The Real F-Word

We have all been there. It's the night before a job and you are about to go to bed after spending the whole day making the final arrangements for the next day. All of the sudden, you feel a ticklish sensation on your throat. You try to ignore it, but as the minutes pass it is getting worse. You start to get the shivers and snug yourself into a sweater even though it's 30ºC. "Maybe it's just a draught", but there are no windows open. Before you know it, you are tugged under the blankets and your head is about to explode. You have got the flu.

So, what do you do? You rush to the medicine cabinet and knock yourself out with whatever you can find. "I can sleep through this and tomorrow I will be better." But now it's 5am in the morning and you haven't been able to sleep from the fever when you finally realize that no matter what you do there is no possible way that you can get up to work at 8am. "I'll have to call-in sick... Wait! No, I can't! I'm a freelancer!" So now you have three hours to gather all the energy left in your body to find someone to replace you on the job and to call the client and the rest of the team and explain the situation hoping that the worst that happens is that you loose money but at least you get to keep the client.

When you start freelancing nobody warns you about it. Apparently, our work environment and our laws don't take into consideration that freelancers are humans and as such we are allowed to get sick, or have accidents or have something happen to us that forbids us to get the job done. So we have to take matters into our own hands and prepare ourselves for when the worst happens:

  • Get protection. Have an emergency fund and a disability coverage from the beginning of your freelancing career.
  • Build contacts. Have a network of people that you trust who can take over your clients in moments like this. Offer to do the same for them.
  • Stay safe. Don't put your health at risk by trying to do the job even if you are ill. It's better to loose a job than to loose your whole career. As a freelancer, you are your most important asset. Besides, if you have something contagious, it would be extremely irresponsible of you to go to a job spreading germs around.
  • Be transparent in your communications. If you will not be able to do the job at all, say so from the beginning. Managing your client's expectations in moments like this is crucial.
  • Do what your mom says. Or the doctor... or your spouse... stay in bed, take your medicines and let yourself be taken care of. No matter how badly you want to recover there is nothing you can do to make the healing process faster.

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