Working From Bed: What To Do When You Get Ill

Hello everyone, and welcome to the weekly round-up of stuff we’ve been doing here at Bohemiacademia.

This week I am laid up in bed; being ill as a freelancer is one of those things that’s difficult to navigate, so I thought I’d talk about it a bit in this week’s post.

Yes that is Netflix in the background.

Obviously we’d all love to be in perfect health all the time, but that’s just not realistic. If you have to take a couple of days off here and there for a virus or something similar, most clients will be understanding about this, especially if you’ve been good at communicating with them so far. But what if you’re ill for longer, or you come down with something more serious?

As readers of my personal blog will know, this year has involved some pretty serious illness, prompting a few stays in hospital and lots of bedrest. This has been inconvenient, to say the least.

Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if it does, what can you do?

1. Prepare

Preparation is the best option. It’s impossible to know when you’re going to end up needing to take time off sick, so it’s good to have some safety nets in place for when that happens.

The first and most obvious one is savings. If you can set aside a little each month, you’ll have something there to cushion you when you need it.

Having a savings account can be very helpful.

It can be difficult to save any money when you’re freelancing, and if you’re barely scraping by in the first place then this may not be possible. However, it might be worth working out what your necessary expenditure is each month, adding a bit on top for luxuries and comforts, then skimming the rest off into a savings account. This takes self-control but it’s worthwhile.

The second thing you might want to consider is health insurance. This will only be beneficial if you don’t already have a load of pre-existing conditions that make you basically uninsurable (trust me, that’s a very annoying situation to be in). But health insurance can shield you from some of the worst unforeseen illnesses, so that if you do get sick, you’ll at least be able to deal with it.

2. Work out realistically what you can still do

‘Realistically’ is a very important word here. I’m the worst for insisting that I’ll be fine, then ending up making myself more ill. This is something I’ve become better at this year, mainly just through necessity.

Ideally sit down with your doctor, discuss with them what your symptoms are, and listen to what they say about recovery. While it may be tempting to work as much as you possibly can on the days when you’re feeling a little more alive, is that really worth extending the total length of your illness? Probably not.

Talk to your doctor about what you’re able to do.

Get your doctor to write a note that details what you can and can’t do. Here in the UK they have tick boxes for different categories; for example, you might only be excluded from physically strenuous work (if you’ve had surgery, for instance), or your doctor may recommend that you do no work at all. Even if you never show this to anyone, it will serve as a reminder about what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing.

Also work out how much work you need to do to cover the very basics, and see whether you can match this up with what you’re able to do once you’ve taken into account any savings or other income you may have. In my case, I worked out that I could just do a small amount of work each day before going back to bed, and that this supplemented by my savings would mean I could survive the year without losing my home or having any other awful consequences.

3. Communicate with your clients

I get it, this bit is terrifying. There’s the worry that if you tell them you’re ill, you’ll lose their business, especially if the working relationship is new.

This is where the doctor’s note comes in: for newer clients, sending them a copy of this along with an explanation of how much you can get done will really help with client relations. Having your claim to illness backed up by a professional makes them more likely to believe you, and they’ll appreciate you letting them know what you’re still able to do.

If you’re not able to complete a client’s project, or if you have to give up an entire account, it’s good practice to refer them to another person in your field if you know someone who may be able to help them. I did this with one of my clients this year, because their work was fairly strenuous and there was no way I was going to be able to complete it. They were fine with everything I said and sent me nice messages wishing me a speedy recovery.

Keep lines of communication open with your clients.

You can probably be fairly honest with clients you know well. I’ve been working with my main client for five years now, and I think I can say we have a pretty good working relationship, so when I told him I was ill he was brilliant about it. Having said that, I’ve still been doing as much as I could for him, and have been keeping him up to date with how things are going on a weekly basis.

The newer the client, the harder it is to be open about this stuff. I’ll admit there were a couple of accounts this year that I took on without mentioning that I was ill, and I just crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn’t end up back in hospital just before the deadline. It’s up to you how you play this; I knew I had backup freelancers on file who could have completed everything if things had gone horribly wrong, otherwise I would have turned away the business.

For clients I’ve known a little while (i.e. under a year), I sent a brief email saying I was ill but without too much detail, let them know that things were still up and running, and said I’d tell them if there were any developments that would impact on the work. So far this seems to have been effective and I haven’t lost any accounts except the one I referred to someone else, which I spoke about earlier.

Although the Nightmare Client definitely exists, most clients are human too, and they’ll understand that illness strikes from time to time. Keep communication open, do what you can, and refer them if you can’t complete the work, and hopefully you won’t lose too much of your client base.

How do you make sure things keep ticking over when you’re ill? Let me know in the comments below!

Stuff we’ve been doing this week

Luckily for me, even when I’m ill I have a team of other people who can do bits of my job, so all is not lost. While I’ve been tucked up in bed watching Bloodline (it’s good) and doing less work than usual, here’s what the rest of the team have been up to.

The social media management team have kept things going across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Pinterest.

Our writers have put together articles on a variety of subjects, including scuba diving, schooling, repatriation, and the cost of living in various cities around the world. Once they’ve been written, the articles are passed on to our proofreaders, who check them over for grammar and style before sending them to be posted on clients’ websites.

We’ve also conducted some interviews with industry experts on behalf of one of our clients; this involves tracking down big names in a client’s industry and chatting with them about their roles. This can be a great way to open up a new business relationship for your client, and also to position your client as a leader in their field.

Most of our interviews are conducted by email, but we also have a freelancer who puts together podcasts for clients.

This week we’ll be sending out email newsletters for a couple of clients, having already posted round-ups of industry news for them, again helping to position them as authorities.

Want to commission a project? Get in touch

Think the freelance life might suit you? Drop us a line

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