How to ensure your business keeps going when the unexpected happens

I knew the tumour was back; the fatigue had got progressively worse and I’d lost the ability, gradually, to run which had been my escape for 10-years.

When I started my business in 2016 one of my main fears was what if I get ill again? I’d had a benign tumour removed from my pituitary gland in 2012 and again with Gamma Knife radiotherapy in 2014, both times I’d had around 10 weeks off work, but I was an employee so I was covered with sick pay. As a business owner we’re incredibly vulnerable; we don’t always have the luxury of sick pay and you could quite easily be left with no income if you have to suddenly go off sick, and that’s the last thing you want to be worrying about.

In September 2019, the NHS finally agreed I could have an MRI and to their surprise, but not mine, my tumour was back for a third time and it was growing very fast. There was, the surgeon said, an imminent need to get me into surgery again. I had less than four weeks to get things ready.

I have no life insurance or critical illness cover (this isn’t a plea for insurers to get in touch – I’m not interested, go away) it’s too expensive because of my recurring tumour and I have Addison’s disease too .

It’s so hard to to consider what might happen if you’ve never been in this situation, ‘thankfully’ I had so was prepared mentally, but some elements of preparedness were a fluke and I want to share them all with you, so you too are ready.

What would you do if you suddenly had to to close your laptop and disappear for a while (and I don’t mean Robert Maxwell Style – think more emergency situations; like surgery, poorly family member, bereavement.)

Here are my top five secrets to sustaining your income, even if unexpected sickness puts you completely out of action:

1. Have a team ready

You may not be able to afford to work outsource at the moment, but there’s nothing stopping you identifying a couple of people that you would trust to step in and take over your clients, if you have to step out.

This could be a virtual business manager, virtual assistant, or someone that runs the same business as you – someone you’d usually label as a ‘competitor’.

I had my team ready. I’d already been working with some VAs and trusted business owners so I knew who I could rely on. Without them I’d have been in a very difficult position.

2. Create a content log

Have all of your blogs listed in a spreadsheet, Google sheet, whatever you prefer using, so you can share access to it with someone should you need to take time out. That someone can then keep your social media and newsletter presence up and running while you’re not up and running!

You know the importance of consistent marketing!

I use a content log for all of my blogs, testimonials, media and PR so it’s easy for me to schedule or handover. It’s so incredibly useful.

3. Have an admin bible

Somewhere where all your processes are typed up, how to do every element of your day to day business.

I know that sounds like a right old pain, and possibly something that will stay on your to-do list for a long time without getting done, but imagine if you did have to take time out! You can easily email your admin bible to your virtual assistant, or someone else that you’ve identified to step in to cover your business during your emergency situation.

It’s also a really good idea to have an admin bible for the work you may regularly do for any clients, so you can hand that over to someone else too. Always have it checked and approved by the client, and stored safely, because of GDPR.

4. The 20% Rule

My 20% Rule is simple, always ensure no one client takes up more than 20% of your time, or your income.

If you do have to outsource some work when you’re ‘off’ and some clients don’t come back it’ll be okay, because you weren’t relying on a small number to keep you afloat.

5. Save like you’re going to Vegas

Always have some money saved up, ideally to cover you for three months – yes, this might mean no holidays one year, but how important is your business? Savings could mean you have so much less to worry about if you have to take emergency time out.

Once you’re a little better, tell your audience.

Don’t be afraid to let your audience know what’s going on so they can follow your journey, I found everyone incredibly supportive and it helped to get back into it all when I was starting to feel a little more energetic.

Sometimes, life gets in the way.