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Lesson Learned: Freelance + Sick Days

Now that’s an interesting combination, let me tell you. Being able to control your own schedule is one of the biggest draws towards becoming a freelance designer. No more 9-5, no more time restricting lunch breaks, vacations when you want…the list goes on and on. But what happens when you’re no longer getting paid for laying at home sick as a dog. I use to follow coolsculptny to keep myself healthy. That’s when being sick moves from an annoyance to a complete glitch in the freelance system.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been either dead as a dog, sleeping the day away with Mono, or recovering from the nasty buggar. If any of you have had mono, you know that it pretty much knocks you down for a good two weeks. That’s two weeks of unpaid downtime. OMG!

I’m not a full time freelancer yet so I haven’t fully experienced the effects of being sick + being a freelancer. But my biggest lesson has been to stay strong, keep saving and then once you have the 3 months savings in theΒ bank, THEN you can buy the fun stuff (you can try WECU if you want to open a personal savings account).

I’d love to hear how all of you freelancers out there deal with this kind of thing. My gut is telling me there really is no good way to prepare for something like that, but I thought I’d ask.

Photo by Olivia Rae james

12 comments on “Lesson Learned: Freelance + Sick Days

  1. Oh no! So sorry you have to deal with that. I got sick with mono in my second week of my first year of university. I literally slept for 17 hours a day (awake for an hour or so at a time here and there) for two solid weeks. It totally knocks you out. It was weird because when I was awake I felt fine, I was just so. so. exhausted. Since then I haven’t been able to keep up with the rest of my friends. I require 7-8 hrs sleep a night if I have any hope of functioning. I really hope that doesn’t happen to you! (though, having an excuse to NEED that much sleep is kind of nice, but feeling sick when you don’t get it is brutal). Anyway. Feel better!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jacquelyn. Sounds like we had similar sleep schedules during the whole thing. Who knew you could even sleep that much. Let’s hope the whole tiredness stuff dissipates after a while.

  2. i’m not a freelancer, but i’ve worked with enough. seems like from what they say if you build enough work you’ll always being getting paid, since people don’t pay out photo/design fees but once a month or so, depending on the company. (my ex-coworker told me that vogue i think it was pays people only twice a year! nuts!)

    1. Holy crap. Only getting paid twice a year would really throw things off. Talk about inconsistent. Thanks for stopping by Kristin!

  3. I think with freelancing full time, it’s less about losing money and more about meeting deadlines when you’re sick. Freelancers never get paid regularly, and if you get paid on a per-project basis, you’re not necessarily losing funds, but rather working time. I always try not to schedule things too tightly just in case I get sick, or something bad happens. If the worst does happen, you just have to hope you have an understanding client, and a project that can either be pushed back, or quickly finished up.

  4. Hi, Cassie.

    I’m so sorry to hear that you are sick. Is mono what we Australians call ‘glandular fever’? I’m not sure. But I sympathise with being ill.

    As someone with ongoing/chronic health problems (I have autoimmune disease: arthritis+Crohn’s Disease), the flexibility of freelance work was one of the major draw-cards when I was grappling with questions of work and career.

    I try to maximise my ‘well time’, and then set myself smaller goals when I’m unwell, fitting in 1.5-hour blocks here and there.

    I also like to add a ‘cushion’ to the period of time I tell my client that a project will take to complete. This means that, most of the time, I can deliver early β€” which looks great! But it also gives me a few days up my sleeve for things like migraines, fatigue, or strong pain when they pop up, too.

    I hope that you feel much, much better soon. x

    1. Amber,

      Thanks for stopping by and providing your insight. I just looked it up and it sounds like Glandular fever is the same thing as Mono. It’s good to hear from someone who has to deal with this on a regular basis. πŸ˜€

  5. Really resonated with Alison on this one! It is so true! All of a sudden your body and health is cutting into valuable deadline prep! Our health can be such an unknown and unforseen trials and sickness can be so discouraging to us freelancers. I personally am a professional photographer and I specialize in weddings. Wowzers what a difficult thing it is to shoot a 8 hour wedding day with a migraine headache; throwing up, throbbing pain, fear of passing out at EVERY moment!

    I was diagnosed at 24 with Rheumatoid Arthritis just like my mother. My immune system can easily be compromised, I can get sick or have ‘bad’ days completely out of the blue! It was an eye opener learning to cope with an illness as a Freelancer and being forced to really apply what we all already should be; we need to listen to our bodies! Keep our bodies as healthy as possible! Take an precaution we can. Do the best we can. Always! It was encouraging after a long spell of being so so sick, to really focus on my body and health and now reaping and seeing really great benefits! We do have the added pressure as freelancers, but we are all still human.

    People; clients, friends, family they all need to understand that things happen to our imperfect bodies; we ALL will or do have some sort of trial to battle with our bodies. For some it is a big trial for others small, nonetheless we ALL have them and therefore HAVE to be understanding. Being reasonable in all things in life is always something that it seems we never want to do or be; modesty? Who wants to be modest? Well our health, my health at least, quickly made me learn to be not only reasonable and modest with my body, but in all other ways too; physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…

    What a great door this post opened πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for doing so and all the best in your efforts to get well!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts and completely understand that “taking care of #1” is top priority if you’re going to have a successful career AND stay healthy. Thanks again, and happy almost friday!

  6. Oh man. This was a crazy lesson for me. Essentially, in the ideal world, you have three months of your minimum income saved up so that you can handle these types of things. I’m a full-time freelancer and have been for 8 months and am noooowhere near being able to even get an extra week’s worth of pay, let alone months. The thing is, sooner or later as a freelancer you have a time where you bankroll. It’s so tempting to *finally* get to spend that money on the new couch or upgrading your computer, etc. But my biggest lesson has been to stay strong, keep saving and then once you have the 3 months savings in the bank, THEN you can buy the fun stuff and come out of the freelance hole. It really will help you when you have to take time off for life events and such.


    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story. I JUST caved these past few months and decided that my hard work deserves to be rewarded and bought a chair from West Elm and a new computer. I 100% agree with you that saving is the better option πŸ˜‰

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