Freelancing Stories: When A Neighbor’s Tree Kills Your Power

We freelancers have to be resourceful. Just how resourceful, however, our clients may never realize.

The fact is that Murphy’s Law is alive and kicking in the freelance world — anything that can go wrong generally will go wrong.

You’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced it. In most cases, we persevere. We get the project turned in on time and meet or exceed our client’s expectations. Things usually work out well.

It’s how we’ve dealt with Murphy’s Law, however, that makes for some really funny freelancing stories.

Just for fun, I thought it would be interesting if we all shared our brushes with Murphy’s Law. Here are two funny stories of things that have gone wrong for me during freelance projects.

The Neighbor’s Tree Killed My Power

I was sitting in our dining room (which I was using as an office at the time) working on a tight deadline when I heard a loud bang.

At first, I thought that someone had pounded on our aluminum garage door so I went outside to take a look. I didn’t see anyone in front of the garage, so I assumed that the noise had come from a bored neighborhood kid and went back indoors.

About fifteen minutes my lights started to flicker (an obvious sign to save any work on the computer if it should ever happens to you). Then the power went out.

The doorbell rang and it was the neighbor. “We were cutting down a tree in the backyard and we knocked your electrical box off your house.

Um, what!!!

I went around the side of the house to look. Sure enough – the box connecting the house to the electrical lines was hanging by a single wire (and that single wire was letting off sparks).

If you want to talk about bad breaks, surely this was one.

Needless to say, I was without electricity in my home for several days. Thanks to WiFi and the local library, I was still able to meet my deadline.

The Case of The Barking Dog

I love having my dog at home with me while I work. She listens without interrupting, and I feel much more secure with her there since she lets me know if someone is at the door.

She’s actually a very quiet dog. She only barks when someone comes to our door, and we’re somewhat amazed by how quiet she normally is. In some ways, she’s more like a cat than a dog.

Anyway, one spring afternoon I was rushing to meet a deadline (things always go wrong right before a deadline) when my dog started barking. Naturally, I assumed that someone was at the front door since that’s the only time that the dog barks. However, when I got to the door I looked out and no one was there.

Over the course of the next few hours, this scenario repeated itself four or five times: the dog barking, me checking the door, and no one being there.

Finally, I decided to wait by the door to see if I could figure out what was going on. I sat down beside the door and cracked the blinds ever so slightly so that I could see out, but no one could see in.

Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw two children (cute kids who couldn’t have been more than six years old) approach my door and begin to pelt it with pebbles. Just as before, my dog started barking. This time, however, I was ready. I opened the door before the kids could run away (while they were still throwing pebbles).

Please stop teasing my dog,” I said in what was hopefully my most authoritative voice.

Fortunately, once caught, the fun was out of the kids’ game and they stopped pelting my door with pebbles. The dog was quiet again and I was able to get my work finished and turned in.

Share Your Stories

What weird and unusual things have happened to you while you were freelancing?

Have you also done battle with Murphy’s Law?

Share your stories in the comments.


  1. says

    You have me stumped, Laura. I can’t think of anything particularly weird or major that has interrupted my schedule down through the years.

    Usually, much like a pestering fly, it is those little things that cause me so much trouble. Like phone interruptions, an urgent email message, etc. Of course, now I’m expecting something major to happen, but if it does I’ll try not to sweat it. Instead, I hope to work around it.

  2. says

    I don’t have any really bizarre stories like that but I really enjoyed reading about yours. Your story about the tree falling on your power box is really funny. I hope nothing like that happens to you again…or to me in the future!

  3. says

    My mum broke her hip and spent five weeks in the hospital the next city over. I drove to see her every day. My kid got lice – it lasted three weeks. The daycare threw all the kids out – no quiet time. My house flooded (welcome to spring thaw). My kid went back to daycare and got lice. Again. While my house was flooded. Did I mention this was while my mum was in the hospital?

  4. says

    I have a story about a bad storm screwing up multiple incomes and opportunities.

