Being ill when you are self-employed

You Can’t Be Ill – You’re Self-Employed!

So today I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself because I’m feeling ill.  I have a grumbling appendix which is pretty painful and slightly concerning because I really don’t want a stay in hospital!  As somebody who is self-employed, that is my nightmare because when I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

As I was laying in bed last night, my brain was whirring at a million miles an hour – “what if I get taken into hospital?  Will my clients be annoyed?  What about that job I am halfway through; I can’t very easily pass it on to someone else because it needs explaining?”  And on it went.

And it isn’t only illness that has raised these issues; since I started my business we have had to deal with traumatic events that would normally cause me to ‘call in sick’ if I was employed, bereavements, sick family members and all nature of other things that make you want to drop everything, but you just have to carry on through.  I have been known to have the laptop in bed whilst suffering from flu or a stomach bug, which is far from ideal, but I hate to let people down.

So, what do I do when this kind of thing happens?  Because we have to look after ourselves otherwise, we will burn out and be no good to anybody.



Well, thankfully, as a VA, I have an amazing team of associates.  They are always there when things get hectic, and so they are also on standby for when things get tough.  I have outsourced work that I can’t complete such as transcriptions, email monitoring, copy typing, call minding, etc.

I have also roped in my family when they have been free to help, but they are only allowed to do so much; I have very high standards!!!

Virtual assistants are always on standby to take on last minute, ad-hoc work, and this has paid off, even for me as a VA myself.


Disaster Plan

I have a folder tucked away in a locked draw called my Disaster Plan.  This was initially so that if I dropped dead, my husband (or somebody else) would be able to contact all my clients and let them know.  However, it has now expanded, so that when I am ill, the same thing can apply.

My husband, parents and a trusted friend know where to find the key.

If I am able and well enough, there are processes for me to work through, but if I am rushed into hospital or for some reason can’t do it myself, the process maps and instructions are easy enough for my designated person to follow them through.

These processes include things like

How to get in touch with my clients
Email templates
How to get touch with designated associates and what they need to be given.
Instructions on work
Instructions on how to access my social media
Necessary passwords and contact details (secure data, which is why this is kept in a locked cupboard)
And other instructions and processes that I feel someone would need to know in order to temporarily (hopefully) replace me.


Work out what I can doMan working on a laptop in hospital bed

For the most part, I have generally soldiered through many of these challenges.  Early this year, I was sat by my daughter’s hospital bed with my laptop.  My clients were informed of the situation, and I only ended up having to do one or two things.  However, you do need to know when to say ‘No’ and that evening I did turn down an urgent transcription job, as my daughter needed my full attention and I didn’t have the time or inclination to sort out passing it on to my associate.

Being realistic is a huge part of this and being self-employed has taught me that in abundance.  Never bite off more than you can chew and know when to say ‘No’.

As much as I love my business and my work, my family will always come first, no matter what!


Client Type

I have lovely clients; I can honestly say that.  When my daughter was rushed into hospital with sepsis earlier this year, I had a voicemail box full of well-wishing messages and offers of help; it was really touching and so very much appreciated.  It was a scary time, and the last thing I wanted to think about was a stroppy client who didn’t care what the situation was, they want their work done now!

Obviously, you can’t always pick your clients, particularly if you are not a service-based industry, but if you can, then bear this in mind.  At stressful times or times when you need to be caring for yourself, you don’t want any added pressure.

I felt very blessed when every one of them said, “don’t worry, the work can wait, just take the time to be with your daughter.”  It meant the world to me, and as my daughter, thankfully, recovered, and everything went back to normal, it was a huge relief to me that there were no grumpy clients waiting for me.



I am insured, so if my business cannot operate due to my ill health or a close bereavement occurs, then they will pay out for a certain amount of time.  Now obviously this is great in the short-term, but you need a back-up in place because if you just stop working for that time, your clients won’t be none too pleased.  This is why I have my back up plans in place, and I don’t just rely on my insurance.  Sure, that money is great, but if I lose clients because I don’t work for two weeks, then that is not going to be a great deal of help in the grand scheme of things.


There is always a way around things

The final issue I was concerned about was this project I am halfway through with a client.  But, actually it isn’t the end of the world, after all the client and I worked through it together, and if I collate the emails and information I have researched then I could, in fact, pass it on to my associate, it just means that there is a little bit of prep to do in order to make that happen.  The client, I’m sure, would also speak with my associate to ensure the transition was smooth.

I say to my girls all the time “there is always a way around things, unless you are dead!”  It may be a gross exaggeration, but it does make them hunt for a solution, and this is very much the case here.

As it happens, the doctor thinks I will get away with no hospital intervention, I am on some antibiotics (they are mighty large pills and very hard to swallow), and I made it into my office to do some work.  But it is reassuring to know that there is a plan in place, just in case something happens.

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