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What No Sick Leave for Really Means to Freelance Writers

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sick leaveNo sick leave unfortunately doesn’t mean we freelance writers won’t get sick. I found myself laid up for two days with a cold just recently. I was sneezing and wheezing and feeling terrible for two days.

I cancelled almost everything. The only writing I did was the post earlier this week. It’s a rant about the concept of content and it went pretty quickly.

I cancelled some coaching sessions, and some activities around the zen center where I live and mostly slept thought the whole mess.

Which, come to think of it is exactly what I would have done had I had a typical job that I commute  to every weekday. The difference, of course, is that many jobs pay you even if you’re sick, as long as it doesn’t happen to often.

Taking care of yourself is your first priority

I know, it’s tempting to try and push through an illness, even a simple cold, and try and make a deadline, or call a client, or something. Don’t! Even simple colds can turn into something worse if you don’t give yourself real time to heal. You owe it to yourself and to your clients to get better.


What about pay?

Ideally you’ll have enough in savings so a day or two without work won’t matter.Actually you should have six months or more living expenses in savings – a worthy goal if you’re not there yet.

You can create your own kind of sick leave if you’re paid by the project rather than by the hour. If you’re paid by the hour you will lose money if you’re down for a day or two – by the project and you can pretty much decide when to work.

What about clients?

If your illness will cause you to miss deadlines or appointments, by all means let your clients know just as soon as you can. There are few deadlines that can’t be slipped, at least a bit. It’s also true that if you’ve got a client who won’t cut you some slack because you’re sick you probably need a new client.

Sure, there are occasional situations where deadlines are critically important. Don’t panic. Think about it – if you were working inside and couldn’t come to work because you were sick, they’d find a way to meet the deadline even if they had to hire a temporary writer. Give them the most warning you can, suggest a replacement writer for them if you know one, and go back to bed.

You get to define your sick leave

Yes, it’s up to you to decide how much time you need to heal. I told a several clients I wouldn’t be in touch until next week. While it’s true I haven’t needed a whole week to recover, I have honored my body’s desire for more sleep during the day and an hour or so in the sunshine with a novel. It’s all part of getting truly well.

What if your sickness will last much longer?

Sometimes writers, like all people, are faced with an illness that goes well beyond a day or two or even a week or two. Again, tell your clients as soon as you know there’s a problem, even if you don’t yet know how bad it will be or how long it will last. Work with your doctors and your own sense and intuition to decide how much you can work, if at all. Don’t try to fool your clients or yourself about what you’re facing. If you think you can do the work, by all means say to. Equally if you can’t or you simply don’t know, tell the truth about that too.

What’s been your experience with illness as a freelance writer? Tell us in comments.

Write well and often,




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