By Lyndon Wood
PR professionals, meeting several deadlines at once can be a stressful deal at times, and let’s face it, when the pressure is on it’s sometimes easy to make mistakes. How often has a press release been published only for an error to be spotted afterwards? Perhaps an embargo has been breached by a journalist who accidentally published vital client information too early? Everyone makes mistakes at one time or another, but as a freelancer, such mistakes can result in serious consequences that could potentially dent your client’s business and damage your reputation. After all, PR professionals are in the business of ‘building’ reputations, and that’s what the client is essentially paying for.
Unfortunately, seemingly minor mistakes could result in the full wrath of a disgruntled client and the fallout could be even more stressful than those initial deadlines were in the first place, potentially resulting in loss of income and legal action. While this can happen even if you’re working for an agency, one would hope they have insurance cover to deal with such issues, but if you’re working alone, and you’re not protected, you could find yourself in hot water.
From refusing to pay fees, to compensation claims, to financial liabilities, if a client is convinced their brand has suffered due to bad advice, misrepresentation, a damaging piece of work, a breach of confidentiality, infringement of intellectual property rights, or even accidental transmission of a computer virus, it might be a good time to ensure you have money to protect yourself and your reputation – which is where Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI) comes into play.
Examples of potential professional indemnity claims:
- A small marketing company sued because of spelling errors and incorrect information in a flyer that has already been printed and sent out to customers.
- A self-employed web designer sued by a client who has been sent a bill by a third party, claiming their copyrighted images were in the client’s web design.
- A professional architect sued by a client because they have had to pay for changes to a building project due to flaws in the architect’s plan.
- A professional IT consultant who offers web hosting as part of their package sued because a cyber-attack meant a client’s website was offline and caused a loss of potential earnings.
Simply put, it’s a type of business insurance. Although not a legal requirement for most industries, and hopefully it is a policy one never has to use, in the event of an unhappy client it can ease the burden and provide reassurance as the policy could cover fees, legal costs, and damages.
Without it, you may need to be a fairly ‘wealthy’ freelancer. The risks involved in being a freelancer obviously don’t just apply to public relations professionals. Freelance designers, marketers, architects, and IT staff all face similar potential working-life challenges. Freelancing can be a rewarding yet risky business so make sure you’re prepared.
Lyndon Wood is CEO of Black & White, a professional indemnity insurance broker dedicated to the UK’s professional SME market.