It is a crisis that has become so familiar it has become a cliche: the writer finishes his work, sits back in his chair, smug and satisfied and then the power goes out. All of that day’s work has been lost because the writer didn’t save his work. Or someone spills something on the laptop and a year’s worth of work is lost because the author didn’t back up his hard work anywhere outside of his laptop. It is the reason autosave was invented and we all swear it won’t happen to us…but it usually happens to us at least once, right? Here are a few tips to help you learn from the mistakes of those who have come before you.
Backup Backup Backup
In addition to saving your work on your hard drive every couple of minutes, you should be saving extra copies of that work to the cloud and to an external hard drive or flash drive. You could go with a cheapo version that you can find pretty much everywhere, sure, but if you really want to protect your work, you’ll find an encrypted flash drive. These might cost a little more, but they last longer, are better built and some, like the ones manufactured by SecureUSB, also automatically copy and backup everything to cloud servers.
If you are selling your work, you will want to make sure you have hard copies on hand of all of your contracts, invoices, and tax forms. This will protect you in a myriad of ways (though most of them fall under the “legal” umbrella). For example, when you have a hard copy of a contract, your client cannot simply change a clause in the digital version and call it binding–at least not without your having signed on to the change and given a new and updated contract. Your tax forms will help prove your income to those who might question it or need proof of that income for other purposes (like how much financial aid you or your kids may qualify for in college).
Take time to review and understand how copyright law works. There is an unfortunately large population of people out there who (wrongly) believe that everything published online is fair use. If you want to make sure people don’t use or can be stopped from using your work without your permission, you’ll want to make sure that it is copyrighted and registered correctly. This helps give you legal backup if someone tries to claim that you stole it from them, or that they came up with the idea all on their own.
It might seem excessive, but it is always a good idea to trademark your name and any names under which you publish. It is also a good idea to trademark the titles of your pieces, any sites you run and any brands you are trying to build. This way if someone tries to impersonate you, you have legal recourse and the ability to make them stop (or pay you).
If you publish your work independently through your own website or blog, you will want to take steps to make sure that your website is properly secured against outside threats and hackers. This is particularly true if you use an open source CMS like WordPress. Add in some extra layers of encryption and security–both on the back end of your site and on your computer systems to prevent people from sneaking in and stealing your info. You might also want to disable the right-click copying function on your site to keep someone from simply copying and pasting your work on their own sites.
There are lots of posts out there that will help you figure out how to protect your rights as a writer. Use these tips to help you protect your actual work and, by extension, your livelihood.