Will Your Freelancing Business Rest in Peace?

What will happen to your freelancing business if you die?

It’s the freelancing plan nobody wants to make, but every freelancer needs to think about. If you were suddenly to become critically ill or even to die, do you know what would happen to your freelancing business?

Most of us can’t answer that question. That’s because most of us haven’t really given it much thought. However, the unexpected happens every day. And during a critical illness or after your death your loved ones may really need to access any payments that you are entitled to. For the sake of your loved ones, it’s best to be ready.

I’m not a lawyer, but this post contains some actions that a freelancer can take to make sure that, in a worst case scenario, your loved ones know your wishes regarding your freelancing business and understand how to carry them out.

Make an Information Packet

You can start by creating an information packet about your business. The packet should contain detailed information about every aspect of your freelancing.

(Note: if you don’t want to write passwords out in the packet, consider using a software tool that stores passwords securely. You need only provide your loved one with access to this software tool and they should be able to open your accounts.)

Your packet should include information about:

  • Your Business–It’s not unusual for the friends and family members of a freelancer to have no idea of what their freelancing business is all about. Your packet should include a detailed description of your freelancing business.
  • Your Website(s)–Make a complete list of all websites that you own pertaining to your freelancing business. This could include: your business site, your business blog, and your portfolio site.
  • Accounting Information–Explain where the accounting information for your business is kept. Be sure to specifically mention where they will find your accounts receivable (money owed to you) and your accounts payable (money that you owe).
  • Your Social Media Accounts–If you’ve created social media accounts specifically for your business, make a list of those accounts. Make sure that your loved one knows about your wishes regarding these accounts.
  • Online Payment Sites–Your information needs to include your accounts at any online payment sites, such as PayPal, that you use to receive money.
  • Your Client List–Your loved one may need to contact your current clients to collect payments that are due and to let them know that you will be unable to complete work in progress. Make sure that your contact information is complete and up to date.
  • Your Vendor List–You should also make a list of the companies that you regularly do business with. Your loved one may need to cancel or change any standing orders that you have. This could include your business phone line, internet hosting service, and other service proivders.

After you go over the information packet with your loved one, put it in a safe place that you both agree upon. Your shared safe deposit box might be one such place.

Go Over the Information Personally

There’s nothing like hands-on experience to help aid the memory. If at all possible, I recommend going over the information packet with your loved one personally ahead of time. That way, you can answer questions and clear up any misconceptions that they may have.

Show them each of your websites and social media accounts and have them practice logging in. Ask them to find your accounts payable file or your client list. Make sure that they understand how your PayPal account works.

Document Your Wishes

Make your wishes regarding your freelancing business known in your will or in another written document. Remember, no one will carry out your wishes if they don’t know what they are.

It’s particularly important to leave instructions regarding the disposition of your freelancing business if you have a sizable business. For example, if you are in a partnership or your business has evolved into a small agency, you especially need to document your wishes regarding the future of your business.

For example, in a partnership does your share of the business go to your spouse or to your partner? If you have an agency, do you wish the freelancing business to be sold for a profit after your demise?

A good attorney can help you determine what is realistic and appropriate for your situation.

Your Turn

Have you made any plans for your freelancing business if you become sick or die? If so, did I leave any steps out?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Thom Quine

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the advice on the information packet. I am semi-retiring and have an associate who is working with me to take over some responsibilities so I have more time to care for my husband. I’m going to make sure my associate has all this information–I’ve been planning on getting with her to show her my files and this list gives me ideas of things I need to be sure she knows.

  2. says

    This hits close to home. My dad died unexpectedly at 59 1/2 (back in 2001), and I was responsible for getting his books in order–no easy trick, though his mind worked similarly enough to mine that I was able to ferret out the issues. My mom had no clue, and my brother and sister weren’t up to the task.

    Even though he was self-employed, I figure my business and overall finances are far more complicated than his, and I’m not any more organized than he was. My wife is only aware in the most general terms who my clients or projects are at any given time.

    So, an excellent reminder here, Laura. And it reminds me that I need to add my wife to my LLC and then business back accounts, something I’ve been putting off!

  3. says

    I have backup plan in place. I own half of the company and my partner owns the other half and we are sharing all the important files and information. So if something happens, even if one of us don’t have internet access for a while there will still be one person who can replace.
    But if something happens with both of us then that’s about it…

  4. says

    Lillie–You’re very right. This would work for retirement as well.

    Dr. Freelance aka Jake Poinier, I’m glad the post helped. Yes, definitely take care of this.

    Steven–It’s great that you’re prepared. :)

  5. says

    Very good suggestions. I’ve often advised colleagues (and friends) to give passwords and other important business information to a trusted person in case of emergencies. I have a password list that I share with a colleague and a client/project list that she would see immediately on turning on my desktop ‘puter. My husband is computer-phobic, so he knows to call her rather than try to tackle computer stuff on his own if anything should happen to me; I also figure he might be too distraught to communicate coherently with my clients if I were incapacitated or gone. What I might add to the project info would be names of a few people I would trust to be referred to my clients if I’m not in a position to work or refer their projects for them.

  6. says

    Hi Ruth E. Thaler-Carter!

    If you have a computer-phobic loved one, using another trusted person is a good idea. :) The main thing is to make a plan for such situations. Too many freelancers don’t think about it at all.

  7. says

    Interesting!! I never thought about this situation, but you are right, every one should think on these lines while running a business. I prefer to share all your business details with someone close in the family. Make sure to teach him or her enough about your freelancing business that can help him running the business without you. It is always good to have a human backup for your business :)

  8. says

    This is all great information, and I do have much of this gathered in a database where my husband knows to look, but some of this information my husband has no idea about (I questioned him). My husband has been in the process of creating this type of document for the personal accounts he takes care of, but I hadn’t thought much about needing to give him this information about my business–until I read this article!

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