I’d Call in Sick, but my Boss is a Jerk

Sick WriterWell, I suppose it is that time of year (September in Michigan for those of you not reading this right when published).  The weather is going from the 90’s down to the 60’s every other day, it seems.  While I’m normally a very healthy person, it looks like I’ve caught a cold.  I went to bed last night feeling it coming on, and woke up this morning still not feeling well (though certainly not THAT bad).  It got me thinking; freelance writers don’t have the luxury of calling in sick like many people do.  So, I grabbed my Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold (this is seriously the best cold medicine I’ve ever tried.  If you’re not feeling well, I HIGHLY recommend it) and a cup of coffee (sadly, not Mystic Monk or Tim Horton’s) and decided to write about it.

Health & Writing

Whether you’re generally a healthy person like me, or you tend to get sick several times per year, you need to think about how it can affect your writing.  If you’re writing for a client after taking cold medicine, for example, your normally high-quality content might start reading like you outsourced it to a $1 per article writer from Pakistan (no offense!).  If, however, you don’t take any cold medicine, you may be so distracted coughing and blowing your nose that you can’t get anything done.

Of course, you can (and should?) “call in” sick when you’re not feeling well, but that isn’t always an option.  While clients may be understanding sometimes, they do expect their deadlines to be met.  In addition, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  As the title of this post suggests, when you are working for yourself, sometimes your boss is a real jerk!  Taking one day off may be possible, but colds, the flu and other health issues rarely last just 24 hours.

How to Deal with Being Sick

Here are a few tips for how to keep writing, even when you’re sick.  Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy or fun, but making a living as a writer isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.  Finding ways to get through the bad times is essential.

  • Throw Your Schedule Out the Window – If you normally try to write from 8AM-Noon every day, for example, disregard that when you’re sick.  If you need to sleep in until 10, go for it.  Then try to sit down and pound out an article or two.  If you begin feeling exhausted, take a nap or relax for an hour or so.  Then go at it again.  Breaking up your work day might not be ideal, but at least you’ll remain productive.
  • Find the Right Medicine – The right medication for your condition might not bring you back to feeling 100%, but it can often make writing tolerable.  Try to find something that is non-drowsy and won’t give you medicine head.  Stock up on it so you don’t have to run to the store when you start feeling ill.
  • Notify Clients Fast – If you have the flu and know you won’t be able to write much (if at all) for the next few days, notify any clients of your situation.  Letting them know as soon as possible will allow them to make any necessary arrangements.  It is better to have them cancel one order today than to deliver late without notice.  Plus, most people are fairly understanding with these types of things as long as you are up front with them about it.
  • Focus on Simple Tasks – Don’t try to tackle a 75 page eBook while you’re sick.  Try working on simple work which might not require 100% concentration.  Whether it is writing simple articles, interacting with your followers on social media, or applying for new jobs on eLance or other similar sites, there should always be something you can do to remain productive.
  • Factor Sick Time into Your Prices – This isn’t exactly something for when you are actually sick, but for the times when you are healthy.  When setting your prices, make sure you account for the occasional sick day (and vacation).  As I’ve said before on other posts, you need to treat this as a real business, and most businesses allow for at least a little bit of paid time off. You should too!
  • Ask for Help – If you have a great relationship with another writer you know and trust (and you know their writing is high-quality) see if they will take on some of your time-sensitive work.  Make an arrangement with them ahead of time that you will cover their work if they get sick, and they will do the same.  This is a great way get through illnesses without too much trouble.
  • Stay Healthy – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say, and this is certainly true.  If you can avoid getting sick in the first place, you won’t have to worry about any of this.  Of course, you can’t avoid 100% of illnesses, but you can take steps to stay healthy.  Try to stay in shape, eat right, drink lots of water, and any other healthy things you can think of.  You’ll be glad you did.

These are all the ideas I can come up with at the moment (maybe I’ll think of more when I’m feeling better).  I hope you never have to use them, but if you start feeling sick, make sure to come back to this page and have another look.  If you have any other suggestions for staying healthy, or how to work while sick, I’d love to hear them.  Please, post in the comments.

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  1. says

    I’m not like you. I just don’t work when I’m ill. I just tell this to my clients and I hope that they understand. Maybe, I’m too stubborn, but I just don’t care about what they may think. Of course, I’m not a machine and I can be sick sometimes.

    • says

      Nothing wrong with that! I do that too sometimes when I’m really sick, but when I just have a cold or something I try to push through. One big reason I try to keep working is because I hate to get behind on my orders. If I take today off, for example, I’ll have to write twice as much tomorrow to get caught back up. Even worse if I’m taking 3-4 days off!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  2. says

    Luckily I don’t get sick very often but I remember awhile back I had Sinusitis which caused terrible headaches 24 hours a day. It is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything when your head feels like there is a hot pin stuck in it which expands and contracts every few seconds. Thankfully the antibiotics healed the infection and I just made extra effort to work as much as possible the next few days. In drastic situations, you could hire another writer to work on your tasks for you. Just make sure you hire a decent writer or your client might complain about quality.
    Timothy Torrents recently posted…Never Give Up: Don’t Limit YourselfMy Profile

  3. says

    Oh Michael, so sorry to hear you’re not well. I just got over some raunchy sort of cold that I had for two full weeks. My whole house was struck by it. I did call in sick (to my real job) for 3 of those days which hurts the pocket book for someone in my situation as I ran out of sick time earlier this year when my son’s appendix ruptured and I was in the hospital with him for a full week. Just makes me that much more motivated to start earning a better income from my online activities.

    Incidentally…I was once sick on a web development project I was freelancing on and was out for 4 days. I have found when you’re honest and just let clients know immediately what’s going on, they tend to be pretty understanding.
    Misty recently posted…I’m On a Challenge OverloadMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks for the concern! It really isn’t too bad of a cold (so far, knock on wood), just enough to make me think about this topic. 🙂 Sorry to hear about your son, I’m glad he’s ok though! I agree with you big time about wanting to get out of the corporate world because of things like limited sick time, ect. It is scary to think that you could potentially be one illness away from losing your livelihood.

      I 100% agree with you that most clients are very understanding. My wife gets kidney stones quite a bit, and occasionally I have to take her up to the hospital for a day or two, which puts me behind. I’ve never had a client give me any hassle about it!

      Thanks for stopping by!


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