Working from home? Are you prepared for an emergency?

The telephone rang, it was a new client asking if I would cater for a very special wedding; money no object and at a venue I’d been eager to attend. I faltered for a moment or two but had to say no.

The reason was that in the early hours of that day, I had fled my home with husband and dog as a fire raged around us. We were lucky to leave with our lives and half the house had gone up in smoke. I’d only ventured in hours later to view the damage as firemen cleared away their hoses.

Much of my property and business equipment was burned beyond recognition and had been thrown from a window onto the lawn. Strangely, my desk and the telephone were in one piece although dripping with water, I chatted with the client whilst gazing at a hole in the roof two floors above.

Both my husband and I were self employed.  If we didn’t work, the mortgage didn’t get paid. We both had clients expecting us to fulfill a service. My husband had lost his workshop; in those days it wasn’t so common to have insurance for people working from home. Fortunately a friend had an empty garage attached to his home so we set up a temporary work bench and colleagues rallied round to lend tools and equipment; he was back at work within the week.

For me it wasn’t quite as easy. Offering a bespoke wedding catering service without a kitchen let alone a home to work from I was stumped. I knew it would be six months before I could work from my home. I spoke to someone I knew a lady who worked in the catering industry and came to an arrangement where I could use her kitchen to complete the bookings I was contracted to carry out. I had to refuse all other bookings as it would not have been polite to inflict myself on the woman more than I had to. What was most annoying was the fact orders were pouring in and I could not accept them.

Within 48 hours of the fire we were again working and honoring bookings, clients were happy. I lost months of work and being in an industry where we book ahead it took several years to catch up, in fact I ended up diversifying and never went back to catering for weddings.

There can be many emergencies that affect our businesses and as long as we can afford to pay for them there are insurance policies that will help if we were to have a fire or we are too ill to continue in business. Sometimes family events take over that stop up working the hours we would like to. The death of family members, children home sick from school even equipment breaking down for a few hours can be an emergency when we have deadlines to meet. We need to plan for that unforeseen emergency much as we would our working week. Knowing what to do if something should stop you working will mean that if it should happen you are prepared.

There’s no need for paranoia but take a look at your business and ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • If you could not work from home where could you continue your business?
  • If illness interfered with your business how could you overcome it and how could you still earn a living?
  • If you were unable to meet a deadline, rather than let down a client and give your business a bad name how would you cope?

Premises can always be found, if not in a friend’s home then an office or workshop can be hired on a short let. Check out what is available in your town just in case you ever need to know.

Check your insurance policy, does it cover your business equipment, will it pay for you to work elsewhere?

Illness can be trickier, but you must know a colleague who could take on your clients at short notice? Perhaps a friend who can learn how to step in and help while you supervise? Why not pair up with a friend in a similar line of work and be each other’s insurance? Having someone to cover for you and also being able to reciprocate in an emergency is a lifeline worth having.

Check how your business would cope in an emergency, make a few decisions and file away the notes for a rainy day that may never happen then enjoy running your business knowing you are in complete control.

Elaine Everest


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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