How to Run Your Business When You’re Sick

How to Run Your Business When You're Sick

The common cold. It’s unavoidable and inevitable, no matter how many precautions you take.

One morning, you’ll wake up feeling stuffy, achy and just plain rotten, and you’ll wish you could stay in bed while someone cares for you with hot tea and soup.

But you’re self-employed. Work’s waiting. Clients have emailed you. They’re expecting a reply. And you’ll sigh as you remember you really don’t have that hot-tea option available.

Your business needs you. And it doesn’t care how sick you are.

So you haul yourself out of bed, snatch a box of Kleenex, drug yourself up with decongestants and huddle at your computer in a warm blanket hoping you can muddle through work with a brain that’s as slow as thick molasses.

Big, big mistake.

When you’re sick, you’re sick. Forcing yourself to work isn’t doing you or your clients any good. You’re not at your best and while you might get the job done, it won’t be good work.

Getting the job done doesn’t take priority over doing the job well. Your clients don’t deserve that, and they’re not paying you for shoddy work.

Don’t believe me? Send an email to your client to tell him you’re sick as a dog. Then ask that person if he’d like you to drag through the day or rest up and come back to it next week.

Chances are, he’d push you to your bed if he could.

When you’re sick, do the right thing for your clients – and the right thing for you: Stop and rest.

Your body needs it, and ignoring its pleas for healing time can just make the situation worse. You’ll use up all the energy you have – energy your body needs. You’ll feel drained and exhausted, physically and mentally, and you’ll be force your body to struggle to keep up with you.

It won’t struggle. It can’t. If you don’t give your body the rest it needs, it’ll crash.

And you’ll get sicker. Your body’s going to force you to pay attention to its needs. That common cold you have will turn into something worse that knocks you right off your feet for weeks.

I can hear your immune system now. “How do you like them apples?”

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Good advice… another attitude to take is: a few days nursing this affliction is compensation for all those extra days I put in with the promise I’d take that time off (and never did).

  2. Feel better James.

    The upside is that even once you start feeling a bit better, you can stay in your pyjamas and slippers while you work!

  3. Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  4. I totally agree with you. The very best thing you can do for yourself and your clients when you’re sick is to set work aside, rest, and take good care of yourself. You might even be sick because you’ve worked too hard. Take good care and feel better soon :-).

  5. James,

    I dragged myself out of bed this morning, had 2 cups of coffee, and managed to work in spite of the cold and cough. There were few clients I originally planned to call yet contacted via email instead. Although no one hears my sick voice, I can hardly pull my brain together to write a paragraph. Then there comes your email. And you are right! I have to listen to my body and get some rest. Thank you because now I have a reason to go to bed. 🙂

  6. James, if indeed your nose and throat are the devil’s sin-fired pizza oven right now, get your rest. (I do believe in the bourbon toddy.) I have to say though, if your mind is baked oatmeal now, you did write a pretty level-headed post about work and a reasonable approach to illness. No sneezes showed.

  7. Boy oh boy. Never a truer word was spoken, fine or otherwise.

  8. Have any advice for someone who needs to take maternity leave? I’m at a loss for how to put my business on hold while caring for a new baby. Only two more months to prepare. Eek!

    • Sara:

      Though I am not your husband or your boss but your baby means a lot than your business. You need a babysitter while caring for a new baby I understand it is expensive not like Rwanda. If you can afford five girls I can afford to send them all!!!

      Ntarugera François

      + 250 788500199

    • Hey, Sara…

      I’ve had two babies since opening my business, so I’ve been where you are. A couple of things I’d say:
      Prepare your clients. I told all my clients I would be taking two weeks completely off (and I did) and then I’d be available on a more limited basis for another two months, meaning I would be available by phone and email to a reasonable level, but wasn’t leaving the house (I work from my home primarily) for meetings. I contracted with a writer I trusted to handle any emergencies during that time and let my clients know I’d done that. I saved some dollars so the reduced income while I was on reduced schedule wouldn’t kill us (my business is the sole support for our family of 6) and I focused on the important thing — the baby 🙂
      If your clients abandon you because you’ll be less available for 8 weeks, they probably aren’t worth having. Hire what help you can to fill in the gaps and keep things moving if you need to, and learn to accept a 24 hour return for emails instead of a 2 hour return while you’re off. 🙂 Congratulations, by the way.

