The day I started writing this post I was awake at nearly three in the morning because my body decided that sleep wasn’t necessary for some reason.
I was stuffed up.
I was hacking away.
Clearly I’ve come down with an unpleasant illness and my body is doing its best to fight it away with everything its got. But man, sickness doesn’t go away easy. It feels like a war is being waged inside me right now.
I’m not surprised by this illness. Something has been going around lately, so it felt like only a matter of time until I caught it myself. It doesn’t make things easier, but being mentally prepared helps a little bit.
Having said that, this cold is still the bane of my existence right now. Yes, it’s unpleasant and I’m startled by the amount of tissues I’ve gone through, but it’s also kept me from working at the pace and with the quality I expect from myself.
Living life as an independent business owner does have its drawbacks here and there. Sure, you can spend all day at your desk wearing pajamas, churning away at the day’s tasks, but what do you do when you can’t get out of bed because you’ve been hacking away all night?
That’s a sad reality that we’re all going to have to face sometime. We are going to get sick and it’s going to totally disrupt our lives.
Sadly, none of us is Bruce Willis’s invulnerable character in the movie, Unbreakable (but how cool would that be?).
The cruel reality of sickness
Working independently throws a monkey wrench into everything. At a “normal” job you have probably accrued sick days you can take advantage of for such an unfortunate occasion. There’s a safety net under you.
That isn’t so with independent work. Sure, you may be able to plan ahead and block time off of work from your future schedule, but since when has an illness ever been that predictable?
I would venture a bet that the next sickness you and I have will come as a surprise. We’ll probably be in the middle of some large project for a client who’s ultimately more concerned about meeting a deadline than they are about your health.
I mean, I’m sure they’re wishing you the best—people aren’t monsters—but they have their own business to worry about.
Consider also your future projects. Even if you were able to get your current client to postpone their project, you’d have a hard time convincing everyone else to push back their schedule without giving them something for their troubles.
Suddenly, you have a lot more to consider than simply getting better.
What’s to be done about this sickness mess then?
The very first thing to work on is a given: yourself.
You need to take care of yourself. All the stellar customer service you can give while being sick isn’t going to matter if you’re neglecting your health. What good are you going to be to anyone if you get worse because you’re pushing things too hard?
If you have the ability, then go ahead and take care of what responsibilities you can. A case of the sniffles shouldn’t be enough to completely derail your work life.
On the other hand, if you’re completely bedridden with the flu or something even worse, then work probably won’t even be crossing your mind. That’s understandable; those illnesses suck.
What it all comes down to is you should do what you feel capable of doing.
Through it all, make sure you drink lots of fluids. Eat some macaroni and cheese or something. Watch a Netflix show while covered with some warm blankets. Keep an eye on things and treat yourself right.
Your business starts and stops with you. You’ll do everyone a disservice if you overexert yourself into the hospital.
As for your clients, remember that they deserve to know their project is always going to be in the right hands. That means transparency and generosity.
Again, the sniffles won’t require a tell-all email sent to every one of your clients, but something worse just might.
In the same way that you would call in at that “normal” job to let them know you’re sick, if you’re physically incapable of meeting a deadline, you need to inform the clients who are paying you to do their work.
In the end, it’s up to you if you feel unable to meet an agreed upon deadline, but a large part of business is customer satisfaction. The independent game comes with its own responsibilities.
There are ways to soften the blow, though. You may consider offering a small discount to your upcoming clients if your illness is going to throw off your schedule.
You can throw in an extra page or two on their upcoming website, free of charge.
You can send them a thank you gift for their kind understanding.
It’s important to help your clients feel that, while you may be unable to stick to an exact deadline, they are still very important people in your life. They need to know you still care about them and their project.
Good customer service goes a long way, friend.
I may be toiling away at this cold right now, but it’s not enough to stop me from sharing this with you. That’s the decision I've made in this case.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still drinking a lot of water and enjoying some sweet pajama time under some heavy blankets, but I’ve decided to keep my work going through this.
A sickness is always unfortunate. I wouldn’t wish this headache and cough I have on anyone, but it doesn’t necessarily need to stop the world. We all need to take things like this on a case-by-case basis.
And we all need to take care of the people we work with as much as we take care of ourselves.
It doesn’t take a lot to make someone else feel valued. While that may be harder to do with plugged up sinuses, it’s always worth it.
Stay healthy, cats.