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One Flu Over the InterNest


So, I got the flu. And, besides the obvious bummerosity of feeling like (for lack of a better word) crap, I have to deal with the issues that surround being a sick and incapacitated freelancer and business owner while the rest of the world swirls on.

As a freelancer or owner of a business where you do most or all of the work, it’s quite smart to have a plan in place to protect yourself in the case of illness, injury, computer malfunction or any other catastrophe you care to imagine.

The Pitfalls

  • We can’t call in sick and rely on our co-workers to pick up the slack.
  • Our work is usually time sensitive and firing rapidly without a lot of downtime.
  • We don’t get paid sick time, so if we don’t work we don’t eat (ish).
  • When we literally can’t work, or at least not at our usual speed, the aftermath when we finally can will be piled higher than Everest.
  • Personally, I loathe sitting around doing nothing. You?

The Solutions

  • When it’s an emergency, talk to your colleagues. Whether they help move things along, contribute significantly or take over the project, your client is the most important consideration. In other words, get the job done if you can.
  • Along the same lines, you might have a colleague that you trust so much that you create an agreement to help each other out in the event of such a situation. Make sure this agreement is fair and makes sense to both of you. (Don’t sign on for this with a chronically ill person if you never get sick, for example).
  • Remember that you’re only human and take care of yourself. Most clients will understand that we all get sick (or that life happens) and will provide some leeway. My father seems to believe that you use as much energy thinking as running around, so you have to do the deep sleep to recover. (I’m currently not listening to him.)
  • It never hurts to have some non-time sensitive blog posts waiting in the wings, so that your blog doesn’t show a huge, gaping hole while you’re using your using your minimal coherency to work on client projects.
  • If that little voice calls to you and tells you to get work done ahead of time, listen to it. I swear it knows that illness or roadblocks are near.
  • Then, there are always the preventive measures: get enough sleep, eat right, take your vitamins, laugh and enjoy life – all as a means to build your immune system.
  • And, of course, this too shall pass. Sick, better. Busy, looking for work. Overwhelmed, under-stimulated. This is all part of the ride.

Add your tools and ideas in the comments below, if you would. I have this feeling that I’ve forgotten something really obvious, but I have a good excuse – it’s called the flu.

Image by melyviz

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Ron Miller says:

    Hi Julie:
    As a long time solo freelancer, I’ve found when life happens–personal illness, family illness and death in the family, my clients have been so understanding about me taking time off. They understand that stuff happens and family and health come first.

    When my brother-in-law died suddenly at the end of November, I took a week off from one of my steady clients and they didn’t blink.

    Don’t be afraid to approach your client and keep them in the loop when something happens, even if you’re down with flu. It happens and if you’re honest about it, the client is going to understand.

  • Julie Roads says:

    You know, Ron, that reminds me of vacation taking – we come up against the same thing. Do we smash all of the work into the week before or after? Or simply take the time off? Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Monica says:

    good stuff, Julie. I’ve found my blog readers to be understanding of when I simply can’t post due to illness or life getting in the way. A few times I’ve re-published old posts when I wanted to let folks know what was up. That’s better than saying nothing, I think.

    Feel better,


  • Julie Roads says:

    Monica – that’s a great idea – I know that there are some posts buried in there that no one ever saw!

  • Ron Miller says:

    I take a long vacation (2-4 weeks)every summer and I just let my clients know ahead of time. I make sure I have my deadlines met before I leave (and yes the week before vacation is often hellacious and I need several days to decompress).

    Last summer, I did keep my DaniWeb blog going while on vacation. I wrote several posts that weren’t time sensitive ahead of time, and actually wrote several based on current news and it really didn’t feel like I was working. I would take a couple of hours in the morning 2 or 3 times a week, before I left for the day, but I try to make vacation about recuperation, relaxation and fun as much as I can.

  • Barbara says:

    Julie, sorry to hear you are sick. Take care and feel better soon.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    I’ve been thinking about this lately. Even though I’m not sick, there has been so much going on offline that I’ve slacked off on blog writing. I’ve cut down to posting weekly.

    I’m not doing this for income, so I don’t have the same urgency. Still, I’ve noticed that I don’t lose readers when I post less frequently. I guess it depends on the kind of niche that you cover.

    Relax & get well soon!

  • Anne Janzer says:

    Good post — I’d add the following tips:

    1 – Sleep/rest aggressively EARLY in the sickness — the shorter it is, the better off you are.

    2 – Work in 20-30 minutes bursts until your brain fogs over, then stop and rest. You fall less behind this way.

    3 – Negotiate short delays with clients if possible (extending a Friday deadline to Monday if possible) – they appreciate that you’re working hard to meet their goals.

    4 – Most important – maintain a good and trusting relationship with clients. Then when something major happens (death in the family, major illness), they will give you the time and space to deal with it, without losing goodwill. I had a death in the family that fell in the middle of a number of projects this year, and without exception my clients were supportive and flexible.

  • Amie says:

    When I have a situation that keeps me from my work, I do the best I can to inform everyone that might be affected. If I am in the middle of a time crunch project, I contact the client and try to work out a solution that will work for them until I can get back to them.

    One thing I always remind myself of when I have to take a break: “you can’t please everyone all the time”

  • Ann Davis says:

    Personally, I LOVE sitting around doing nothing.

    We have lost touch with its value in this over-scheduled, instant this, instant that world.

    I just returned from a trip to Florida to see my mom. She’s 87. She had nine of us. She never would have survived it if she didn’t appreciate the art of celebrating nothingness.

    So it’s okay to take it easy and re-charge when we need to. The opportunities to do nothing are fleeting. But heavenly…even for five minutes.

    Get well soon, Julie!

  • Julie, I’m so sorry to hear you’re illin’. Great suggestions from you and your readers! Hope you are 100% soon… let me know how I can support you. :)

  • Julie Roads says:

    Anne and Ann – GREAT additions! Thank you and I’m feeling SO much better – hooray! I’m human again!

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    I’m impressed that you BLOGGED with the flu. I think it’s always a good move to admit being human and asking for an extra day on the deadline.

  • It’s hard to get out of the cycle of ‘only I do the work, if I don’t do it who will???’ But I’ve come to the realization if I don’t step away some times, the work just doesn’t get done as well.

    Took a bonafide day off this weekend (did you know there were these things called ‘Saturdays?’) and it so helped get through a big project on Sunday.

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