Freelancing On The Road: Preparing for Disaster Using Gmail

Vinyl Road Rage 2 on the roadby Joe Wallace

I’ve been posting a series of lessons learned from my travels as part of the Vinyl Road Rage series I’m writing over at, and wanted to include a simple trick I’ve been using for several years now as a way to avoid disaster as a hard-core road warrior and writer.

It’s bound to happen to you eventually–a laptop crashes to the floor of a coffee shop, your hard drive fails, files get corrupted, viruses, you name it. The bottom line is that as a writer, you depend a hell of a lot on these often-fragile things called computers.

What happens when you’re freelancing on the road, and suddenly the contents of your hard drive are unavailable?

A lot of people back everything up to flash drives and thumb drives. It’s a good idea, but I have been burned more than once in an emergency where I was forced to deal with outdated computer gear ┬áin a hotel lobby, airport, public library or other space where you might not be able to hook up a portable USB drive to a computer you need to use due to equipment or security limitations.

My solution? I compose everything in Gmail as a rich text e-mail and send it to myself. From Gmail I can copy/paste into Word or open up Google Documents and paste there, then download as a Word file and e-mail it on.

With Gmail, I always have my work with me, no matter what phone or computer I need to access. Unless you are limited to an old Sinclair or are trying to access the Internet using an Apple IIe, the Gmail solution is pretty useful.

It’s not the most elegant one to be sure, but it has really saved me in cases where I needed to make a deadline but couldn’t access my hard drive. You can get to Gmail from any computer, iPhone, Android, etc. make your modifications and send along. Yes, tweaking a document using an iPhone can be a major ordeal, but if it means the difference between staying on deadline or not, answering a client question or providing examples of your work in a pinch, there are much worse things that could happen.

3 thoughts on “Freelancing On The Road: Preparing for Disaster Using Gmail”

  1. Yep, that’s a tactic I use all the time — in many cases it’s easier to do that than copying stuff to my iDisc.

    When we travel internationally, I also email myself a copy of our passports, drivers licenses and detailed itineraries — just in case.

  2. Jake, the passport idea is brilliant. I saved my own bacon once with an e-mailed copy of my car insurance policy.

    I got stopped by an overzealous cop at a toll booth for taking off my seat belt to get to my wallet, he assumed I hadn’t been wearing it the whole time.

    When he asked me for my insurance card, I looked all through the glove box for it. He was SURE he had busted me and you should have seen the look of disgust on his face when I finally gave up and pulled it up on my iPhone.

  3. Joe, it’s galling that some bored cop would pull you over for that…but your solution was chock-full-of-quick-thinking awesome!

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