Situation: “Uh-oh.” Damage Control for Mistakes on the Job

Sep 5, 2013

Fact: mistakes happen. As a freelancer or small business owner, chances are that at some point you’re going to mess up – or your client will think you did.

As with all things in life, it’s best to be prepared. So what should you do when the worst case scenario happens? We turned to Sara Horowitz’s book, The Freelancer’s Bible, for her recommendations on how to handle unexpected events and on-the-job mishaps.

Symptom 1: A mistake or oversight.

Treatment: If it’s your error, you have to fix it, make your deadlines, and eat the costs – unless the client is a mensch and will cover some costs or extend the deadline. If it’s the client’s error, the same applies in reverse. If you’re the mensch, you’ve banked a lot of love with this client, which could be priceless for future business.

Prevention: Live and learn. Even if it isn’t your fault, the monetary, reputational, and stress price of a major error can be huge. That’s why you should look into liability insurance. A professional liability plan protects you from bearing the financial brunt of any claims and lawsuits. Since costs can get super high super fast, many companies won’t hire freelancers unless they already have liability insurance in place.

We recently partnered with Hiscox USA to provide our members with professional liability coverage that’s as flexible as a freelance career.

Symptom 2: Something unexpected happens that’s no one’s fault (client gets laid off, event is canceled, equipment fails or is stolen, natural disaster, etc.).

Treatment: Damage control is paramount. In the case of a major glitch or disaster, inform each other right away and keep the updates coming. Make a disaster plan together to stop, rethink, or revise the plans. If your contact’s been laid off, there’s not much you can do other than find out who your new contact is, take steps to connect and quickly bring the new person up to speed, and show your value in being clear about what you’ve done so far and what you will do to finish the work per the terms of your contract.

Prevention: To the extent that insurance, preparedness, padded deadlines, and contract terms such as force majeure language, non-refundable deposits, kill fees, and expense reimbursement help, do them.

So yes, mistakes happen, but freelancing should be liberating, not scary. If you plan for the worst, you’ll cut down on your worries and be able to focus on the work you love. We can sum this up in two easy steps. Step one: Be prepared. Step two: Go back to being an awesome freelancer.

Everything you need to know to have the career of your dreams--on your terms. Pick up a copy of The Freelancer’s Bible now.