“Oh, holy fuck. Fuck fuckitty fuck fuck….”
That’s what my brain said. That’s probably what my mouth said too, but to be honest I can’t remember because I was too busy panicking.
Because my freelance blogging career took a nosedive from sweet, easy profit into the frozen, thumb-twiddling hell of I HAVE NO CLIENTS AND NO INCOME.
Plus I was the primary moneymaker in my little family and they were all depending on me to keep them housed and fed. So, y’know, no pressure. 😉
It was early 2012; Google had just updated its algorithms to stop crappy websites from ranking high in search results, and I’d been working 25 hours per week for a client whose websites were definitely kinda crappy. So when Google updated, those websites tanked and my client couldn’t afford to keep me.
I scrambled to pick up a couple of new clients, made sure this time that their websites were not crappy or grey-hatted, and kept on going. I also spent more than $10,000 on coaching and training programs to improve my business skills that year.
Fast forward 3 years to early 2015 and there I am, billing my clients up to $13,000 per month, owning a popular blog, working only part-time and only on projects that suit me, while planning my wedding and honeymoon.
So everything must have turned out just fine, right?
Shit ALWAYS happens
In the spring of 2015, two of my teenage stepsons moved into our tiny apartment with me, my fiancé and our daughter. Hello, overcrowding and enormous grocery bills!
Then, later that summer, I got pregnant on my wedding night. Hello morning sickness, back pain, fatigue, lots of medical appointments and not wanting to travel any more.
By the winter, 4 months pregnant, I’d started pruning down my commitments to my favourite client because they wanted me to travel to their office too often. I also knew that the closer I got to the estimated birth date, the harder it would be to start any new projects.
I mean, what was I gonna say in my proposals? “I can totally start this in March, but I’ll be having a baby in May so I can’t actually finish your project until, ooh, a few months after your deadline.” Not gonna cut it.
I looked at the family’s unplanned pregnancy budget (which was, um, zero) and thought…
Yep, fuck fuckitty fuck fuck again.
I got an unexpected opportunity to improve my situation when Danny Iny (an awesome educator-entrepreneur) asked if I was available to join his team. Goodbye, unnecessary travel! Hello, videoconferencing and a gig to go back to after maternity leave!
Yeah, things fell into place for me that time around without too much effort. You think I got lucky? Keep reading to find out the truth.
Survival is your default setting
As long as you’re still breathing, you’re a survivor. You wake up in the morning and life is still there. You might not enjoy it so much when things go wrong, but you survive.
And that’s better than the alternative, but it isn’t enough.
To achieve beyond mere survival, you have to *do* more than simply fail to die.
Yeah, what you do after a disaster matters. But what you do before a disaster is even more important.
Here’s what I should have done (what you can do, too)
Have a Plan B.
I should’ve had at least a rough idea in my head of what I’d do if my main client went away. I should’ve had at least a rough idea of what I’d do if I got sick for longer than a few days.
And OK, the pregnancy and the stepsons were both totally unexpected, but I should’ve planned for the unexpected to happen even if I didn’t know what form it would take.
Interesting psychology detour: Some researchers say that even *having* a Plan B sets you up to undercommit to Plan A, and that’s a fascinating idea that I don’t disagree with.
But I’m of the opinion that if you don’t have a single tiny clue what you’d do if things go wrong, then your business – and your income – is about as safe as the pubic hair of a teenager who sets his farts on fire.
So don’t waste time drafting a 250-page Plan B with colour coded flow charts, but do know what you’ll fall back on if life knocks your Plan A flat.
How to prepare for the unexpected
When the shit hits the fan, it’s too late to run out and buy a hazmat suit. But planning for unexpected challenges is easier than it sounds, I promise.
Here are the things that can help you fix a wide range of problems – even most of the problems you can’t predict:
- Friends and family
- Professional help
As long as you have access to at least one or two of the things on that list, you’ll overcome problems much more easily.
For example, that prime gig that fell into my lap at the precise moment I was interested in finding new, less face-to-face projects? That wasn’t luck; it was a consequence of 3 YEARS of relationship-building, including flying out to a couple of the company’s live mastermind events.
So if you wanna be as “lucky” as me, better start making friends with the people who run businesses you’d love to work with. 😉
If you want to make it through future income dips – and they WILL happen, no matter how confident, hardworking or optimistic you are – pay off any debts as fast as you can and save some “just in case” money for emergencies. If I’d done that myself, I could’ve tapped that fund to cover maternity costs.
