The recent summer flash floods will have brought back painful memories for those adversely affected by the floods and storms earlier this year. But while there’s plenty of focus on homes and businesses, flooding and other extreme weather events can also cause serious disruption to freelancers and sole traders.
While many larger businesses have well-oiled contingency plans in place to deal with weather disruption, the risk is that freelancers and sole traders do not. It may seem easy for one-man bands to avoid conducting the same sort of business continuity planning that larger businesses must go through, but it is still important.
Taking some simple precautions ahead of the next extreme weather event could be the difference between business as usual, or your income suffering financial consequences.
First, it’s worth thinking about the potential problems that could interrupt you from your normal day job if bad weather hits. Only then can you identify possible solutions.
Work from home?
Obviously there is not the travel disruption to deal with – unless of course you’ve planned to visit a client – but if your home is impacted by flooding, then you’re in as much difficulty as any other business with flooded premises.
Technology means you can uproot your office and find somewhere else to work relatively easily but that’s only if you have easy access to your data.
If you don’t have a robust data back-up plan in place, that should be your first priority. Changing to a cloud based system will mean you can access your data wherever you are and from whatever device – computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone.
If your home office is out of action, you’ll need another physical location to work from. Many cities across the UK have small business work hubs where you can use desk space on a pay-as-you-use basis. Your professional association may also have arrangements to let you use office space. The PCG for example has a flexible workspace scheme in London. Don’t forget the local coffee shop either.
Can your clients contact you?
With the use of mobile phones, losing your normal landline can be less problematical. However, mobile phone coverage can still be patchy, particularly in rural areas. One answer is to invest in your own office phone number that you can redirect to any number you choose depending on where you’re located, so you never miss a client call.
How about client visits?
If you have client visits scheduled, bad weather and travel disruption could mean you need a contingency. Skype for example, is increasingly used for video calls while more advanced video conferencing options allow you to share documents at the same time.
Can your suppliers deliver?
So far we’ve focused on relocating your business, but what if it’s your supplier(s) who are unable to function properly due to the bad weather? It’s important that you look at any suppliers you have and work out what your business would do if their service was interrupted. How long could you function for and what alternatives are out there?
Are you covered?
If you work from home, it’s vital that you also check whether your office equipment is covered under your household insurance. Check your policy wording and if there are any gaps in cover you might need to consider a business insurance policy to plug these. If you have your own office premises away from home, you might also need to consider a specific office contents policy.
Some simple precautions like these can help freelancers and sole traders plan for the worst case scenario. Of course, the glorious summer weather can also be problematic if you work from home – the temptation to down tools and enjoy a few minutes in the garden can be overwhelming, but that’s a well-earned perk of working for yourself.