Downside of Freelancing: Illness

You wake up one morning and you have a bit of a headache, maybe a sore throat too. You didn’t sleep all that well and when you stand up you feel nauseous – maybe you are sick. You go to work anyway and by lunchtime, you have a nasty cough, a terrible fever. All you want to mdo is curl up into a ball and go to sleep. You get sent home and spend the rest of the day in bed – maybe somebody else will finish that particular task.


It’s all nice and cosy when you work for somebody; in most cases, you’re entitled to some degree of sick pay (at least, you are here in the EU – I can’t speak for our American cousins) and some businesses will let you have the day off with full pay if you’re only off for a day or two. Now, I don’t do the Man Flu thing and I would rather soldier on and be sent home than to ask to be sent home. I often feel I’m not ill enough unless somebody else notices that I look like sh*t.

There’s a particularly nasty bug going around at the moment. I am just getting over it and sadly, my partner now seems to have picked it up. I hope it wasn’t me who gave it to her, she seems to have picked it up very quickly from me so it’s likely she got it from somebody at work – but her symptoms seem identical to mine either way.

Of course, I’ve been ill since becoming self-employed, but so far not ill enough that I’ve struggled to sleep, struggled to stay awake, struggled to concentrate, have a constant dry cough, a constant headache brought on by violent coughing, persistent violent sneezing with blood in the tissue and so on. Though you will have nobody trying to guilt you into the office when you work for yourself, one of the disadvantages of working for yourself is that the work will wait for you – there’s never going to be somebody to do it for you and if you don’t do the work you don’t get paid. If you really are too ill to work from the comfort of your warm and cosy bed, here is what I recommend you should do.

  • If you simply have to work, do little and often. Don’t cram everything, spread it out over the week as much as you can. It could be you won’t be able to concentrate for long periods anyway
  • Schedule the more strenuous or lengthy tasks for later when you are likely to have made a partial recovery. Do any easy or quick work first and you’ll amaze yourself how much you can accomplish while saving the harder stuff for later
  • For time-sensitive work or stuff you know cannot wait, tell the client(s) immediately that you are too ill to work but will contact them again soon. Preferably, give them a revised schedule of when they can expect more work
  • Slow down taking on new work – the money is great but you don’t want to overburden yourself and have too much to do while you are recovering
  • If you’re feeling under the weather but not too ill to work, create a pleasant environment that you may work in. Stay in your PJs and prop yourself up in bed and have a constant stream of hot drinks. It’s amazing what feeling warm and cosy can do
  • Don’t push yourself; I’m sure your client would rather wait a couple more days for high-quality work than something sub-par on time

2 thoughts on “Downside of Freelancing: Illness

  1. andfreed

    When I am really sick I sometimes find it impossible to write. Thanks for the great tips, I will keep them in mind for next time I don’t feel well – which hopefully won’t be too soon. πŸ™‚

    1. I don’t know whether you have had this big going around this side of the Atlantic, but it was quite nasty. The cold part went in about 4-5 days but the headache lasted at least ten days and I only got rid of the cough about 6 days ago – it lasted almost a month! My friend’s girlfriend got it about the same time I got it and has only just got over it.

      Nasty little bug. Someone thought it might be norovirus but I didn’t get the D&V that is the most common symptom of that.

      I really struggled to concentrate on some of my tasks that week but I had to get the work done because the clients expected it. The clients who were affected were perfectly fine with it. Most people are pretty receptive and understanding πŸ˜‰

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