How Murphy’s Law Impacts Your Freelancing Business

by Laura Spencer

on August 29, 2012

in Business/Freelance

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How’s your luck?

If you answered “not so good,” then you may be suffering from the effects of Murphy’s Law. According to Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Of course, Murphy’s law is not scientific fact, but rather folk wisdom. But you probably already know that there are many times when, despite your best planning, everything seems to go wrong.

You might rush off to an important meeting, only to arrive and discover that you accidentally put on mismatched shoes. You might spend hours planning a relaxing time off with your family, only be deluged with emergency calls as soon as you leave. And when things go wrong, they usually do so at the worst possible time.

Freelancers can learn a lot from Murphy’s Law. While you might not be able to avoid it entirely, you can learn to manage your bad luck when it happens. In this post, I’ll share three examples of Murphy’s Law and explain how each situation could be managed.

Example #1: Murphy’s Law and Sickness

You might go days or even a week without any pressing projects, but it never fails. As soon as you get sick, you are approached about a rush job.

This happened to me. I’m rarely sick, but one day I went in for minor day surgery. As soon as I got home, I found an email in my inbox from a client who wanted me to handle a rush job for him that day.

Of course, I couldn’t take the project. Since I knew I was under pain medication from the surgery, I knew that I would probably goof it up if I tried to work on it.

In this instance, offering the client another alternative can sometimes work. You could say something like, “I have a few things to take care of today. Could I start it for you first thing tomorrow?”

Odds are good that many clients would say “yes.”

Example 2: Murphy’s Law and the Feast or Famine Cycle

Even the infamous feast or famine cycle is not immune from Murphy’s law. Every freelancer wants more work–except when they already have more work than they can handle.

I’ve often wondered whether potential clients have some sort of radar because they always seem to contact me when I’m at my busiest.

One way to deal with clients who contact you when your schedule is full is to let them know when you will be available. Often a potential client is willing to wait until you are available.

Another approach is to accept the work and then farm out to a subcontractor. Of course, you need to have potential subcontractors screened ahead of time to make sure that you have reliable and competent people to send the work to.

Example 3: Murphy’s Law and Meetings

Meetings provide ample opportunity for Murphy’s Law to kick in–especially when the meeting is face-to-face. There are just so many things that could wrong in a meeting.

Of course, the most likely thing to happen is that you will get lost–even with a GPS to help guide you (they aren’t always right, you know). This is what happened to me.

I was on the way to a meeting about an important job when I got lost. I managed to get my bearings and figure out where I was, but a quick glance at my watch showed me that there was no way I could make it to the meeting on time.

I decided to call my contact and let them know that I would be late. Thankfully, they were understanding and I got the job anyway.

What Do You Think?

I’m not sure what causes bad luck to occur when you least expect it, but when it happens to you–relax. We’re all only human.

Most of the time a quick explanation to the client or potential client is all it takes to make everything okay. After all, they’re human too and they likely have suffered from the effects of Murphy’s Law in the past. In a best case scenario, your bad luck can actually serve as an icebreaker with both of you swapping your bad luck stories.

Of course, if they don’t understand and you miss out on the opportunity it may be a blessing in disguise. Their lack of understanding could be indication that they would have been an unreasonable client anyway.

How have you faced and handle Murphy’s Law in your freelancing business? Share your stories in the comments.

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About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.