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freelancer sick dayYes, freelancers can make their own schedule, enjoy home office tax deductions, write while traveling, and all that jazz. What about sick days?

Yeah, that’s where freelancing isn’t so sparkly.

It’s been almost a month since we closed on our home, and that was the same day I developed an upper respiratory infection. I still couldn’t get through today without taking a Claritin!

sick dayFor two weeks last month I was really sick. I don’t need to go into the poetry of vomit and other delights, but with lack of sleep, congestion, coughing fits, and fighting the infection during the coldest weather I’ve experienced in Raleigh while moving our apartment life into our new home…there was no way to take a sick day.

Over the same time I had deadlines. If those weren’t met, I wouldn’t get paid. I had to prepare and send invoices. If those weren’t sent, I certainly wouldn’t get paid!

And we’ve had friends and family visiting! And an appliance company (::cough:: Sears) repeatedly failing to make deliveries.

Last week I came across an author’s blog post about being sick. She had a similar experience and asked her husband to draft an email to her clients advising them she was under the weather. I think this is a great idea, and hopefully it will be a very long time before I would need to consider employing it.


Since freelancers don’t get paid sick days, here are a few ideas to help those independent workers recovering from whatever ails them:

  1. Surrender and send. I like that author’s idea above of just creating a blanket message to clients advising them you’re ill and that work is on hold. Hopefully they understand and recognize illness is out of everyone’s hands. (In almost five years of freelancing, I’ve never resorted to this—so I would really hope clients would understand!) This of course does not solve the no-paid-sick days dilemma, but it at least sets clients’ expectations while you recover.
  2. Outsource. As a freelancer I don’t have another person to “cover” for me. However, I could have many. This requires serious advanced planning. I’ve been screening writers for over a year trying to find ones I can rely on in the event of a large project—or illness! I have not yet found the right people. If you are fortunate enough to have writers you can rely on in the event that you’re sick—this does solve the no-pay problem! At least you will still get paid something!
  3. Work through it. Which is what I did. (And still doing since I’m not 100% better!) Of course, my doctor has told me once again to reduce stress and this didn’t help matters. I’m sure the stress has contributed to why it is taking me so long to get well again!

I found the time waiting at the doctor’s office and waiting at the pharmacy—on multiple occasions the past few weeks!—to be rather productive. Both places have Wi-Fi and I spent the time responding to emails, and outlining and forecasting future content.

Regardless, freelancers don’t get paid sick days. But I prefer it over working in a cubicle all days.