    Last year in December, New York was hit with a terrible ice storm. Every town and city had power knocked out and it was below zero. The day before, I had a massive rush of clients wanting my services, and they were going to send me downpayments the next day. Foolishly, I accepted them ignoring the fact my town was going to get hit the hardest. So the next day, the ice storm hit and our power line freezed over, unable to function. My power was down for four days and I had to sleepover at my boyfriend’s house for those days. I had no access to Photoshop, Dreamweaver or any program to design and code websites for people. Throughout those four days, I had to turn away several clients and explain my situation to them. Some of them waited for me, but most of them found another person. It was terrible, and I regret the missed opportunities I had.

    Thankfully I learned to install Photoshop and Dreamweaver on ALL my boyfriend’s computers. That will save me if I lose my power again ;P

  5. says

    when my power went down due to a squirrel trying to hop along the power lines and ending up getting shocked to death instead. I too used the free WIFI at my local college library. I sat near some library office staff and professors offices. They had partitions instead of walls – so everyone could hear them on the phone. That meant when I had a client call, I could take it without being shushed. It was a good short-term fix.

  6. says

    Wow, I’ve never had any problems like this.

    I picked up a cheap ups from which gives me enough time to shutdown my PC’s and NAS during a power failure. (Everything is also backed up daily off site so no biggie).

    I also have a laptop that will give me 2+ hours of working time in a power outage. I also have a car adapter for my car which will run my laptop for hours more, if required. Gas is cheap so I usually have both my vehicles full or near full of gas.

    I live in Mission BC Canada which is a 3.5 hour drive to Kelowna BC and a 1 hour drive to Vancouver BC. It would be very rare that power would be unavailable in both areas as they are divided by the rocky mountains.

    Internet cafe’s are great for short power outages.

    I don’t have a dog that barks.

  7. says

    Well, if I had no electricity for a few days .. all of my clients would be understanding and patient. The only thing is .. I don’t think I could last 1/2 a day without TV and the internet, so I would probably move to a hotel just so I can get me some wifi and TV :D Thankfully I have a bunch of hotel clients and can mix it up!

  8. says

    Thanks for all the Murphy’s Law stories!

    James – Lice – eeeww! They’re terribly hard to get rid of too. Sorry to hear about your Mum.

    Nicole – it sounds like you’re prepared for the next big storm. Good story!

    @CathyWebSavvyPR – That’s pretty funny – a squirrel killed the power. I can just imagine the professors talking loudly and you trying to work.

  9. says

    I was working in my PJ’s early in the morning and walked my niece out to the front of the house as her ride to school had just arrived. When I returned I realized that the door had accidentally shut and I was locked out. I had no shoes on and absolutely no way to get back in the house. Luckily I found some old platform shoes that belonged to my sister in a box in the garage (they were about two sized too small). So I had to walk about 1/2 mile uphill wearing pj short & platform shoes that didn’t fit, to the house my sister was working at in order for her to drive me back and let me back in the house. I’m just glad I didn’t get mistaken for a hooker walking up the street. ha ha!

  10. says

    Geeze! What a story, Laura! Lol. Children! What can I say? Well, I don’t have any bizarre stories about freelancing but what you shared was great.

  11. says

    Cynthia – What a great (and funny) story!

    I remember platform shoes. It’s a miracle you didn’t fall off and break your ankle. I can just picture you walking along in your PJs.

  12. says

    My internet service is terrible, such that every time we get a bad storm it tends to flicker on and off. I did most of the first project I got after moving to this town in a Safeway parking lot, as it happened to be during monsoon season. Thank God they had not secured their wifi – there’s no such thing as an internet cafe here and the coffee shops all close at 5p.m. (ugh, small towns). I don’t have any other options here, literally; the company that manages the lines for my cable service provider is the same company that provides DSL.

