Figuring out what to do with your freelance work when you're sick isn't easy, but you do need to have a plan.
I've been sick the last couple of days. Even today I'm still a bit under the weather. (But my husband and I are able to go out together for the first time in ages, so I'm determined to be well enough for that.) Being sick, unfortunately, isn't usually an excuse when you have freelance work to do. I still have stuff to get done, and deadlines to meet.
When trying to figure out how to handle your work load while sick, there are a few things to keep in mind.
How Sick Are You?
Even though I was up half the night throwing up not too long ago, I still had some freelance work that needed to be done. Once I got my stomach under control, I was able to do the most important work. I felt like crap, but I was capable of sitting on the couch with the laptop and getting a few things done.
It's a different story if you are sick, sick, sick. Clearly, if you are ill enough or injured enough that you have to go to the hospital, you aren't going to get any work done, no matter your deadline. These things happen.
When you're sick at home, though, you need to figure out whether or not you can handle some of your work. Some illness are worse than others, and in some cases, if you are so drugged that you are barely competent, it's better to not do your freelance work, since who knows how it comes out.
I always have my freelance work schedule prioritized, so I know what needs to be done. This go, I did what needed doing, took stuff, and collapsed into bed. My situation when sick is made easier by the fact that I only have one child, and he's in school from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Trying to manage your illness when you have multiple (and younger) kids at home is a completely different proposition.
Only you can gauge your level of illness, and determine whether you would be better served avoiding work and recuperating, or whether you can handle doing a little bit of the most important work. I'm kind of using two half-days as sort of reset days to help me take it easy while still getting a jump on things.
Contacting Your Clients
When you are too sick to get some of your freelance work done, and you are approaching a deadline, it makes sense to keep your clients informed. This goes for other unexpected events. When my grandfather died a few years ago, I sent out an email to all of my clients informing them of the situation, and that I would be late with all the work for a little while. My freelance work schedule today is much more flexible than at that time, so a similar situation wouldn't likely arise.
However, I do have my current clients entered onto an email list so that if something major happens, I can send out one email quickly and easily so that my clients are aware of what is happening.
Additionally, my husband knows how to access my email list. At the very least, he could get on my Skype account and let some of my clients know the situation — and they could inform others. I've also got a few of the clients I work with most on my cell phone, and I could text them. Keeping the lines of communication open and having a backup plan are two important things to do so that your clients know what's happening.
I also try to work ahead when I can so that if I do get behind because of illness, it's not devastating.
I'm fortunate that I've been able to rearrange my freelance work schedule in the last few years so that it's more flexible, and so that I have fewer clients (who pay more). It's been helpful to me as I try to find better balance in my life, as well as making things easier for me when I get sick or if something unexpected comes up.