If you want to avoid crappy clients, poor business practices and the economic effects of things like Google penalties, you need knowledge of what’s considered good and bad in your industry – not just blogging, but online advertising, search engine optimisation, email marketing laws, all the peripheral topics that affect your clients and hence the source of your income. That way you can spot the clients whose values don’t match yours, and avoid them.
As for time, we’ve all got some. You just have to choose to use it well.
And professional help is sometimes available for free, but often you’ll need either money or a friends-and-family connection to get access to more than a few minutes of a busy expert’s attention.
Prepare for what you can’t predict by putting a few basic defences in place. You’ll be glad you did, later when you need them. 🙂
Now, we want to hear about *your* Plan B.
And we’ve got prizes for the best blog post ideas on this topic!
Enter the Pitchfest
In case you’re not familiar, Pitchfest is a blog post pitching contest we run here on Be a Freelance Blogger every 3 months. You tell us your blog post idea and we choose our favorites, with prizes of up to $100 for the winners.
The contest starts today.
Your theme for this Pitchfest
This time we’re looking for pitches on the theme of “Plan B: What to do when things go wrong.”
Interpret that theme any way you like! You could pitch a real-life story about how your Plan B saved your ass; you could show us your secret stash of Plan Bs and explain what they’re for and how you use them; you could give us a lesson in contingency planning; it’s your call.
We’re looking forward to seeing what YOU come up with.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your pitch’s theme not only has to involve a Plan B, but it also MUST revolve around freelance blogging (Be a Freelance Blogger’s niche). Whatever idea you present to us has to benefit freelance bloggers or their clients in some way.
- Anybody can enter the contest by typing (or pasting) their pitch into the comments box at the bottom of this page.
- Only ONE PITCH per person, please.
- Follow the pitch format I’ll tell you in a moment.
- After you submit your pitch, Lauren and/or Sophie will offer feedback to help you optimize your idea for this blog’s audience and improve your pitching skills. You may also get feedback from other entrants, BAFB team members, and innocent bystanders — pay attention, because they represent your readers here.
- After you get our feedback, you can revise your pitch if you like and re-submit it by pasting it into a follow-up comment. And yes, that means you can offer us a completely different idea if we’ve told you your first idea definitely won’t work for this blog.
- If you win, we’ll ask you to send us a draft of at least 1000 words, so bear that minimum word count in mind when you pitch.
- First prize: $100 for your guest post, paid on publication.
- Second prize: $50 for your guest post, paid on publication.
- Third prize: A 3-question mentoring package with Sophie via email.
- Submit your pitch before the end of Friday, March 31st, 2017.
- We’ll announce the winners on April 8th.
- If we choose your pitch, we expect you to deliver your first draft to Lauren by April 30th. (But if you need a little longer, let us know and we’ll work around it.)
How to pitch
- Read our general guest blogging guidelines first, then come back here to submit your pitch.
- Suggest at least one headline designed to make freelance bloggers want to read your post.
- Follow the headline with the opening lines you’d use in the post. No less than 30 words, no more than 60. You DON’T need to write a whole post (or even a whole introduction) before you pitch — we’d like to give you feedback on your idea before you write a draft.
- After the opening lines, give us no more than 6 points you’ll make in your post, and provide a one or two sentence summary of each point. (If you plan to make more than 6 points in your post, only tell us the most important 6 in your pitch.)
- Then explain in no more than 3 sentences why this is a great post for Be a Freelance Blogger and why you’re the right person to write it.
- Put your pitch in the comment box at the bottom of this page.
- Check the little box that says “Notify me of follow-up comments” so you’ll know when we’ve given you feedback.
- Submit your comment and if you followed all the steps above, you’re entered into the contest.
- It’s a good idea to explain how your pitch reflects the theme we’ve set for you — unless it’s blindingly obvious, in which case you can probably assume we’ll see the connection without extra signposting.
- Remember to tell us why you think your blog idea will interest the people who read Be a Freelance Blogger.
- To get a better idea of what we’re looking for in your pitch, study the pitches and responses in previous Pitchfests.
- Save a copy of your pitch somewhere before you post it here — if your comment gets lost in the internet, you don’t wanna have to re-write it from scratch.
- Your comment may get held in a moderation queue, especially if it contains hyperlinks. Don’t worry if that happens; we’ll get to it and reply!
OK, it’s time.
Let the Pitchfest begin!