When Freelance Writing Goes Wrong: How to Avoid a Work-From-Home Disaster

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You’re on deadline with an hour until your big assignment is due when disaster strikes: your internet is down and no matter how many times you reset the router, it’s not coming back on.

What do you do? Grab your things and dash to the local coffee shop? Or is there a better, less frantic option to save the day?

As a freelancer, you have to be prepared for just about any work-from-home disaster.

With a solid plan in place, you’ll know just what to do to come off as a polished pro when disaster strikes. Your clients won’t even know anything went wrong.

Here are a few common mishaps savvy freelancers can prepare for ahead of time.

Disaster #1: You’re on deadline and the internet just conked out

Fire up your smartphone and use its hotspot feature to connect and transmit the files you need to send using your data package. If you’ve never used your hotspot before, be sure to give it a few trial runs so you know just how to set it up and connect when you’re in a hurry.

Another option is to have a mobile hotspot device on hand to use if your WiFi goes down.

A third back-up plan would be grabbing what you need and racing to a friend’s house, cafe, library, or other place where you can connect to the internet in a hurry. Now’s the time to think about locations you can call on in a hurry — including in the evening hours when your usual haunts may already be closed for the night.

Disaster #2: You’re on deadline and the power just went out

Losing power means you’ll have to worry about not only the charge in your computer and other devices, but you’ll also lose internet if you’re using WiFi. See above for how to handle the internet situation, but you’ll also need a back-up plan for the power loss.

Sometimes — like when a big storm is brewing — you might have time to make sure your devices are fully charged before you lose power. If you think you might lose power, charge everything and back up the files you’re using to a flash drive just in case you have to transfer to a loaner computer at some point.

You can also save some webpages as files, so do this if you’ll need important static internet pages while working. See if your email or blogging program has an “offline” function you can use, and figure out how to set it up and use it before you need it.

Another backup option for quick power is to have a car charger handy so you can bring everything out to your car if need be. This isn’t a great solution if you’re working during a huge thunderstorm, but in other cases, your garage or driveway could be a great temporary workspace. Make sure the car charger is compatible with your laptop so it will provide the necessary juice without frying your device.

Disaster #3: The water main just burst (or another home disaster)

Last year, a deep cold snap burst the water main in my building. It’s hard to get a lot done in a home without running water.

You can’t fix a burst water main yourself, but you can stay on top of repairs. Ask the maintenance crew about the repair schedule and when you’ll have outages. When this happened to me, I found out that a burst water main doesn’t always mean you’re completely without water. I was still able to schedule meetings around the repair schedule.

If your home is truly uninhabitable, look into a coworking space, coffee shop, or other place you can camp out for a few hours or days. See if renter’s or homeowner’s insurance will cover any additional expenses you incur as a result of the problem.

Disaster #4: You have to make an important phone call and there’s loud construction noise outside

Unexpected loud noises, like construction or ongoing traffic troubles, are the bane of many freelancers’ existence.

The quietest spot in your home is often the bathroom, though you do have to beware of echoes. See if you can set up shop in there during your phone call or meeting. Another often-quiet spot is a closet. While it’s certainly not ideal to spend your phone call hiding between winter coats, at least the extra fabric will help muffle the noise.

The car comes to the rescue as another option to snag some peace and quiet. You may have to head to a quieter block if the construction noise is too bad. Be sure to use the mute function on your phone when you’re not speaking to silence any unwanted background noise.

Disaster #5: You have to get to an in-person client meeting and your car won’t start

Sometimes, cars just don’t cooperate. If yours won’t fire up and get you where you need to go, be sure to have a back-up plan.

Have a public transit schedule on hand and a list of cab companies that can get you where you need to go. Into Uber or Lyft? Make sure your account is set up and payment method applied before you need a ride. Even if you almost always drive, take some time to familiarize yourself with your local backup options before you need them.

What work-from-home disasters would you add to this list? How do you combat them?

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Kristen Pope is a Jackson Hole, Wyoming based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Discover, Backpacker, Western Confluence, International Journal of Wilderness, and Planning Magazine, and she is the managing editor of JHStyle Magazine.... .

Kristen Pope | @Kristen_E_Pope

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Comments

  1. Kristen, this is an awesome post! Working from home definitely has its challenges. I always think about these and try to have a backup plan. I have a dog and loud bird. There are lawn mowers and FedEx delivery interruptions. Even call waiting, and text messages during calls. Last week my Internet was down twice for 6 hours each time. Backup plans take off deadline stress. Thanks for a great post!

  2. I love this. In part because it reflects how freelancers have to learn to be super flexible and come up with creative solutions.

    And then, because I live in Argentina. Literally every single one of these things has happened. Once a year or so, usually a bit less than that, literally all communications go down in the entire city (and I don’t live in a small town.)

    In spite of it, I’ve never missed a deadline or a meeting. Even if it means crouching on the sidewalk outside of a cafe in the middle of the night so I can glom off their wifi. (I only did that once, though.)

    • Laurette LaLiberte says:

      Transportation isn’t a problem; I telecommunte full time for a publisher in the United States. Losing power or electricty IS, but I got it under control now.

      i live in Athen, Greece, and we have a lot of outages. There are times when I have lost power or my signal when I’m on a really tight deadline, or I get an assignment that’s a rush. I have been known to crouch in a doorway and glom an unsecured Wifi signal in an emergency. I’m very lucky that where I live now has coffee shops with free Wifi within blocks – and owners who don’t mind me sitting for a few hours. I also just discovered a 24-hour Internet cafe that’s a 5-minute walk from my house (at two euros an hour, it’s a last resort).

  3. Great post! Some of these are things I never even thought of before I started working from home. Luckily, I haven’t been faced with many disasters (yet), but these are all things I should work on being more prepared for.

  4. Hah, I love the mention of Uber and public transit. Since I drive public transit on top of freelancing and novel writing, I’m always amazed at how little people are aware of the cheap transit their city provides them. Check your bus routes and try a ride on a Saturday – not only is it a real change of pace, but it will infinitely prepare you for a transportational outage that won’t cut as bad as a cab will! Also, buses are just kind of awesome machines, but I’m definitely biased ;P

  5. Don’t forget family emergencies! Last week I spent 6 hours in ER waiting for word on my sister’s condition. Since I know this may happen, I try to work ahead. Plus, my work is backed up on a flash drive and in the cloud – accessible anywhere.

  6. A lot of these “solutions” don’t work for folks in the boondocks. I’m extremely limited in my internet connections: the library, a couple of coffee shops/internet cafes, a handful of restaurants. The library internet has been randomly dropping out for months, and that’s after they switched carriers from the one you had to have an external antenna just to get 40% connection (internal antenna you might not even connect some days) and that took a dive any time someone with a cell phone (there’s not SUPPOSED to be any cell phone use in the library) walked by. Public transit? That’s two taxi companies, one of which is contracted by the city and doesn’t run 24/7. I don’t think either one would go much outside of the area–too few cabs to have one tied up with an extended fare. Not that I’d want to take a cab; I feel so strongly about the so-called “safety” equipment mandated in late-model vehicles (which cab companies are required to use) that I haven’t been in a motor vehicle in over three years, or driven in over fifteen. (So so much for that car as a back-up office).

    And Cloud back-up? Ha! I need back-up TO the Cloud. I’ve got over 30GB of saved web pages on my hard drive, not to mention what’s on my 2TB drive at home. Nothing more frustrating than “downloading” a program or plug-in, getting home, and then finding that it can’t “install” because it can’t connect to the internet! (In other words, you didn’t download the application at all, you just downloaded a specialized download manager for the application.)

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