The life of a freelancer might seem fairly easy at times. You get to take charge of your own time, curate a roster of clients you’re truly passionate about working with, and maybe even drink beer at your desk on a Friday lunchtime if the mood takes you.
But not all that glitters is gold; the life of a freelancer also comes with some stumbling blocks that are just part of the territory. One of these stumbling blocks comes in the shape of time off sick.
Time off sick can be stressful enough, but at least an employee can rely on statutory sick pay, allotted days off for sickness, and the support of colleagues to keep their to-do list ticking over whilst they’re gone.
Freelancers don’t have access to such reassuring luxuries, so time off sick becomes more challenging to navigate. In this article, we share our advice on how to deal with time out sick as a freelancer, including:
- Being transparent with your clients and communicating the situation clearly.
- Reach out to a trusted network of contacts to cover your work if need be.
- Work with an accountant to ensure your finances are in good health, even if you aren’t.
- Consider something like Income Protection Insurance for peace of mind.
- Making sure you take adequate time off to rest up and get better.
Open communication with your clients is key
First things first, you must be open with your clients. You’re a human being and sickness can’t be helped. They’ll be understanding and more than likely, accommodating in working around it.
The last thing you should do is try to conceal your time off sick to your clients because as the old adage goes, the truth will always out. That won’t make for loyal, longstanding relationships!
Plus, if you’re under the weather and not performing to your maximum potential, your clients will start to wonder why standards or deadlines have started to slip. If you keep them in the loop, they’ll be far more forgiving.
Set an out-of-office autoreply on your emails. That way you can let clients know you’re either working with limited availability or out of office entirely, without having to respond to individual messages. It will also help you manage expectations if any new leads come in, and let them know that they can normally expect swifter service.
Outsource to trusted contacts if necessary
The fact of the matter is that even if you’re injured or under the weather, clients still need their projects turning around. Deadlines don’t always make way for sickness, unfortunately.
If you have a network of trusted contacts who you can call upon to help lighten the load and keep the workflow flowing, now’s the perfect time to consider outsourcing work.
Again, honesty is the best policy. If you do decide to outsource client work whilst you’re unwell, it’s better to tell your clients in advance. Remember, they might not want to work this way, and very well prefer to press pause for a while until you’re back in action yourself.
Hire an accountant to keep your finances in check
For freelancers dealing with time off sick, it’s well worth hiring the expertise of a qualified accountant to maintain your financial health when you’re not feeling so hot yourself.
Working with an accountant – in the long-term, not just during a period of sickness – will help maintain a healthy cash flow and eliminate unnecessary spending. This will be invaluable if and when you do fall ill, and can help you stay operational for longer, and hopefully with a cushion of cash to fall back on whilst you’re out of action.
An accountant will also be able to advise on the best pricing structure for your services so that you can build things like unofficial sick pay into your costs. That way, taking time off won’t have to impact your income quite so drastically.
Consider getting insurance cover to protect your income
In situations like this it’s always a good idea to apply some damage control and in this scenario, that comes in the form of insurance. Income Protection Insurance, for example, will help protect your finances for a small monthly cost if you fall ill.
It’s also worth checking out the business interruption benefits put in place by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed. Again, for a small monthly fee, you can access invaluable income cover to protect you if you get sick and can’t work.
Take adequate time off to rest and get better
Last, but certainly not least, is to make sure that you take sufficient time off.
When you’re responsible for your own client relationships, time management, and income, it can be tempting to prioritise this over your health. In reality all that will do is set you back in the long run, and inevitably end up affecting all of the things you were trying to avoid impacting in the first place.
Like you would if you were an employee within a business, take time away from work completely. Sign out of your emails and switch off your laptop – only turn it back on again if it’s to binge something on Netflix. Give your body the time and space it needs to recuperate and recover so that you can return to work fighting fit and in full health.
If your sick leave is something more serious than a common cold or stomach bug, taking adequate time off is even more important. And yes, that includes taking care of your mental health, too. Follow the doctor’s orders and rest up until you’re truly ready to get back .
Hopefully, now that we’ve shared our advice with you, you’ll feel more reassured about taking time off sick if necessary. With efficient preparation, a trusted network and transparent communication, you can reduce the impact sickness has on your reputation and income as a freelancer. Visit our freelancer info hub for more topics.