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Freelance Writers Don’t Get Sick! | Freelance Writers! Don’t Get Sick

Amazing what a little punctuation will do, isn’t it. A week ago Wednesday I signed a new ghostwriting contract. Friday I canceled a regular afternoon meeting and went to bed. Saturday or early Sunday morning I woke up and decided if my throat stayed that sore I’d have to turn myself into a hospital or urgent care or something. As you might suspect, when I woke up my throat wasn’t sore at all – just the rest of my body.

Apparently I’ve just come through a bout of flu. I certainly had almost all the symptoms Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) talks about. The headaches coupled with a cough drove me slightly mad for a day or so… coughing made my head pound – you know how it goes.

The thing that startled me the most, however, as and still is, the fatigue. Good grief. Lethargy, brain fog. Yesterday afternoon I realized I’d come to enough to be bored! That’s a good symptom for me – it signals the return of some energy.

This morning I’ve managed to do the dishes and answer some email, etc. etc. But here’s the message for freelancers:

  • No one is going to give you sick pay. (I remember the first time I got sick pay from a job job – I thought someone had made a mistake.) No sick pay is just one more good reason to have a hefty prudent reserve. Sure, you won’t go broke if you’re out a week or two, but you’ll worry less if you know you’ve got money to pay for the basics.
  • Your clients will understand. I’ve yet to have a client not understand that when I say I’m sick I truly mean it. Of course, I have a reputation for delivering on time and on budget, but even new clients have been nothing but truly sympathetic when I’ve been down with a cold or the flu. One even brought me chicken soup! That’s client loyalty.
  • You will get behind. Generally the quickest way to wellness is tons and tons of rest along with whatever nostrums and medication is appropriate. That means not struggling to get the writing done when you should be sleeping. Besides, I’ll bet your like me and when you’re really sick you’re writing and editing is, well, less than your usual magic with words.
  • You’ll be even further behind on email and phone messages. Phone calls you can return. Those email subscriptions and spam, however, make me glad I can delete a bunch at a time.

  • You will get caught up. Once you start feeling human, you need to start working again. Go carefully here. It’s so tempting to push. Don’t. You can push yourself right back to being sick. Take a look at what needs to be done first, second, third, etc. If a deadline is looming see if you can’t push it back a day or two. Most editors and clients will understand. Get extra rest that first few days back. Get some gentle exercise, outdoors if possible.

How do you handle it when you get sick?


{ 8 comments… add one }
  • This last spring I had a bout with bronchitis that really kept me down for about 3 weeks. During that time I learned the value of shutting totally down and fasting and drinking only water and natural fruit juices until it ran its course. Afterward I started yoga and eating better foods. The reason I believe we get sick is simply because our bodies need a rest.

    Having a plan in place in case of illness is a must for those of us who depend on our writing as our main source of income. The possibility of illness is one of the reasons that as a writer I try to avoid procrastinating on getting work done and ready to send back to the client. I can never know when illness or some other emergency will come up.

    Having an illness or other emergency that takes us away from our work can also show us where we’ve been wasting time. We work to get caught up and there are those things that we have to let go and what it usually is are things that (I would hope!) are drains on our production time.

    I was able to turn my illness into a positive experience in my growth as a writer and I think any of us if we really examine what is going on can actually benefit from those times when we are feeling our worst.

    • Yep, I believe anything can be turned to positive if we’re willing.

  • Lee Griggs

    I cannot get sick. Don’t have the time to do that. Exercise, proper diet, lots of vitamins and proper supplements and …… it still happens. I give any sickness 24 hours and then I have to start moving or I am in trouble. I have discovered that the longer I allow for sickness the longer I am sick. Even sick, I still have to check email and voicemail. My writing and my other work is dependent on that and my income is totally dependent on it.

    • Good for you… although you might want to consider rest, but whatever works for you.

  • Mommy’s don’t get sick even more than writers…I give myself an evening to feel bad, take Tylenol and zinc lozenges and chewable C, and then I’m back to work the next day, generally. I just don’t give the bug permission to stick around. I even worked through about half of the chicken pox (which I got as an adult!) before finally throwing in the towel.

    Very occasionally a bad flu will take me down…and it is amazing how somehow, even though your deadlines were wall to wall, that works out OK in the end.

    What we do isn’t very physically taxing as writers…so I tend to suck it up and keep going. I might stay in pajamas though, and I usually stay indoors. My husband is so hardcore he’ll go out in a rainstorm and clean the gutters while he’s got a flu…but then, he’s nuts!
    Carol Tice recently posted..Why Writers Should Know Their Daily RateMy Profile

    • This was a bad flu and I’m not 20 anymore… I can’t push through the way I used to. I wonder how much the pushing of yore limits today’s…

  • I was sick last month and also found myself pontificating about the lessons learned from being a sick freelancer. Personally, I found that my clients were extremely understanding, and that I could actually take the time to rest. If I hadn’t, my illness likely would have likely been prolonged and affected my work in the long-term.

    As freelancers, sick days aren’t paid as you say. Having a reserve or allotting several days a year as stock “sick days” are great ideas to take the unnecessary work stress off while your body heals up.

    Thanks for the post!
    Lauren Dugan recently posted..The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Writing an Effective Press ReleaseMy Profile

    • You’re welcome… glad at least one other person here isn’t of the suck-it-up mentality. lol.

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