Preparing for Disaster as a Freelancer

Imagine waking up one morning, booting up your system and realizing that your hard drive is dead. Or maybe you returned from vacation to see that your office has been flooded.

These scenarios would be difficult for anyone. But, for a freelance designer, it could put you out of business.  That’s why you need to be prepared for the worst. Having an emergency plan in place is vital for any business. When your business lives on a single computer, your livelihood is at stake.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a potential disaster:

Back-Up Your Files On-Site and Off

This may seem obvious, but it amazes me how many people still don’t back up their work on a regular basis. With the plethora of back up utilities that are around (I prefer the free tool SyncBackSE), there’s no excuse not to keep your archive current. Windows 7 users even have a utility built in to the OS. Use it to schedule a back up to an external hard drive or USB flash drive each day after you’re done with work.

Image Source: Acronym of B2D – Backup to via Shutterstock

You should also consider backing up files online as well. That way, you have a second layer of protection if there is a hardware failure or natural disaster. I’ve been a happy user of Mozy for several years, but services like Carbonite and Dropbox are also quite affordable and popular. You can then download any lost files to your system. They even allow you to access your files from a mobile device.

What to Back-Up

Image Source: Filing cabinet with folders via Shutterstock

Of course you’ll want to back up the core files of your websites. But don’t forget about these important files:

List of FTP Sites
This one can save you a lot of headaches. Your FTP client may have a way to directly create a back up from within the program, or you may need to look in the program’s folder on your computer. Either way, make sure to keep this list current. The same thing goes for all of your CMS logins.

Graphics
It’s not only important to back up the graphic files that are directly used on your website, but it’s also worthwhile to back up your layered PSD files, Fireworks files, etc. Odds are, you’ll need them again in the future.

Photoshop Filters, Brushes, Actions, Custom Shapes
They are resources that help you express your creativity. Spending hours trying to find lost ones online isn’t quite as helpful. Back them up!

Fonts
Ever open up a file in Photoshop and discover that the original font you used is missing? Make sure to keep an archive of all the fonts on your system.

Contracts and Proposals
This one got me last year when my PC’s motherboard and hard drive failed. I lost a lot of important documents. Now, they’re backed up daily.

Email
While lots of people are using services like Gmail to store messages online, some are still using standalone email clients with old fashioned POP accounts. If you’re in that group, backing up your email is a good idea.

Financial/Billing Data
I use QuickBooks to keep track of my billing. It features a setting that will allow you to back up your data each time you close out of the program. Whatever system you use to keep track of finances, this one’s very important. You don’t want to have to try and figure out how much money your clients owe you.

Apps & Utilities
Since we often purchase our software online, we may not have that "hard copy" on a disc. Keep an archive of important software and their serial numbers. If you do happen to have some important software on disc, it’s a good idea to invest in a fire-resistant (and waterproof) safe.

In Conclusion

It’s easy to say "I’ll get to this another day". Take some advice from someone who has lost pretty much all of the items above at one time or another. Spend an hour or two now to set up a back up schedule. Make sure all of your important files are included.

If and when a hardware failure or other disaster strikes, you’ll be glad that you were prepared for the situation.

Have any other ideas on preparing for a disaster? Please feel free to share them below!

Author: (13 Posts)

Eric Karkovack is a web designer with well over a decade of experience. You can visit his business site here. In July 2013, Eric released his first eBook: Your Guide to Becoming a Freelance Web Designer. He also has an opinion on just about every subject. You can follow his rants on Twitter @karks88.

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