How to Protect Your WordPress Business from a Major Life Change

For those of you working in the United States, you’ve probably been questioned before about whether or not you’ve experience a major life change over the last year. I know I generally encounter it twice each year: first, when I apply for health insurance coverage in January; second, during tax season.

Typically, the question is framed like this:

Major Life Change - Special Enrollment Period
A typical questionnaire from the U.S. government to the freelancer.

Basically, the government wants to know if anything happened to you outside (or even inside) your job that would potentially affect your revenue stream.

When I first started freelancing and encountered these kinds of questionnaires, I didn’t really understand why anyone would need to pry into my personal matters. Having now been through some shake-ups in my life while trying to run a freelance writing business, I now completely get why this matters.

To put it bluntly, disruptions–both good and bad–are going to affect your WordPress business at some point. Plain and simple. There’s no getting around that fact. So, let’s talk about the kinds of major life changes you may run into, how they can wreak havoc on your business, and give you some practical tips on how to prepare and handle them going forward.

What Does a Major Life Change Actually Look Like?

There’s already so much you have to worry about within your WordPress business. It’s scary to think that any sort of life change, disaster, personal crisis, or disruption to your work can have an overwhelmingly negative effect on your business, too.

Sometimes these disruptors don’t even come from anything bad. Take having children, for instance. Or getting married. These are moments to celebrate… and yet there’s no denying that they can and probably will have an adverse effect on your business.

Here are some examples of big life events that can have a trickle-over effect on your business:

  • You get married.
  • A personal relationship ends.
  • A professional relationship ends.
  • You buy or sell a home.
  • You move to a new town, state, or country.
  • You graduate from school.
  • You or your spouse has a baby.
  • Your child(ren) starts a lengthy summer vacation.
  • Your grown child graduates from school.
  • You hire a new and much larger client.
  • You receive a promotion from one of your clients and, consequently, a lot more responsibility.
  • You lose a major client.
  • Your spouse loses his or her job.
  • You experience a death of a close family member, friend, or colleague.
  • You or someone close to you becomes seriously ill.
  • You or a family member becomes injured.
  • A natural disaster causes destruction to your home, business, or website.

With a lot of these, it’s really hard to predict if or when any of them will happen. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to deal with them when they do.

Side Effects to Expect

In data provided by the American Psychological Association, the leading causes of stress in the U.S. were attributed to things like job pressures, cash flow problems, failing health, and relationship troubles. And these kinds of stressors don’t just lead to what we normally think of when we label ourselves as “stressed out”.

48% of people surveyed said these stressors impacted both their personal and professional lives.

Physical Wellness
Stress can physically manifest itself. Of particular note are the 51% of people who felt more fatigued, 44% who suffered from headaches, and 34% who experienced stomach aches as a result of stress. When you’re trying to keep your head in the game and your pipeline of work moving, these physical symptoms could hold you back.

Mental Wellness
On the mental and psychological side of things, 54% of people have lashed out at people around them because of stress. Additionally, 50% of people reported greater irritability, 45% felt nervous, and 35% were on the verge of tears as they battled with out-of-control life changes.

Work Quality
When life throws a wrench into the works, it can often be difficult for the freelancer or solopreneur to let go of their daily work habits. And it’s this inability to pull back and strike a better balance that can lead to a drop in performance and productivity in your work.

Reliability
Your business depends on your ability to deliver a great product and to do so on time. However, let’s say you have a big cross-country move coming up. Or your wife has had more and more doctor’s appointments lately. As competing priorities wiggle their way into your life, something has got to give. Unfortunately, your ability to meet demands and deadlines may be the part of it that does.

Client Relationships
Even if you have a really solid client list going into this turbulent part of your life, there’s nothing that guarantees you’ll be able to maintain the same type of relationship with them during it. Nor can you really be expected to handle major shifts in clientele during these periods either, especially when onboarding new clients.

Our bodies and minds all react uniquely to stressful situations, so it’s hard to say what exactly you can expect to feel or experience as a result. That said, big changes will cause something to slip in your business–be it your ability to stay focused, to maintain productivity, to make good judgment calls, to produce high quality work, and so on.

To get through this, the key then is to know how to take care of your business and yourself at the same time.

9 Things to Do to Protect Your WordPress Business from a Major Life Change

Sadly, it’s not through lack of trying to balance and manage it all that you may find your business floundering after a major life change. It’s just that you’re a freelancer. You don’t have an employer from which you can collect PTO nor do you have a large team to rely on to help pick up the slack. All of this falls on you.

Which is why you may feel tempted to just push through with a “business as usual” approach. And that’s a bad idea.

Instead, let’s look at practical ways in which you can weather this kind of “storm”, so both you and your WordPress business can make it out safely on the other end.

1. Automate Your Business

Whether you work on your own or you have a small team that works with you, automation will greatly help you bring some consistency and control over your operation before anything has a chance to wreck your flow. In general, this is a really good habit to get into.

To start, take full advantage of all the opportunities WordPress gives you to automate the digital side of your business.

