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Freelancing Means No Paid Sick Days

sickdayLast wednesday evening I noticed my throat was scratchy. I woke up Thursday morning and knew I was doing nothing for at least a couple of days but take extra good care of myself..

By Saturday morning my throat had eased considerably, but the bug had devolved into a nasty head cold. Today I’m better, and looking forward to getting my usual energy back.

I think it was while fixing the umpteenth cup of green tea that I remembered the last time I got sick like this. You know what I mean, when a sore throat gets stacked with head cold and you really better off in bed for a week or more even though it’s not a serious enough illness to call a doctor. It was on my last regular job and I’ve been dutiful about calling in every morning and saying I was still sick. Most mornings if they been paying attention they could’ve heard my voice.

When I got back to work I hadn’t been there 10 minutes before I received word that HR wanted to speak to me. The short of it was she was annoyed that I didn’t have a doctor’s note, made it clear she wasn’t sure I hadn’t been lying about being sick, and warned me that if I were to be out for more than two days without a doctor’s note in the future they fire me.

Working for myself is such a joy and delight! I don’t accuse myself of lying and I don’t even make myself get up in the morning and phone me to tell to tell me that I’m not coming in today. I can go ahead and be sick when I’m sick. Although I’ve never tracked it, I’m reasonably sure I get well quicker with that kind of freedom and get sick less than I would if I had to report to someone else in their office rather than mine.

Savings solves no paid sick days

Good money management including savings is what makes it possible for freelancer to go ahead be sick when they need to be sick. After all, that was the original thinking behind paid sick leave; the worker needed time to get well and by staying home she didn’t in fact her coworkers.

If you get in the habit of saving 10% or more of all your income will be in much better shape to ride the waves of freelancing workflow.

Obviously, using your own savings isn’t quite the same as having paid sick days, but for me at least the trade-off is more than worth it.

Let your clients know

While it’s probably okay to go missing for a day or two, anything longer than that without letting your clients know is asking for trouble. This is particularly true if you’re going to miss any deadlines. The sooner you let an editor or client know that you need to push a deadline back the more likely you are to get agreement.

These days an email will often suffice. If your voice sounds strange as mine does right now, email or texting may make better sense than trying to call. On the other hand a phone call is more personal and maybe what your relationship requires.

I think it helps to remember that not only is your client and adult but you are too. You don’t need to dramatize your situation or justify it; just say what is – that you’re sick – and you’ll keep them posted and finish the writing as soon as you’re able. My experience tells me that when I take that attitude with clients and editors I’m usually delighted to discover they accept me at my word.

What’s been your experience?

Write well and often,





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