From the outside looking in, there are so many benefits to working at home and being your own boss. Open hours, no bosses or artificial deadlines, and the ability to choose what you work on.
But there are drawbacks too. No benefits. No guarantee of paycheck. And when you are sick, you have to decide how sick is too sick.
It’s the great conundrum for freelancers – should you or shouldn’t you work when under the weather? Seeing as how I’m currently fighting a cold and have worked through my fair share of routine illness over the last seven years, I wanted to share my take on the subject and how to maximize sick-time efficiency while giving yourself the rest and time needed to recover as fast as possible.

Planning for the Unexpected

Successful freelancers often have one thing in common – they are prepared for just about any unexpected eventuality. Power outages, sick children, client drop-offs, sudden illnesses – they have a backup plan in place in case something goes south quickly.
You can’t literally be ready for anything, but if you have a good plan in place you can react quickly. For me, that means staying at least 2-3 days ahead of all deadlines and having a 3 hour buffer in every day in which I do non-deadline specific work.
If I need to work less (or slower) due to illness, my schedule allows for it. If I need to take a couple days off, I can do it.

Prioritizing Tasks

On a normal day, there is a certain volume of busy work, organizational tasks, and growth-related items on my to do list. They are all important, but none of them are vital. If they don’t get done today, they can be done tomorrow.
Work for clients, however, does not have that luxury. Sure I can put off that eBook due on Friday, and the client will probably understand, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be slightly less likely to trust me the next time they have a short deadline.
Don’t make a habit of letting personal issues get in the way of your productivity and reliability. You may need to call upon the goodwill of a client in the future. Save those moments for when it really matters, not when you have a case of the sniffles.

Optimizing Your Lucid Hours

It’s rare that I’m ever so sick I can’t focus at all. When I get the flu, there is usually at least one day that becomes a wash – a day so bad that I can barely get out of bed. But the other days, the ones on which I simply feel miserable? I can still work, just a little slower.
But I also know my limits. I’ll probably get three or four good lucid hours in the morning before my mind gives out and the only thing I want to do is flop on the couch and watch The Price is Right. Especially if you do something creative for your clients, there are very real limits on how much you can get done before you run out of gas. Use those hours wisely.

When You Miss Days

There are days you won’t be able to work. Whether it’s the flu or something more serious that lands you on bed rest for a few days or even in the hospital, those days will be frustrating and exhausting for more than one reason.
Don’t be tempted to work through it. Not only will the work you get done while sick be of subpar quality; you’ll just pile additional stress and anxiety on yourself and it will take longer and be harder to recover.
If you do it right, you can get a lot of work done while sick and still give yourself a good chunk of the day to relax and recover. There are limits of course. The flu is notoriously unforgiving when it comes to sitting at a desk and writing. But if you are ready for the worst case scenario, hopefully you can weather the worst without much issue.