How do you avoid letting clients down when you can’t work?

Posted on: June 16th, 2010

Freelancers don’t take much time off sick – for the simple reason that, for every day you are ill, you don’t earn any money. (Unless you’re lucky enough to be on a retainer.)

Of course, everyone is going to succumb to the flu or some other illness at some point. Being off sick for a couple of days isn’t too much of a problem – you can make up the time you’ve lost pretty easily by working over the weekend once you’ve recovered or by working over a few evenings.

But it’s when you have to be off for several weeks that things can get a bit hairy. If you’ve got an important project coming up and you’re not there to play your part and you haven’t arranged any support to back you up, you may find your client soon becomes an ex-client. Because they may hire another freelancer in the interim and decide to stop using you once you’re back on your feet.

Here’s my bit of advice:

Make sure you get to know two or three other trusted freelancers who provide the same level of service as you do. Just as you would call on them to help you out with a big project, so you can turn to them to cover for you when you’re sick. Of course, you can’t plan ahead for sickness so your fellow freelancers may well be busy and unable to have much spare capacity to help out. That’s why you need a small group of people, so you can divvy up your workload between them.

Quick tip: if your freelance helpers bill your client direct, make sure they don’t charge less than you do!

Related post: How to cope financially if you get sick.

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