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When a Freelance Writer Gets Sick

headcoldYou know the feeling – you wake up at 3 in the morning with a horribly drippy nose and a head that’s stuffed with who knows what. Or maybe it’s your stomach, or maybe your freelancing body just aches.

Whatever the cause, you know you won’t be writing well for at least a day or two.

Freelance writers are, of course, responsible for all their own benefits, including sick leave or pay. So how do you handle it when you’re sick?

There really are two potential issues here:

Dealing with writing clients

Your first job is to get well. That usually means bed rest for at least a day or two. You know your body, and you probably have a pretty good idea when you’ll be functioning again.




Email your clients and tell them the truth. A quick “wanted to let you know I’m down for a couple of days with a head cold” or “just went down to the flu – should be back up full steam in about a week” goes a long way toward preserving relationships with clients. Then turn off the phone and go to bed.

If there’s a deadline and you can push through to make it without getting sicker, do so, and put other clients off. But if you can’t do the work just say so. Maybe you can suggest an approach that will help the client get the work done without you.

Keep in mind that if you were working for them as a full-time employee you might also get sick so don’t beat yourself up over this. Take care of yourself and get well.

Most clients won’t give you problems, and any that do you probably don’t need anyway, at least not over the long haul.

Loss of income

Depending on how your income is coming to you, a three day head cold probably won’t cost you anything directly. It may only mean that your pay is delayed a few days.




Sometimes, unfortunately, getting sick can mean the loss of a contract and the resulting loss of income. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be quite a shock.

The best defense against loss of income for any reason is a savings account with several months income in it. When you’ve got that you know you’re okay. If you don’t have that, today is a great day to get started.

How do you handle it when you get sick? What’s your savings situation?

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Perfect timing, as I’ve been feeling sick since the weekend!

    I think that if you’ve already established a good working relationship with a client, then it’s a lot easier to be upfront, and it’s definitely important to let the client know ASAP if you’re going to be behind on the work.

    What I’ve also done is that I’ve made connections with other freelance writers – if I’m down for any length of time, I’ll just refer the client to a good freelance writer to cover for me.
    Daryl recently posted..My Monthly Freelance Writing Income Report – September 2013My Profile

    • Trust you went straight to bed after making this comment? Feel better soon.

  • I find that being HONEST with my clients always helped. At the end of the day we’re all humans and clients make no exception to this rule. All I had to say was ‘cannot work, am down with flu’ and they understood me. It was better for them to know I’m off for 1-2 days, than leaving them without any response. Also having money saved is a great idea, with our irregular income anything can really unbalance our cashflow
    dojo recently posted..Timothy Ferriss – The 4-Hour WorkweekMy Profile

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