I missed 3 days of school this week due to whatever upper respiratory malaise is currently making the rounds. My school district has a procedure where we report our absences electronically and the system finds a substitute to cover for us. Lesson plans were already done for the week, so all my parapro had to do was make the copies they’d need and fire up the reserve laptop to cover classes. I returned on Friday (still without a voice) and tweaked the lessons so my kids could read Valentine stories to their classmates instead of me.
As I laid in bed (now on my second box of tissues), I thought about how would I handle my small creative arts business if I were out of commission for a couple of weeks dealing with my own illness or that of a loved one? Or what about fire, theft, machinery breakdown, bad weather, etc. I’m a solo business owner – it’s all on me. If I had assistants things would be different, but this is what I came up with:
(1) Manage what I can – I learned the hard way to keep two reliable back-up machines in the studio (a Janome 3160qdc and an Elna Carina) in case the main machine goes AWOL while making a commissioned quilt. I keep extras of commonly used supplies on hand so I don’t have to run to the store in the middle of the night or be at the mercy of the weather when I’m snowed in. I also use cloud based services for accounting, financial and contact management. Heavily used files are uploaded to Google Drive so I don’t have to worry about my laptop malfunctioning. I also backup my computer on a regular basis.
(2) Have a buddy for referrals – I have a couple of friends to whom I can refer a project if I get in a pickle. Of course, I’ll have to pick up the costs associated with having them finish the project, but at least I will keep my promise to my customers.
(3) Communicate with your customer about what’s happened if you aren’t able to keep the deadline. 95% of the time, most will be understanding and aren’t on that time sensitive of a deadline. Shift things around if you must to keep those firm deadline projects on track or outsource the 5% that will help you keep your sanity.
(4) If you really suffer a devastating loss such as a fire, flood or death of a family member, communicate with your customers as soon as possible. I have at least 2 referral buddies I could count on to handle this for me (and I’d do the same for them). If not, a virtual assistant can be a godsend. Hopefully, you also carry a business insurance policy on your home-studio because chances are your homeowner’s policy won’t cover business losses (unless you have a special rider or endorsement). In this sort of situation, there’s really not much you can do except to communicate with your clients.
Do you have any other things you’d like to add?