I’m going to let you in on a little secret which will shock, dismay and maybe even anger you.
You’re not invincible. Some day or other you’re going to get sick and will be unable to meet a deadline. When that happens, the world won’t fall apart and neither will your or your client’s business. No matter how much you believe it would.
I can see from your expressions that you’re stupified. Horrified. Even terrified.
So was I the first time I realized that. I was ill and wasn’t going to be able to meet deadlines and *gasp* the freelancing world as I knew it didn’t end!
My clients all understood, my reputation remained intact and my business didn’t suffer at all!
The thing with a freelance business is that there isn’t any paid leave. There are also no sick days and no vacation time. Many freelancers end up panicking when they fall ill. Who is going to complete the project? I can barely stand on my feet, how will I meet the deadline?
Unfortunately, cold and flu don’t give a warning before attacking. You may wake up feeling fine in the morning but by the afternoon, your throat would be aching so much you can hardly swallow and your eyes would be burning. And as much as you want to continue working, you simply can’t.
To avoid the panic, you need to have a backup plan. A system you can put into place soon as you feel the first sniffles. Schedule your work around the possibility that you may fall ill.
Planning is the key to not missing a deadline even when you’re ill. Every time you decide on a deadline with a client, pick a date at least a couple of days after the date on which you know you can finish the work. This gives you a buffer in case you fall ill and make room for any other emergencies that may come up.
If you don’t fall ill and everything remains well, you can submit the work early. Your client is going to be happy and you’ll have a couple of days where you don’t have to stress over a deadline.
In case you do fall ill, that two-day buffer might be just what you need to recover. Even if you don’t get well before the deadline, it will give you time to make other arrangements.
One thing to keep in mind is to let your client know you’re ill regardless of how many days you have till the deadline. Inform them you’re sick and update them on the progress of the project so that they know how much of it is done.
Make it a point to mention that you’re confident that you’ll be fine in time to meet the deadline but you’re giving them a heads up as you won’t be working for the next couple of days.
In case you’re going to miss the deadline, assure them that you’ll let them know beforehand.
Don’t Stress and Just Call In Sick
If you’ve fallen ill with a deadline looming and have no plan to put into place then the only option you have is to call in sick. Clients aren’t inhuman. They understand that freelancers fall sick too. Instead of stressing about falling ill and not being able to work, call your client, tell them you’re ill and ask for an extension on your deadline.
There’s no need to stress about work. Most clients are very understanding and will probably tell you to rest and not worry about the work. Those who don’t might not be worth working for.
In order for this option to work, you need to have an excellent track record of meeting deadlines.
Things get tricky when you fall sick with a deadline coming up for a new client project. They haven’t worked with you before so they don’t know what a stickler you are for deadlines. If that’s case – you still need to call in sick and ask for an extension.
New clients tend to be understanding (albeit a bit wary) too. You can offer to have a former client vouch for you or you can try the next option.
Refer Someone Else
If the project is high priority, on a strict timeline or if it’s with a new client with whom you haven’t had enough time to build a solid reputation with, then referring someone else is the way to go.
Vouch for the freelancer you’re referring. Tell them that so and so person is an excellent freelancer and will take good care of them. Don’t forget to look over the final version to make sure it’s exactly how the client wants it.
When referring a freelancer, make sure it’s someone you’ve worked with before or know will do an excellent job. Choosing the right freelancer is crucial. After all, your reputation is on the line.
It’s highly possible the client will refuse your offer of referring someone. It could be because they’re happy with the amount of work you’ve already done, are beyond happy with your work or simply don’t want the additional hassle or worry of working with a new freelancer. Giving you an extension to the deadline is simpler.
Work Through the Sickness But Take Time Off Afterwards
Sometimes, you just can’t afford to take a break even if you’re sick as a dog. You have no choice but to work through your illness. You’ll be slow and feel sluggish but all of that will be worth it if you’re able to meet the deadline.
Again, do let the client know about you being sick. There’s no need to suffer in silence. If your client knows you’re bending over backwards meeting their deadline by working while sick, they’ll appreciate your extra effort. And if there are any edits needed or parts that need more work, they’ll be understanding about them.
So you’ve worked through your sickness, met the deadline and saved the day. Now you’re fine and see no reason to take time off. That’s where you’re wrong. Even if you feel fine, you still need your rest. If you don’t you’re likely to fall sick again soon.
You may have recovered now but your body’s immune system will suffer if you don’t rest.
Ask any freelancer and they’d say they would prefer to work through the sickness if they could – and most do. But it’s not healthy so if you’re working through your sickness, make sure you take some time off afterwards.
Let your client know that you will taking a couple of days off to rest once the deadline is met. No client on earth will argue with that and it would be foolish not to take advantage of it.
Your health is the most important aspect of your freelancing business. Your business won’t suffer if you catch a cold once in a blue moon. But if you don’t take care of your health and get enough rest, you’ll be falling sick more often than not and then your business will really suffer.
What do you do when you fall sick? Do you work through it or take time off? Share your tips for taking a sick leave as a freelancer!