Q: Life and self-employment are filled with unexpected personal medical and family emergencies. As I run my small crafts business, how can I prepare for those times when, because of possible poor health, hospitalization, or my assistance with a loved one, I might not be able to work? I’m basically a one-person operation, so such events worry me.
—Julie Hammer, via e-mail

A: You’re enjoying a life as a self-employed craft maker filled with perks: no boss, you get to make your own hours, and your days are filled with the joy of creative activity. The craftsperson, however, gives up many of the traditional benefits offered an employee, including health insurance, vacation pay, and sick days. When things are good, it’s all about you; conversely, when things are bad, it’s still all about you. We all hope to live lives unmarked by emergencies; however, as you point out, they do happen. Whatever our occupation, it’s difficult to have a perfect plan. In your case, in addition to the need for financial security, an important consideration is the well being of your business, whether or not you intend to return to it after your absence.

I don’t need to tell you that we all need to save for the rainy day; we hear about this daily as the financial markets fluctuate and create a powerful sense of uncertainty. So, let’s think about nonfinancial ways to keep your business safe in difficult times. I’ve never done this, but, perhaps, it’s possible to have a production manual. I see this being very much like a cookbook, having a list of the materials needed and a step-by-step description of the construction process. It would be even more useful if there were pictures of the important procedures. This tool might let you hire a skilled person to do your work in your absence. If this doesn’t appeal or apply to what you do, think about notifying your customers that you’re taking a sabbatical in the case of an emergency. Be sure to let them know when you plan to return. You might send out something along the way just so they keep you in mind.