Have three copies of everything - a primary and two backups.
Have your files on two types of storage devices - a hard drive and a CD, for example.
Have one copy of your files off-site - such as Dropbox or another cloud-based storage provider.
Naming/labeling conventions so images can be easily found for editing or delivery, and other documents can be accessed quickly.
Contact information for all your current clients, including the procedure you’d like your emergency contact to utilize should you not be able to fulfill your duties.
A calendar of appointments, including dates, times, names, phone numbers, locations, and purpose of the appointment (i.e. “engagement shoot” or “initial meeting”).
A schedule of events for upcoming gigs. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, create an hour-by-hour schedule of the day, and include the name of the couple, their contact information, venue information, and the like.
A printed copy of all your current contracts, complete with invoices.
A list of second shooters and assistants that you’ve worked with in the past.
A list of vendors you work with, should your emergency contact need to have prints, albums, etc. made in your stead.
A detailed list of financial accounts so that if you’re out for a long time, your backups can pay your bills and collect payments.
A detailed list of all your logins and passwords, including for your website, social media accounts, email, accounting software, and the like.
It’s difficult enough to start a small business. Add to that the years and years it takes to master the art of photography, and by the time you open your business doors, you’ve invested an incredible amount of time and energy (and money!), all before you take on your first client.
So, why risk losing everything you’ve worked so hard for by not having a contingency plan in case of an emergency? Life is too unpredictable not to have plans in place to account for illness, injury, or some other type of disaster as the days go by.
Let’s explore a few things you need to have in your contingency plan.
This one is a no-brainer. Do not trust your clients’ images (or anything, really) to a single hard drive. You need a backup, then you need a backup of your backup. The rule of thumb here is to follow the 3-2-1 rule:
By following the 3-2-1 rule, you’re assured that if one set of files is corrupted, lost, or stolen, you’ve got two others somewhere else. And by having one set off-site, you have the peace of mind that if something were to happen to your office or house (flood, fire, etc.), you’ve still got all your files easily accessible elsewhere.
Build a Photography Response Team
If something were to happen to you and you can’t make a portrait session or wedding for which you’ve been booked, you need to have a list of trustworthy photographers you can contact to take your place. You also need to identify your “in case of emergency” contact people that will be willing and able to take on the task of organizing your photography response team in the event of an emergency.
Identify at least three to five photographers that could step in for you should something happen. Talk with them ahead of time about being on your emergency list, and, assuming they are on board with being your backup, write down all their information - name, phone number, email, business address, and the like - and create a chart that your wife, husband, mom, or whoever your emergency contact is can easily find should an emergency arise.
If you don’t know any photographers in your area, set about introducing yourself. Join local photography clubs, find other photographers on Facebook, establish relationships with high-quality second shooters, and if need be, reach out to photographers in neighboring cities. Even if your backup photographer is three or four hours away, at least you have someone that can cover for you in a pinch.
Outline Your Backup Plan
Having photographers in line to take your place in an emergency is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a contingency plan. You’ll need to outline everything from the procedures you follow at your photo shoots to your editing workflow to payments and deliverables. Essentially, you need to be specific enough that someone else can run your business seamlessly, at a moment’s notice, should something happen to you.
Follow the 3-2-1 rule and have three copies of your outline on two different mediums with one off-site. Make at least one of the copies accessible to your emergency contact so he or she can review it and set things into motion. Your outline should include the following:
Obviously, your emergency contact will need to know where to find these documents, so be sure to share its location and any passwords or logins they will need to access them. Also, it is imperative that you update this information constantly. Every new client you have should go into your emergency file, and every new phone number or change to your photography response team needs to be documented. Having outdated or incomplete information won’t do you any good.
Prep Your Clients
Lastly, be sure that your clients understand that you’ve got an emergency plan in place, so that if something were to happen, they won’t be left high and dry. Part of prepping your clients should be giving them assurances that your emergency photographers are every bit as talented as you. If possible, you might even give a quick introduction to your emergency contacts - just their name or business name, how long they’ve been a photographer, and a couple of reasons why you trust them with your business. If you can help your clients trust your backup photographers, and if you take the time to create a comprehensive contingency plan, your business should be able to carry on relatively seamlessly in the face of an emergency.