Next, start looking at turning your business into as well-oiled of a machine as an agency. Even if you’re not trying to scale your business, hire a team, and expand your offerings, many of the techniques used to run an agency would come in handy if you’re struggling to keep your business afloat later on.

Finally, look into ways to generate passive income with WordPress. If you can do that now, it will take some of the pressure off to keep your business running at top speed as you deal with everything else.

2. Get Insurance

For freelancers, insurance can get expensive. However, it’s a necessary evil if you want to keep yourself protected. There are three kinds of insurance I would recommend:

  1. Health insurance: Obviously, to ensure your healthcare costs don’t put you into serious debt.
  2. Disability insurance: This kind of insurance provides freelancers with a partial salary in the case something happens to you and you’re unable to work. Freelancer’s Union offers this.
  3. Renter’s or homeowner’s insurance: If you work out of your home, this one is particularly important so that, in case of a natural disaster, you can restore everything as quickly as possible.

3. Secure Your Business with Contracts

Freelancing might seem easy to those who don’t do it. But we know better. We understand that not everyone is trustworthy and honest, which is why any relationship entered into needs to be secured with an iron-clad contract.

Just as you would protect the integrity of your business and body with insurance, you should do the same with your relationships. This means getting:

  • Every client to sign a business contract.
  • Every vendor to sign an agreement to the terms of service.
  • Every employee to sign an agreement regarding termination of contract or employment.
  • Every business partner to sign a founder’s agreement. (If you also happen to be married, this might mean getting a prenup/postnup, too.)

4. Create a Finance Management Plan

One thing I hadn’t counted on when I started my business was the end of my long-term relationship in the midst of it. I launched my business believing that I would have a certain amount of rent and bills to pay each month, and that I could survive well enough on my growing salary until I was able to build a steady base of clients.

Then I found myself having to coordinate an out-of-state move and find an apartment large enough to house my life and my business. Having split bills 50/50 for over five years and having lived in more rural parts of the U.S., neither I nor my business’s income were prepared to handle the sudden increase in costs (not to mention the ridiculously expense move).

So, my advice to you, is to create a finance management plan that can account for a potential shift in your revenue or costs. Put money aside, start investing, create a 401k, and be prepared financially to get through life’s big changes.

5. Make a Plan for the Predictable

Some of the examples I mentioned above can be planned for, which is nice. If you have a year or even a few months to figure out what you’re going to do about your business while you go on a two-week honeymoon or after a major surgery, make the most of that time.

Plan for these known or predictable changes and be proactive. Front-load your work and get it done ahead of time. Notify your clients so they can prepare for a temporary absence or lighter availability. And do your research: what options do you have? Can you reasonably work through it? How much do you need to cut back? What sort of changes does this mean for your business?

6. Acknowledge It

The worst thing you can do is pretend like this change isn’t happening. I’m not saying to dwell on it either though. However, if you try to ignore the disruption or even lie to your clients (or yourself) about your ability to get through your work, you could be faced with some serious damage to your reputation in the end.

That said, your clients don’t need to know that a family member has died or that you recently lost your business partner (who also happened to be your wife). Keep it professional, but also inform them that you are dealing with some “personal issues”.

Let them know exactly what they can expect of you. Then assure them you will be prepared to come back and kick ass as soon as this stressful time has passed. You’ll find that they’ll be more appreciative of you putting their work on hold rather than pushing through and only being able to give it 75%.

7. Don’t Make Any Big Decisions

One major change is enough to handle. Do not complicate this time any further by making big decisions for your business. This means don’t take on new clients. Don’t fire any employees. Don’t change any of your processes. Don’t decide to quit your job and run off to become a guru in Nepal.

Simply take time to center yourself, focus on controlling what you can in the moment, and work your way positively through the current circumstances.

8. Get Support

If you haven’t done so before this change entered your life, this is the time to look into hiring someone to help. While you may be able to maintain a somewhat regular schedule as you navigate this time, if you want your business to stay afloat and not have to slow anything down in the process, someone will need to be hired.

Also, look for more opportunities to connect with your personal support network. There’s absolutely no reason you need to go through this alone. Allow them to help you at work, give you a loan (if you need it), or just keep you company in your off hours.

9. Settle into the New Normal

It’s going to take time to adjust to your new normal after any major life change. Rather than try to rush back to work after a parent died or go back to working full-time a month after the new baby was born, regroup and figure out what your new normal should look like. It’s okay if your approach to business (or even the business itself) needs to change after the event, so long as you can keep moving onwards and upwards after it.

Wrapping Up

No one ever said running your own business would be easy. And it’s kind of hard to accept the notion that things will ever be out of your control, especially when your business model relies so much on your ability to maintain firm control over every element of a client’s website. But s*** happens. Life brings major changes with it. All you can do is try to be prepared for it when it happens and not let it tear your business to the ground in the process.

Suzanne Scacca
What’s one piece of advice you absolutely swear by as it pertains to dealing with a major life change?