When You Work for Yourself

Perhaps one of the factors of life as the self-employed freelancer is in regard to what happens when you get sick. Or, if it isn’t you who gets sick, a family member who you have to care for. Even for those under the impression that they rarely get sick, it tends to happen, as Murphy’s law dictates, at the least opportune time.

There are a few factors to consider here, and unfortunately, few solutions offered. However, bearing this in mind, it can help in alleviating client concerns when planning is done for this dreaded eventuality.

First, many clients will be reasonable if you get sick – it’s a risk they take working with a freelancer, and therefore they have already accepted that this may happen. As such, for non-urgent requirements, a quick email letting them know that you’re ill will usually suffice to remove the mundane tasks from your schedule as you recuperate.

Second, since you may get sick, it is prudent to avoid working to deadlines. With being ill occupying up to 2-3 days, a wise approach would be to target all deadlines to 3 days prior to the client-designated deadline. If you finish early, you can fine-tune for the last few days, or give the client the work ahead of schedule. If it requires an extra few days of work, you’ve built that into the schedule. And if you get sick, that’s okay because you still have some time for that.

Third, when emergencies come up, be prepared to work despite being sick. You might not be able to get out of bed, but your laptop may join you there as you log in remotely to the system and do what needs to be done.

Alternatively, have a network that you can fall back on in case you are unable to work. This network may not be able to help you for major projects, but if you are in a support role with fairly standard emergencies arising from time to time, then if you can find one or two people you can call on in a pinch to backstop you, it would help you in reassuring your clients as to what will happen if you should suddenly be unavailable.

In short, don’t wait for the inevitable to happen to start your planning – as the expression goes, an hour of planning can save you weeks of work.