How to Prepare Your Freelance Design Business for an Unexpected Absence


Today, we’re going to discuss a rather difficult subject. But it’s one that every web designer should think about: If something happens to you, what happens to your business?

This is something that not only affects you as a business owner, but your family, colleagues and clients as well. And, if you’re not prepared, the results can take a difficult situation and make it even worse.

The good news is that taking a few basic steps now can make an unexpected absence less of a burden on everyone involved. While we can’t provide you with legal advice (you’ll need to speak to a lawyer for that), we can give some general tips on preparing for such a situation.

Get Organized

Running a business as a solo freelancer is an awful lot of responsibility. Just think about all of the websites, third-party services and clients you work with. And then there are the gigabytes worth of work-related files sitting on our hard drives.

Many of us attempt to keep track of it all in our heads. Or, maybe we document things in such a way that only we understand what it is we’re looking at (great for security, terrible for everything else).

Now, imagine that you become ill and can’t make it into work. Maybe your mind is a little foggy from the experience. You may be out of commission for a bit, but the world around you doesn’t stop. Clients still have needs and there are still bills to pay. All of that information in your head does no good in this scenario.

Therefore, it’s important to keep good records of your business. Things like client contact information and site logins are vital. The same goes for your financial and vendor accounts.

Security is of paramount concern, but there are ways to document these items safely. Good old pen and paper work, though it’s not ideal for maintenance. If you keep these records digitally, using encryption is highly recommended.

Hanging file folders.

Enlist Someone You Trust

While keeping accurate, updated records is an important first step, you’ll also want to share this information with someone you trust. This could be a spouse, a friend or colleague. You can fill them in on where find things and provide some notes on what to do in case of an emergency.

The idea is that, should you be unable to work, this designee will at least have access to the basics that will keep your business afloat. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will perform the work for you. Rather, they can at least make sure bills are being paid and that clients have access to the items they need.

If you so choose, this could be a great subject to discuss with a legal professional. There may be some temporary legal designations you can make to authorize someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

People discussing a document.

Provide Client Access Where Possible

There’s no single way to run a web design business. We all have our own policies and procedures. Not to mention the variety with regards to the types of services we offer.

Some of us work on monthly or yearly maintenance contracts. We might also offer web hosting or domain registration to our clients. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Within each of these areas, there could be a need for clients to access information. For instance, if you’re not able to manage their hosting and they have an issue, where do they turn? In these cases, it would be great to provide account information up front.

However, that’s not always possible. If you host multiple sites or run domain registrations through a single account, there may not be a way to divide up access. That could be a challenge if you’re away for any length of time.

In any case, provide access when you are able. Clients should always have a login to their website’s back end and have their contact information associated with any domains you’ve registered for them. The more they know, the better chance you have of avoiding major issues during time away.

A tablet computer displaying a login screen.

Preparation Is Better Than the Alternative

Life is both busy and unpredictable. And while it’s often easier to spend all of your time focused on the tasks in front of you, it’s also worthwhile to think of what could happen. No matter how unlikely we think something like an unexpected absence is, we still need to prepare.

Having a plan in place now will bring peace of mind. Hopefully, you never have to use it. But if it is needed, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

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