It’s been a bit quiet on the blog, and the truth is I caught COVID. So for today’s post, I thought I would share what happens when you get sick as a freelancer and how to ensure that you are prepared in case that happens. Because truth is, we are not super-human, and occasionally we might get sick. I hope this post will highlight that freelancers are people too, and that you can take steps to ensure that you’re prepared in case you do get sick.
My COVID experience
To give some backstory, things have been quite busy for the past few months and I haven’t felt 100% happy mentally. Because self-care is important, I had scheduled both Friday and Monday off for Easter, which was also a public holiday in Hamburg. On the 14th, my partner and I celebrated four years together by going to a nice dinner at one of our go-to spots (Amaranto in Winterhude for tapas and wine 😍). We spent the weekend relaxing and enjoying the sun, but by Sunday I was not feeling well. My throat was hurting and I just felt exhausted, but I chalked it up to the weather changing and having felt stressed. We ended up going for Easter brunch with our friends as originally planned (I know, I feel awful about this), but I told them I wasn’t feeling 100%, although I honestly wasn’t feeling that bad at this point. When we got home, I could barely walk up the stairs to our third floor apartment and I knew something wasn’t right. I went straight to bed, my legs aching as if I had actually exercised, and feeling feverish. On Monday I continued to feel feverish and my throat ache was so bad, I assumed I might have strep throat. But alas, I got tested and was finally positive. Unfortunately, I did get hit pretty hard and had to take more than a week off from work, but the exhaustion lingered on for a few weeks afterwards.
So, you’re sick
As soon as I got my test result, I let my clients know that I was sick and would need to take the full week off to recover. Most businesses will have had to deal with their employees being sick, so luckily everyone was understanding. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I would be honest and let your clients know, instead of trying to work while sick. Ultimately, your body will need time to rest and you shouldn’t have to worry about deadlines when you’re not feeling well. Tell your clients when you expect to be back and remind them what you are still working on to assure them that things are not being forgotten. If you need additional time off, just reach out to them again and tell them.
Setting yourself up for success
Since the pandemic I’ve been quite scared of getting sick, especially in the beginning when I was not financially prepared. As you may know, I did start my business at the beginning of covid, and was very much relying on exchanging my time for money. Two years in, I’m a little better prepared for taking time off unexpectedly, but it’s still been a little worrying to have to take almost two weeks off unexpectedly. This is where budgeting is so important, so don’t forget to download my free budget template to map out where your money is going every month. This will help you determine how much money you should strive to have in your emergency account.
Starting an emergency fund
An emergency fund is essential when you are self-employed. As the name suggests, this is a set amount of money that you don’t touch, unless its an emergency. When you’re self-employed, this can be in case you get sick, don’t get paid when expected, or lose a client. What’s important is that the money is easily accessible, so that you can access it relatively quickly if you get into this “emergency” situation. You may see different sources quoting various amounts that should be in there, but the recommendation is typically having enough to cover between three to six months of expenses. This might sound overwhelming at first (it was for me too), but the first step is just to get started. For my business I use N26, which allows for different “spaces” which you can name to distinguish between the money. This is how I save for taxes, VAT payments, and my emergency fund. I am not a financial advisor, so please feel free to consult with your bank to see if there are some higher-yield savings options available to you that are still relatively liquid.
If you’re just starting out, I would start by getting into the habit of putting a little money aside for your emergency fund every month. It can be tough in the beginning to have any money leftover, but you will feel much better once you at least have a couple thousand set aside. Personally, I figure that catching covid cost me at least 2000 euros, just due to time not spent working. Ouch 😭 Having an emergency fund ensured that I was still able to pay my personal and business expenses without too much trouble.
Have you had covid as well? How did it affect you?