When freelancers get sick

I very rarely get sick. Maybe once or twice a year I’m hit by a hammer blow and confined to bed for three days. Why is it that this never happens on that week you have no plans? It’s always when the diary is full of exciting things you’ve been looking forward to. Or, if you are a freelancer, on a week when the diary is chock full of deadlines.

When you’re on staff somewhere you can crawl into bed in the knowledge that:

a) There is someone who can do your work for a couple of days, and

b) You will still get paid

Paid to be sick! This is the true pinnacle of being employed, isn’t it? Better even than paid annual leave.

There should be a minute of silence once a year in offices where people just think about the joy that is paid sick leave, because it really is underrated. Or, before you go freelance, someone should really hand you a bullet point list of all these wonderful things you’ve never given too much thought to before, just so you’re clear on what you’re going to be missing.

Something tells me, however, that an editor waiting for an article isn’t going to be particularly sympathetic to an email saying: I’m sick! Send Kleenex and Lemsip and, by the way, you’re not getting your article today.

I’m not very good at being sick anyway, if I’m being honest.

On the rare occasion I would give into illness and take a day off when I was in employ I’d spend most of the day feeling horrifically guilty about leaving my team in the lurch and would still keep checking my emails – I’m not sure how much this strategy does to aid recovery.

So maybe being bundled up under blankets but still doing work is a decent compromise for the idiots among us who are not very good at not working.

Let’s keep things in perspective, I just have a bit of a cold and am feeling sorry for myself. But feeling a bit under the weather has made me consider for the first time what the plan would be if I were properly sick. Are editors understanding of that sort of thing?

There are some publications I write for where I think, if you have a legitimate reason, there could be some leeway on a deadline. But at other places the deadlines are shorter and the articles more time-sensitive.

Plus, I think if I promise to deliver something then shy of losing a leg, or something equally dramatic, the onus is on me to deliver it.

And what if you had agreed to work a shift somewhere that day? I’ve been trying to think today what level of unwell I would have to reach before I call into sick to a job I don’t even have. I think it’s probably back to losing a leg territory.

So today I’ll be taking paracetamol, drinking my body weight in tea and hoping all my limbs stay attached – because there isn’t a plan B yet.

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