As an employee, your employer probably gave you paid sick time. But now that you’re a freelancer, you’re on your own. If you don’t work, you don’t earn, which can put a lot of pressure on you to keep going even when you’re not well. Fortunately, it is possible to call out sick as a freelancer – while still paying your bills and maintaining a good relationship with your clients.
Here’s how to do it:
Plan Ahead of Time
It’s inevitable. At some point, you will get sick. So, put yourself in the best possible position for it by planning ahead.
Beef up your emergency fund or other savings. If being sick causes your income to take a dip, you can tap into that money to cover your expenses without worry.
Then, give yourself extra time to do every project. If you get ahead, that’s great. But, if an unforeseen circumstance like illness pops up, you can take care of yourself and still meet your deadlines.
Finally, build a solid rapport with your clients and be super reliable. That way, they’ll be more understanding if you do have to turn in an assignment late.
Pro Tip: While it won’t work for every business or client relationship, consider building a bench of subcontractors or other freelancers you can call on to complete your projects on your behalf. This could be especially helpful if you’re going to be out sick for an extended period of time.
Depending on the arrangement, it could keep some income flowing to your bank account. At the very least, your clients will get what they need in your absence. If you go this route, make sure all parties (you, the subcontractor, and the client) are on board and have agreed to the terms in writing.
Listen to Your Body and Mind
Stay in tune with what your body and mind are telling you. Ignoring any health concern can lead to worse, longer-lasting, and more expensive ailments down the line, so it’s best to address it as soon as possible.
When you’re feeling off, be honest with yourself. Are you just a little under the weather, or are you down for the count?
If you’ve got the sniffles or you’re just slightly fatigued, a slower-paced work day or two may be all you need. After all, taking naps between tasks is a huge perk of being self-employed.
But, if you’re truly physically or mentally unable to handle your work, hit that pause button, get lots of rest, and seek medical care as needed.
Related Reading: Health Care for Freelancers: 7 Options
Communicate with Your Clients
If taking a sick day will cause you to miss one or more deadlines (and that’s OK!), reach out to your client(s) as soon as possible. Tell them you’re not feeling well and that you need to take care of yourself. If you can, let them know when you expect to be back in the office — and when they can expect your work to be completed.
Don’t be afraid. Your clients are people, too… people that also get sick. They’re likely to be very understanding. Just keep them in the loop if your timeline changes.
Pro Tip: If calling out sick isn’t going to impact any of your deadlines, you don’t have to do much. Consider putting up an out of office message, so you don’t feel like you need to monitor your email inbox. And don’t forget to reschedule any meetings that you’re going to miss.
Check Your Mindset
Remember: you’re doing the right thing. Even though relaxing and putting everything on pause may make you feel guilty or lazy, know that you’re actually doing yourself — and your clients — a favor. Taking a sick day (or days) now will ensure that you don’t get even sicker for longer later.
Rest Up and Get Better
You’ve prepared for this day, and you informed your clients. Now, the only thing you’re responsible for is getting rest and seeking any treatment you may need. So, put on your favorite jammies, snuggle under the blankets, watch some trashy re-runs on TV, pop some medicine, take a nap, call your doctor, and do anything else you need to do to heal.
Hopefully, you’re up to full strength soon and can get back to doing the work that you love!
That’s it. If you do a little prep work, have a great relationship with your clients, be honest about your health needs, and keep the lines of communication open, you can call out sick as a freelancer. Once you’re well, you’ll rock that freelance business again in no time!
Learn by listening? Check out this podcast episode about how to call out sick as a freelancer.