One of the biggest drawbacks to being a freelancer is the damage sickness can do to your business. When you work as an employee you get ‘sick days’ where you can recover at home and forget about work completely. Your colleagues keep things going in your absence. But as a freelancer, you’re often left alone to juggle schedules, cancel calls, modify deadlines, and worry about losing clients and income.
Everyone will get sick at some stage in their freelance career and it’s wise to prepare for this eventuality in advance. This can be achieved by developing emergency contingency plans, starting now, and which can be quickly deployed on the day sickness strikes. Doing so will allow you to take the time needed to recover and avoid added stress which will just prolong the illness.
So what are these contingency plans?
We explore 7 of the best ways to prepare for being sick as a freelancer.
Allow for some catch-up time
You might be tempted to fill your schedule to the brim. After all, the more billable hours you can fit in to your week, the more money you’ll make. This is great but when sickness or other emergencies happen, you’re then left scrambling to find ways to get everything done or delegated on time.
The best way to prepare for those inevitable sick days and for family emergencies, is to create free pockets of time each week or month, which can be used as catch-up periods. These can be planned in advance and then rescheduled to fit around visits to a doctor or an afternoon in bed.
Organize freelance backup partners
It’s easy to imagine the typical freelancer as a lone wolf, with just the client as a contact. Yet success freelancing usually requires a support network. This network is comprised of fellow freelancers in the same (and similar) industries. A strong network is a great source of client referrals and encouragement when times are hard.
A strong network also allows you to organize backup partners for when you or a loved one suddenly falls ill. A fellow freelancer, who you trust and whose work you respect, can jump in and temporarily pick up the slack (with your client’s agreement) until you are recovered or can organize alternatives. They are paid for the time they put in, including any rush or evening/weekend fees.
In return, you do the same for them, when they are sick.
Hire an assistant
If you have a little bit of time to prepare before an upcoming medical procedure and you know there will be a recovery process, then hiring a virtual assistant as a delegation partner might be a good idea. You may have rescheduled your client work but there’s still a lot of admin and marketing work to do, which for successful freelancers, never really stops.
Hiring a virtual assistant, or even a knowledgeable relative, can help you keep your freelance business ticking over while you focus on the recovery process. Your hired assistant can maintain your social media accounts, answer emails, send invoices, schedule work for the future, automate processes, update your website plugins, and generally ensure everything is running smoothly, ready for your return.
Prepare “I’m sick” client emails
Illness usually comes on suddenly. You wake up one morning and quickly begin to wish you hadn’t. When it’s all you can do to sit up straight without being sick, the last thing you want to be doing is writing emails, making phone calls, and rescheduling work.
This is where prewritten “I’m sick” template emails come in handy. Sending an illness notification is a good way to keep clients – and work partners – updated about developments which might affect their project. Instead of writing the email when your head is spinning, you merely add a quick detail or two to an already prepared document, and then simply press send.
Assign an emergency contact person
In the worst case scenario, you might be too ill to even to switch on your computer and send a few messages. If you’re desperately sick or have been injured, then you need someone to quickly take over the reins of your business entirely and contact the relevant people.
Assign someone you trust implicitly as an emergency contact person. Their duty is to update your current clients and colleagues in the event of something bad happening. This might mean providing this contact person with passwords to your email, work schedules, and cloud-based applications. A good way to do this is with a password manager where you give them an access code for emergency usage.
For most people, the emergency contact will be a spouse, parent, or other relative. They don’t need to have any knowledge of your work. They just need to know who to contact, what to say, and how.
Prepare spare articles and updates in advance
Depending on what type of freelancing you do, it’s possible to create an extra stash of work ready to send in the event of illness. This can apply to both client work and your own content marketing. For example, a freelance content writer working with a long-term client might prepare an extra couple of articles in advance, which can then be sent during an emergency.
The same applies for any freelancer who maintains a blog or social media account. Writing a few articles and updates, and keeping them stashed away for a rainy day can help you to maintain your marketing schedules even when confined to bed for a week.
Save money for long-term illness
Sickness can be temporary or it can be long-lasting. You just never know, no matter how healthy you think you are today. That’s why it’s wise to put aside a percentage of your income in case you fall ill. These savings will allow you to focus on recovery while still being able to pay the bills and look after your family.
Savings help reduce stress and panic associated with a sudden lack of income, especially if you’re not going to be working for a few months. Aim to amass, over time, enough savings to cover at least 3 months without any income at all.
Work with decent clients
While all the above preparations are essential for any freelancer, it’s also important to attract understanding clients. These are clients who you forge long term working relationships with because they love your work and respect you as a professional. They are also clients who understand that people do get sick and so will adapt their deadlines and wish you well when you’re suffering.
To attract these clients, you need to position yourself as a high level freelancer and charge rates in keeping with your experience and expertise. This is opposed to lowering your rates and trying to attract any type of business. Bad clients will not care when you’re ill. They’ll complain about even the smallest of delays and even cut you lose entirely if you have the misfortune of suffering from the flu for a week.
Prepare for any eventuality when it comes to your health. Plan ahead, arrange contingencies, and above all, save some emergency funds.