As a freelance trainer, what happens on the mornings when you wake up feeling poorly?
You’re shivering, aching all over, your nose is streaming and your forehead is burning. All you want to do is crawl back under the duvet. But then you remember that you’re self-employed; you don’t get sick days. You can’t phone into work and arrange for a colleague to cover the day ahead. No-one will pay you if you take a day off. Plus you have clients who are expecting you to deliver training, submit a proposal or respond to their emails. So, you reach for the decongestants and an industrial-size box of Kleenex and decide to shiver your way through a day in front of the computer.
Except it doesn’t have to be like this. Self-employed people get sick sometimes and that’s okay – you’re allowed to be sick and take the time to recover.
In this week’s blog, I’ve put together my thoughts about how to create a healthy training business that keeps going even when you’re ill.
Be honest with your clients
In my experience, most clients are sympathetic to illness and understand that being poorly – or having a poorly child to tend to – is completely beyond your control. If you feel like you’re on the verge of an illness, it’s a good idea to pre-warn clients who might be affected. Otherwise, try to let them know as soon as possible.
In most cases, clients would rather that you deliver quality work a week later than planned than muddle your way through an illness to produce something of a lower standard.
Even though you work alone the majority of the time, it’s a good idea to foster a network of contacts who can support you by taking on some of the tasks within your business. This applies to when you’re well too but can be especially valuable when you’re poorly.
A Virtual Assistant, for example, would be able to manage your social media, maintain your website, send out your e-newsletter, and even answer your phone or emails while you get some much-needed time to recover.
Reach out to your network
I’d also strongly recommend connecting with other trainers on an ongoing basis. This can be especially helpful when you’re poorly and the client simply can’t push back when the training needs to be delivered, as you may be able to call on a trusted contact to deliver the training on your behalf.
If this does need to happen, it’s important to be transparent with the affected client and let them know that you are unable to deliver the training in person due to illness, but that you have found someone you respect and who is appropriately knowledgeable and experienced to step into the breach.
Build extra time into every project
Illness aside, client projects can often take longer than you would expect from the initial brief. Then, of course, there’s the reality that ill health and emergencies can occur without warning. With this in mind, you might want to build some extra time into your project proposals/quotes to allow room for the unexpected.
If you do need to push a deadline back due to illness, try to build in ample time so you’re not under undue pressure as soon as you get back to work.
Use your smartphone
I’m always amazed by how much of my business I am able to control from my smartphone. There are apps for banking, for my customer relationship management (CRM) database, social media marketing, analytics, email, planning, note taking and much more.
It’s possible to perform many of your administrative and marketing tasks on your smartphone, tablet or laptop while being curled up under the duvet. Naturally, it depends on your illness – your smartphone might be the last thing on your mind if you’ve got a sickness bug!
Develop a passive income
In last week’s blog, I talked about how it’s possible to develop a passive income as a freelance trainer. Knowing that you still have a source of income when you’re poorly, especially if you need to take more than a few days off work, can give you peace of mind. It also means that your clients won’t even know you’re ill.
Buy health insurance
Should the worst happen and you develop an illness that means you need to take a substantial time away from work, it’s important to have the right health insurance in place. Options such as Income Protection, Critical Illness Cover, Life Insurance, and Private Medical Insurance can all be good options for those of us who are self-employed.
Let your body recover
If you try the work through your illness, the chances are that you won’t deliver your best work and you may prolong your recovery period. The world won’t stop turning if you need to take time off for illness, so I would always urge you to be kind to yourself, take time out and let your body have the rest it needs to recover. That way you’ll be fighting fit and back on your feet in no time at all.
How do you deal with sick days as a freelance trainer? Do you feel you have to soldier through or do you have a contingency in place? I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips and experiences in the Comments below.
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