead by delegating a trusted family member to alert your client and provide updates in the event of an emergency.
Let the client know you will be back (if you will.) Ensure the client knows that your replacement will be temporary and that you will return once you are able. If you will not be able to return, send professional correspondence that lets your client know you want what is best for your client and the project. Putting the client’s interests first will solidify the professional relationship that the two of you have for years to come.
When you are ready to return to work check with the client about available work projects or look for additional independent contractor positions on Virtual Vocations.
Part of developing a contingency plan is evaluating it regularly and modifying it as needed. Do the temporary replacement and your family member still agree to take on these roles should something happen to you? While you don’t need to check in with them on a particular date of the month, if something changes in their lives, such as getting a new job, moving, or expanding their family, it is wise to ask if they are still willing to continue with the roles in your contingency plan.
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