Coping with illness as a freelancer
Coping with Illness as A Freelancer

We’re currently 27 days into January 2020, and I have been ill for every day of this decade so far. It started as a tickly cough, and then developed into a sinus infection, and finally I was hit with a chest infection. It hasn’t been a fun ride so far.

If I was working in an office job, I likely would have dragged my sorry arse into work every day and struggled through. But because I make my own schedule, I was able to take a step back and give myself time to heal.

But taking almost 3 weeks off work is not easy. Especially when your clients still have the same expectations of you. So, how did I manage it?

If you’re a freelancer struggling with a short term illness, here are a few things you can do to make life easier.

Make a list

Everything in my life starts with a list. When I first realised I was Exorcist sick, I had to figure out which tasks were essential and which ones could be pushed.

I made a list of everything I had to do in the next 3-4 weeks. I then split things into “shit will hit the fan if I don’t do this” and “I can push this back without any major consequences”.

Decide how much work you can do

Only you know how sick you are. I found that I felt worse in the morning, but I had a brief burst of energy in the middle of the afternoon. So I would take it very easy in the morning, get through a few essential tasks in the early afternoon, and then hunker down with a cup of hot lemon and honey in the evening.

I worked my way through the essential tasks and kept rearranging the non-essential tasks as my illness progressed.

I worked from bed when I needed to, and I worked at my desk when I felt a little better. When you’re sick while freelancing, you have to milk the benefits of working from home!

Let your clients know

I worried that I was being unprofessional by emailing clients to tell them that I’m sick. When you’re running your own business you want to give the impression that you’re bulletproof. But remember that you’re human, and your clients are human, too.

How you approach them all depends on how sick you are and what will happen to the projects you are working on.

  • If you can’t work at all, you need to pass the work on to a freelance buddy and let your client know what is happening.
  • If you’re going to keep on top of essential tasks, you might be able to get away with not mentioning anything if you want to.

I have found that clients just appreciate being kept in the loop. You know your clients best.

Pass on urgent work

Having a few freelancer buddies who can help pick up the slack when you’re sick can really save your reputation. You might lose a bit of money on these projects, but it’s better than letting your clients down. You might even lose clients if you fail to deliver on time.

Put your health first

Running your own business is great and all, but your health is important. Don’t work yourself into the ground just to prove a point to your Instagram followers.

Taking a bit of time off doesn’t have to ruin your business. The work will be waiting for you when you’re back to 100%.

Over to you

This article looks at short-term illnesses, but I recognise that some people deal with illness every day. Do you cope with a long-term illness as a freelancer? Or do you have your own tips for people coping with short term illness? Let me know in the comments!

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