      • Thanks Ntarugera and Mandy. I’m not afraid of hiring a babysitter or saying no to clients…I guess I fear throwing away some of the work I’ve done to build a business. But, then again, I’m probably being dramatic. Blame the hormones.

        • Mandy Vavrinak says:

          It can be scary… Totally understand. It kinda helps to remember why you’re working (support your family? Stay sharp professionally? Because you love what you do & you’re good at it…?). Those reasons will still be valid in a couple of months. The effort you’ve put means the biz will survive a short break, and you’ll be full of new ideas & perspectives after you return.

  9. James, what you wrote here feels like dejavu… and sometimes you wish you can hook up all your computing device to your brain so you don’t have to get out of bed and do all the typing. Isn’t it funny how we feel like a slave to our work these days? I’m just super lucky that my clients have a good heart and they really do understand when I get sick. Besides, you can go back to work anytime and there’s always the adage… ‘health is wealth’. You only have one life, one health to live in your lifetime… something money cannot buy..

  10. Dear James and blog readers:

    When you are sick , you are sick. We have to figure out that health and life comes first before your profession and skills whether you work for you or someone else. Though this con not be understood by your clients, but life is made by choice. Choose to stay in your bed while communicating with your clients because if you force your self to carry your laptop in your brain , then save the money to buy your grave. It is cost a lot money here in Rwanda you know….

    Ntarugera François
    Rwandan journalist

  11. It is really difficult to bounce back to work esp if we’re feeling down or sick with flu. My mentor once told me that it is important (for freelancers) to prepare back-up plans when the need arises. I had spent time creating tutorials for my team mate who can jump in at some tasks that doesn’t require much of my attention. I would also like to suggest to consider hiring a virtual assistant to cover for you (or your admin tasks). This will save you time monitoring your email when you’re supposed to be nursing and resting.

  12. Dear James, I hope this is not because you are under the weather. “When you’re sick, you’re sick.” << you sound like my mom and my hubby. INDEED! I have been very bad about this when I was in the corporate world but I think it is best to just take time out. My reason for not doing work when I am (very) sick is because I don't want to get sick of my passions (no pun, really) … and if I do something I love when I feel awful, that tends to be the outcome. Thank you.

  13. Dear James, I hope this is not because you are under the weather. “When you’re sick, you’re sick.” << you sound like my mom and my hubby. INDEED! I have been very bad about this when I was in the corporate world but I think it is best to just take time out. My reason for not doing work when I am (very) sick is because I don't want to get sick of my passions (no pun, really) … and if I do something I love when I feel awful, that tends to be the outcome. Thank you.

  14. Dear James, I hope this is not because you are under the weather. “When you’re sick, you’re sick.” << you sound like my mom and my hubby. INDEED! I have been very bad about this when I was in the corporate world but I think it is best to just take time out. My reason for not doing work when I am (very) sick is because I don't want to get sick of my passions (no pun, really) … and if I do something I love when I feel awful, that tends to be the outcome. Thank you.

  15. Feel better James. I totally agree with this article!

  16. So why do we have such a hard time giving in and just letting go? I know for myself I feel like I will get further and further behind. But what you say is absolutely true. If you don’t rest you can make yourself even worse off (which I’ve done!) And you are definitely not doing your clients any favors by forcing the work when you are not going to do your best.

  17. Such an appropriate article! I’ve been sick for the past two weeks and I worked through the worst. I should have listened to my body and taken a break. Now I am barely hanging on through the middle of week two. My clients are so understanding. They are pushing me into bed!

  18. Great advice. When I’m sick I stay in bed and reread favourite business and copywriting books (in between thrillers of course!)

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