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5 Ways to Keep Your One-Person Business Going If You’re Unable to Work

5 Ways to Keep Your One-Person Business Going If You’re Unable to Work

When you run a traditional business, employees can help pick up the slack if you’re ill, injured, or otherwise unable to work for an extended amount of time. But if you’re a one-person business, being forced to take days, weeks, or even months off has the potential of causing damage to the point where you have to close your doors for good.

This makes times like we’re seeing with COVID-19 extra scary. Not only can this novel coronavirus cause major issues with your physical health and longevity, but it can also greatly impact the health and longevity of your business.

What can you do to keep your one-person business going if, for any reason whatsoever, you are unable to work for an extended period of time? Here are five options to consider.

Keep Clients Apprised of Your Work-Related Status

If you’ve worked hard to obtain loyal clients, many of them may retain that loyalty in your time of need simply because you keep them in the loop about your work status. Depending on the type of services you provide, some may be willing to wait a bit longer on their project if it means that they’ll be able to work with you.

When you know exactly how long you’ll be off—such as if you’ve broken a bone and the doctor says it will take 6-8 weeks to heal—provide this information up front. If it is a more fluid situation, like when you’ve contracted the flu, send daily or weekly updates via email or text. Let your clients know that you haven’t forgotten about them and they’ll be more likely to wait for your return.

Give Yourself Wiggle Room on Your Job Deadlines

Whenever I receive a new project from a client, I always give myself more time than necessary to complete the job. This gives me a built-in buffer if something unexpected comes up that prevents or delays my ability to perform the work.

Make this practice part of your regular quoting process and taking unplanned time off isn’t quite so anxiety-provoking. Plus, if you are able to turn the project in early, clients are pleasantly surprised. This makes them want to continue working with you because you under promise and over deliver.

Turning in projects earlier than expected also opens the door to a little bit of compassion and patience should you run into issues from time to time. As long as pushing deadlines isn’t a regular practice, they’ll be more understanding of your current situation.

Offer Discounts on Delayed Projects

Another way to keep your one-person going if you are suddenly unable to work is to reduce your rates for clients who are willing to wait for you. As long as it isn’t something they need right away, offering a discount creates a win-win. They get your services at a lower price and you have work you can do once you’re able to return.

Offering a discount tells clients that you value their business and respect the sacrifice they’re making by agreeing to wait. It says that you value them and shows that you’re willing to reduce your own profit if it means keeping them as clients.

Hire Someone Else to Temporarily Provide Your Services

When our local area was hit with a good deal of rain, I received an email from my landscape company letting me know that the weather had put him behind schedule. As a result, he decided to contract another lawn care service to help take care of his customers.

Taking this action enabled this service provider to meet his obligations, while also notifying us that if someone else showed up, they could be trusted because they were handpicked by him and known to provide exceptional service.

Admittedly, choosing this option can eat into your profits. But if it means keeping your customer base happy, it may be better to forego a little bit of income right now in an effort to keep your loyal clients long-term.

Personally, I appreciated that my landscape company was willing to make that sacrifice. And it lets me know that, in the event that he cannot personally fulfill his end of the bargain, he will do what it takes to make sure we’re taken care of. That makes me want to stick with him!

Refer them to Someone in Your Field that You Trust

If all else fails and, for whatever reason, you’re unable to complete your client’s project, referring them to someone in your field that you trust to do a good job may be your best bet. You may lose some money up front, but loyal clients are likely to return. Even if they don’t, they’ll gain a good deal of respect for you because you were willing to put their needs and desires before your own.

Develop relationships with others in your field so you make a good referral. Think about who you’d go to yourself if you were unable to do your own work. Make contact with that person now and let them know that you want to use them as a backup for your clients.

If all goes well, they may consider doing the same for you. Just because they are technically your competition doesn’t mean that you have to always be at odds. Sometimes working together is mutually beneficial. Especially when the survival of your business depends on it.


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by Christina DeBusk // Freelance writer, author, and small business consultant committed to helping entrepreneurs achieve higher levels of success.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.