How to Survive When the Freelancing Life Throws You Curveballs

This post is part of a series by Cat from Budget Blonde, who’s documenting her journey to quit her job and become a self-employed freelancer in 6 months.

When I decided to become a full-time freelancer, I knew I had to be prepared for the unexpected.

I knew I needed an emergency fund. I knew I would have a variable income. I knew it would be challenging but exhilarating all at the same time.

Life is always throwing us curveballs and we have to be prepared.

What I did not know was I’d be pregnant with twins just a few months before going full time!

Maybe I should back up a little.

Why I Want to Be a Full-Time Freelancer

Cat Alford

Pregnancy photo, Cat Alford (Photo credit: Natalie Bergstrom King.)

I want to be a full-time freelancer because I love blogging and my side ventures are bringing in more income than my day job.

They’re also taking up just as much time as my day job, and something needs to change.

Even though I made the decision to become a full-time blogger (from a business standpoint), there was also this small voice in the back of my head encouraging me to push forward so I could make enough on my own and stay home with my future children.

With this knowledge and with my business doing well, I knew I could handle having a baby just a few months into being a full-time blogger.

I naively thought, I’ll just strap the baby to me while I type! Simple enough, right?

Yet, what’s not simple is the idea of two kids, and I am now both overwhelmed with fear of the unknown, and an intense gratefulness I worked as hard as I did the past two years.

I know I’m extremely fortunate to be able to stay home with these two babies, and I’m so glad I hustled and blogged until it felt like my eyes were going to fall out every single night.

I can promise anyone out there who is struggling and working so hard at his or her side business that it’s worth it.

It’s truly worth it. You may not know exactly why or how it will work out, but something awesome always comes out of an extreme work ethic.

So, if you are a full-time freelancer, or want to be, how do you prepare for the unexpected?

Step 1: Have an Emergency Fund

I know we say this a lot, but it’s so true — having an emergency savings fund is key to being a successful freelancer. You never know when you’ll get sick or injured and unable to work for a time.

The best and worst thing about being a solopreneur is you’re in charge of your entire business. It needs you to sink or swim, so ensure you have an emergency fund to back you up when things get tough.

Step 2: Make an Emergency Plan

What would happen to your business in the case of an emergency?

What if there was a bad storm and your whole town was without the Internet for 5 days? What if you had a sick parent or sick child and had to take a month off?

During my first trimester, I had a really hard time responding to e-mails quickly, and managing advertising deals, because I was so exhausted.

I fought through it, but I wish I had a VA who was already trained to help me during that time. So, I reached out to numerous people to discuss my plan for when my twins are born.

I’m going to hire someone to handle my e-mails/advertising, request guest posts from my blogger friends if they’re interested, and hire anyone else I might need.

I don’t want my blog to become obsolete just because I am taking care of two babies. I worked too hard to get it where it is today to let it slip.

Step 3: Stay a Few Weeks Ahead

When I first started blogging it was just a hobby, so I posted whenever I wanted. Now, I try to stay a week or two ahead of my posting schedule. And when I’m preparing for the twins, I will probably be between 1-3 months ahead.

An editorial calendar, and a very detailed planner, are both important when it comes to this type of business, and I’m going to be working extra hard from January – March to ensure I have a large bulk of my work finished before the twins arrive.

Step 4: Ask for Help From Trusted Peers

When you encounter the unexpected, especially in an online business, you have to know who to ask for help. If your site gets hacked or you are having a major programming issue, you need people you trust.

It would be really hard for me to pick someone at random to go into my blog and fix it unless I knew them personally. The same goes for hiring a competent accountant or a financial planner.

Make sure you hire the right people who you can rely on so when then unexpected does happen, they’re willing to step in and make it right.

Step 5: Know What to Prioritize

As a freelancer, chances are you do a lot of different things for your business throughout the day — whether it’s seeking new gigs, promotion, or finishing jobs on time. When the unexpected happens, it’s important to prioritize.

You might have to focus on finishing the work you have due this week instead of spending time tweeting or seeking new jobs.

You might have to prioritize answering e-mails so you have ad income instead of posting 5 times this week.

There are so many ways to prioritize, and every business is different. Spend some time thinking about what’s most important for your business so you know what to keep and what to cut in an emergency situation.

Even the Best Plans Go Awry

Ultimately, we can try to prepare for the unexpected as much as possible, but as evidenced by my situation, even the best planners can be caught off guard!

However, throughout the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that, as long as I’m happy and continuing to work towards my goals, it’s enough for me!

I might be a little behind after a rough first trimester. My blog might not grow as fast as others because I might have to take a month or two off next year.

Yet, I’m experienced, and I know how to make my business work. I just need to let go of some of my control, prepare for the unknown and realize as long as I’m working as hard as I can, everything will work out in the end.

How do you prepare for the unexpected in your freelance business?

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About the author: Catherine Alford is a freelance writer who currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, twins, and spoiled pup, Julep. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. When she is not writing for other websites on all topics frugal and fabulous, she enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com.

8 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own

  • Dear Debt November 7, 2013, 12:26 am

    Great advice! I’m not a freelancer, but I always like to have options lined up if things go awry.

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde November 7, 2013, 1:07 pm

      Options are definitely a good thing!!!

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More November 7, 2013, 6:12 pm

    If I were ever to become a freelancer and I could plan in advance (didn’t get fired) I’d make sure to have a huge emergency fund of at least 6 months to a year if possible.

    • Carrie Smith November 10, 2013, 12:42 pm

      That’s a smart plan Lance! I was shooting for that too, but as we all know, life has other plans for us sometimes. I was able to quit with 4 months of emergency savings in the bank. Not ideal, but it all worked out anyway!

      • Lance@MoneyLife&More November 10, 2013, 1:23 pm

        I definitely understand that! The fact that you had any emergency savings helped you a ton I’m sure.

        • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde November 13, 2013, 10:37 pm

          Thanks Lance! We’re working on building it up now. I’d say we have about 2 months and access to a lot more money in the form of loan money if we have a bigger problem.

  • Adam Kamerer November 8, 2013, 1:50 am

    I think Step 2 is such an important one! Even when people do have an emergency fund to rely on, they rarely have a thought-out plan for what they’ll do when an emergency crops up and derails life for a while. Know how you’ll respond to certain issues is another vital aspect of being prepared to face them.

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde November 13, 2013, 10:36 pm

      Thanks Adam! Glad you agree!

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