  13. says

    Just last night my Internet (and cable) went down at 9:30 p.m. I needed to translate a file and deliver it by 9 a.m. today and send an e-mail to another colleague telling her how many words I could take on today and tomorrow. I translated the file that night without the Internet to confirm several choices. I woke up at 8:00 hoping the Internet connection would be back on, but it wasn’t. I saved the file to a jump drive and noted the e-mail addresses I needed, grabbed my laptop and drove to the Panera Bread around the corner from me. I surfed their Internet from my car for an hour and managed to get everything sent off. Oddly enough I wasn’t the only person in the parking lot doing that…

  14. says

    LOL, great stories. The few times I have been caught out by poor weather (wirless internet) or excessive rain (dsl) I have found the local McDonalds a god send. Free WiFi, Free TV and cheap food haha.

  15. says

    Before I went full time freelance, I was moonlighting as a freelance writer while stationed in Korea at the American Forces TV Network in Kunsan. I woke up early one Saturday morning after a particularly Hunter Thompson-esque evening (damn you, Wild Turkey). I was hung over, feeling rotten, but anxious to get a couple of queries out the door. I went down to the base’s brand new coffee shop hoping to get some coffee, free wi-fi, and the peace-n-quiet to write a couple of editors.

    The coffee was lousy, and the wi-fi didn’t work, but I decided to press on. I was halfway through a query when I discovered the coffee shop wasn’t quite all the way finished. I learned this because my brain was violently jerked out of my hungover head by the sound of not one, but TWO jackhammers suddenly going full blast. I ran away screaming for an asprin bottle and an industrial sized ice pack.

  16. says

    Just a few days ago, something funny but annoying happened to me : I do translations in the French-English language pair, and I had accepted a project with a two hours turn-around. The weather was unbearably hot inside here in France (we don’t get to have AC here) and we had the windows open to try and get some air in… my daughter, who’s 4 yrs old, decided that would be a good time to play “throw my ball out the window”, we live in an apartment on the 4th floor of a building with no elevator. Guess who was the lucky one having to go down those 4 floors and back up with the ball ? Me, of course, as the only other adult home was my grandma, who is 78 years old and in not-so-great physical shape. She didn’t get the hint that throwing balls out the window was a bad thing. Therefore, she did it not once but three times. After the 3rd time, I decided that next time she threw the ball out the window, I’d go downstairs with my laptop and sit in the hall. I had someone attach a canvas bag with a string long enough to go down the 4 floors and hang it to the window. When a ball went out the window, they let the bag down and I put the ball in it and they pulled it back up. When I was done with my work, I came back upstairs… and that’s when my daughter decided she’d had enough of throwing balls out the window and stopped.
    And the summer break has only started… she doesn’t go back to school until September…. I can see a lot of working time down in the hall in my near future.

  17. says

    My web host is usually pretty good, but of course the only time my portfolio site is down is when I go into an interview and try to bring up my site to show people my work…the CEO even mentioned Murphy’s Law.

  18. says

    Since reading Tim Ferris’s four hour work week
    I try to keep my interruptions to a minimum.

    So far, I had nothing out of the ordinary to interrupt me
    in a fun way, but one thing I do have to share:

    When you work, try to get away from the family as much as possible.


  19. says

    Great stories!! I have so many instances where something has gone wrong, but when I try to think of one, I draw a blank..isn’t that how it always happens? Anyway, I really enjoyed yours and everyone’s stories! Thanks for sharing!

    Brenon MacLaury

  20. says

    The power outages here in El Salvador where I live are very common, and many times programmed, one of this days when I was preparing a work presentation for a client the energy goes out, as usual I think will be back in some minutes but after half hour I call the electric company and they tell me “this is a programmed energy cut, you where advised on sunday in one local newspaper, power will come back at 5 o´clock” and my meeting with the client was at 2 o´clock, needles to say i have to run to a restorant with wi-fi, not a near one since the power cut affect an area with about 10,000 homes and business, an in that momment I thanked god in my first decition as full time freelancer of buying a laptop and now I’m thinking in buying a portable printer since that day didn’t have enough time to print the material and have to do it in my clients office, embarrasing but after all was better than pospone the presentation.


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