What If? Emergency Planning for Your Writing

What happens to your business if you have to go to the hospital? What about if you’re stranded by a missed airplane? What about other emergencies?

As a freelance writer, you need an emergency plan in place — one that can be carried out by anyone, from you to a friend who you have called from halfway around the world to a spouse who is dealing with other problems. We’re talking about one simple document, with spelled out, step-by-step actions.

We all know that we need to be prepared for this sort of thing, but where do we start? What information is necessary, and what will just overwhelm the person helping us out?


These days,  the starting point for everything is the password. Your emergency information should include the login information for your email, as well as any sites that are updated or you post to regularly. Blogs, forums, that sort of thing. Depending on how you operate your business, you may also need to include your bank account information and PayPal login.

Contact Information 

If you’ve got a deadline coming up, your friend will need to be able to notify clients and editors that you won’t be able to make that due date. That means she’ll need their email addresses or phone numbers. This can be the hardest part of preparing your emergency plan, at least for freelance writers. Most of our client lists can change fairly rapidly. The best method I’ve found, so far, is to have that friend access both my email account (which includes my address book for clients) and my calendar (which lists my due dates). Then it’s just a matter of contacting those clients with upcoming due dates.

Business Details

Especially in a worst-case-scenario, someone else may need to deal with all facets of your business. An emergency plan should include crucial details that will make the process easier, such as where your invoices are kept. Even if you keep great records, another person might struggle with figuring out where your records are.

Storing Your Emergency Plan

This sucker is full of extremely sensitive information, so you’ll want to keep it somewhere safe. The problem that you’ll run into, however, is that it needs to be somewhere accessible, as well. In most cases, I’d recommend against handing a copy over to a friend to hold on to, ‘just in case.’ Instead, I’d file a hard copy in your own files, and maintain a copy online somewhere that you feel safe — in your personal email may be an option, but consider carefully. You also want to be easily able to update your emergency plan. You need to be able to access it quickly and change it, without much fuss.

This post isn’t meant to be depressing, or to make you dwell on potential problems. Instead, as a freelancer, I think that an emergency plan is key to getting yourself back on track after any sort of interruption in your business. No one wants to face rebuilding their business from scratch, just because they were unavailable for a few days or weeks.


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