In coworking offices, the entrepreneur is king, drawn there by the sense of community and productive environment. But while they are at the top in their work domain, they are not immortal. The weather is cooling rapidly around our Battersea shared office, and indeed around the country, heralding flu season.
Entrepreneurs and freelancers are especially at risk of getting ill – long hours at work can lead to poor sleep and diet, and hence a lowered immune system. Yet if you work for yourself, the prospect of taking time off can seem as scary as whatever virus you’ve acquired.
Without guaranteed pay or colleagues to pick up your work load, freelancers are at risk of disappointing clients – or even losing them completely – and are almost certainly looking at a dip in income.
So you can those who work for themselves survive, even when they feel like they might be at death’s door? We have some tips…
No, seriously – start now. Put an action plan together for what will need to happen in the event of illness, putting priority tasks at the top and gradually working your way down.
This might include creating a list of your current clients with their contact details so that if you need to contact them, you can do so quickly and easily – you don’t want the added stress of rooting around in your inbox for phone numbers.
A second list of freelancer friends, people who might be able to pick up of finish commissions on your behalf, can also be invaluable. You’ll find many clients more amenable to you turning down a job if you can provide someone else who is ready to pick up the slack. And while you may lose out on the fee this time, clients respect agility and it will certainly put you in a better position for any future jobs.
Do the bare minimum
…and then stop. There are very few of us who can simply take a day off without there being any repercussions. Of course, in some scenarios, you may be to unwell to even crawl to your laptop (in which case you’d hope clients would cut you some slack) but otherwise it’s important to at least attempt the minimum of what is expected of you.
Fixed deadlines, paying bills or replying to urgent emails are the sort of thing that can’t wait. As soon as you know you won’t last the day, work out what absolutely must be done and do it. You can always caveat emails to trusted clients with a note about your health status, and mention that you won’t be available for the rest of the day. Many freelancers are pleasantly surprised to received replies thanking them for their effort and directing them back to bed.
Guilt is a big thing for freelancers and entrepreneurs and for all they’re good points, coworking spaces can play into this: it’s hard to acknowledge that you’re ill when everyone else around you is beavering away.
It can lead freelancers to play down their illness or choose work over proper recovery time. It’s all to tempting to tell clients that you are ‘still on the phone for emergencies’ or that you’ll ‘try your best to get it done today…’
Stop. You’re ill or you’re not, and clients will be more frustrated if you make promises you can’t deliver. Once you’ve done what can’t be put off, be firm that you won’t be around for the rest of the day, or even that you’ll be in touch once you’ve recovered. This way clients are at liberty to put their own ‘sick freelancer action plan’ into operation.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. It’s not easy working for, and by, yourself. We all get ill from time to time but if you’re prepared, you won’t have illness and the burden of work to cope with. Look after yourself, take plenty of downtime when you can and remember to eat and sleep and not take on more than you can manage.
Easier said than done for entrepreneurs, I know.Back to Blog