Plan for Sick Days

How to Handle Sick Days as a Freelance Writer

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

As a freelance writer, sick days can mean the loss of income. That’s because most of us are paid per word or by project. If you’re unable to work, you’re most likely not getting paid. So, how do you make sure you can sustain yourself when you’re ill?

Well, that really depends on how sick you get. But, it’s always best to plan for having a few days of downtime. Because nothing is worse than trying to be productive when facing a 104° temperature.

If you’re lucky, you can land a really good contract such as a “retainer.” This means you’re paid the same whether you work or not. The trade-off, though, is that you usually don’t get overtime pay.

It’s essentially a salary that never changes. Personally, I prefer these types of contracts to pay-per-word or by piece. But, it’s difficult to land these if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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How to Prepare for Sick Days as a Freelance Writer

For the most part, preparing for being sick is similar to saving up for a vacation. The biggest difference is the amount you’ll want to save.

Usually, a vacation is going to cost you far more money than if you had the 24-hour flu.

1. Set Up a Savings Account

It’s worth setting up a savings account specifically for sick days. This way, you can simply move money from one account to the other to make sure you’re still able to pay your bills.

Not only that, but the savings account will accumulate interest over time. So, the more you put into this account, the easier it is to sustain yourself during even the worst illnesses.

With my bank, I can set up as many sub-accounts as I’d like. So, I can have one for taxes, vacations, Christmas, and sick days. Then, I can instantly move the funds over to cover what I need.

2. Calculate at Least Three Days of “Sick Leave”

As a rule of thumb, I try to calculate at least three days worth of being sick. Usually, I never come close to needing this entire amount. Still, it’s better to have more than you need than not enough.

This way, you don’t have to worry about not getting enough jobs done the days you are sick. During my prime while writing for Textbroker, this would come up to around $200. Then, if I was sick, I knew I had enough to cover the days I wasn’t writing for clients.

So, tally up your average income per day and squirrel away at least three times that amount.

3. Convince Yourself Not to Work

Now comes the hardest part. Well, at least for me, anyway. When you’re having sick days, convince yourself not to work. You really don’t need the money if you have enough saved in your sick savings account.

Besides, I found that on days when I was sick, I would create far more mistakes, take longer to write, and spend the next few days doing revisions.

So, in reality, you’re not helping anyone if you try to push through. In fact, you could lose clients due to the lack of quality in your work.

I even stopped writing at night in general because of the number of revisions I had to do when writing while tired.

4. Only Use the Money for Real Sick Days

I know it’s awfully tempting to spend money that’s just sitting there in the savings account. But, it’s important that you leave the account alone and let it accrue interest.

I can’t count the number of times I had a nest egg growing in the bank only to use it for something frivolous. And shortly thereafter, I would have a situation where that money could have helped.

This is one of those times when being a freelancer is quite difficult. You need to have a strong conviction, motivation, and determination to be successful. And yes, this includes not touching savings that are set aside for specific purposes.

It’s Often More Difficult to Be a Freelance Writer

Unlike a traditional job, being a freelancer means you have to manage finances very closely. You don’t have an HR department to set aside sick days as you work.

In the beginning, you need to practice a great deal of financial responsibility. Otherwise, you can wind up spending everything and have no money for the days when you’re sick or want to take a vacation.

Here’s an idea. Why not “pretend” you’re paying into a sick days system as you would with any other business? Every two weeks, deposit half a days pay into your sick leave account and let it sit.

That way, you can slowly build up enough to cover even the worst of illnesses.

For example, I would make 4 hours of sick leave for every two weeks of work when I was at the IRS in the 1990s. Half a days pay shouldn’t be all that bad over a span of two weeks.

If you’re using platforms like Textbroker, you can stick 25% of an average day’s pay into savings every week.

Come up with a viable plan for yourself for saving up sick days. You don’t want to strap yourself for cash each week, but you do need to put something away for a rainy day.

You could even come up with a plan to put aside a specific percentage of every payment you receive from clients. This is something I would do simply because I would have a spreadsheet to calculate everything to the exact penny.

Then again, I’m a bit of a geek like that.

My point is you need to save for many of the things we take for granted when working traditional jobs from employers.

Hope for the Best, But Prepare for the Worst

Even those working from home can have sick days. This is especially true if you have children who go to school. They can bring back all kinds of ailments. It’s always best to have a backup plan in case those situations happen.

And even if you don’t think you get sick enough to warrant saving up, life has a way of proving you wrong.

Err on the side of caution and make sure you’re able to sustain yourself as a freelance writer feeling under the weather.

Michael Brockbank
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