what happens when a freelancer gets sickYou may have noticed that my blog has been pretty quiet lately.

It’s not because I wanted to neglect the blog. Not at all. I got sick.

It started back in May when I couldn’t keep anything down. It lasted for weeks. I ended up in the Emergency Room twice for dehydration and really low blood pressure. The attending doctor from the first ER visit … she was gem. When I told her I didn’t have any other symptoms other than vomiting she couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. She actually stood there and kept saying “It’s so strange.” Great. Thanks lady. You’re helpful.

After some tests ordered by my physician, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Basically my stomach muscles were paralyzed so I wasn’t digesting food or liquid. Okay, it sucks but I was happy to have an answer.

Unfortunately it didn’t stop there.

Shortly after, I noticed I was having a hard time lifting my left leg. I had some numbness in both legs for about a month already (my physician said it was due to the fact that I was lacking nutrition) but now I was losing movement.

From there, the motor function in my left leg quickly diminished. Within a week I couldn’t walk on it at all. Couldn’t lift it, move it on my own, nothing.

I visited a neurologist and was sent to the hospital that day. After getting a MRI and a lumbar puncture (which, by the way, is as horrible as it sounds), I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis.

Transverse myelitis is defined as “a rare inflammatory disease causing injury to the spinal cord with varying degrees of weakness, sensory alterations, and autonomic dysfunction.” There is an estimated 1 to 8 new cases per million each year. What luck right? My husband says I should play the lottery.

I was in the hospital for 5 days and given strong steroids to reduce the inflammation. Since I could barely walk, I was considered a fall risk and had to call a nurse for everything. Do you know what it’s like to have to call someone just to pee?

By the time I went home, I had regained some movement in my leg.

Since then I have only gotten stronger. I can walk unassisted pretty well now. I get tired quicker, but I’m walking. I can cook and clean (for short periods of time) again. I started driving again with my husband in the car. As someone who has been driving for a long time now, the break from driving was nice. At first. Being chauffeured everywhere gets old … fast.

So, let’s get to the point of this post.

As a freelance writer, I can’t just call in sick and have someone cover my shift. Getting so ill that you can’t work is something all freelancers may face at one point in time. So here is my advice on how to handle the situation.

Notify Your Clients

Start by emailing/calling your clients. Let them know your situation.

I’ll be honest; I have always been able to move things around just enough to take a single rest day here and there if I was feeling under the weather. But this was a whole ‘nother ball game and I was nervous.

Turns out, I had absolutely no reason to be nervous. I have some seriously awesome clients. These past few months, there were times when their content didn’t get written. Periods where they did not have a blog post to publish. And they were all okay with that.

And chances are, your clients will be too.

Trim Your To-Do List

Next thing you need to do is cut out the tasks that really don’t need to be done right now. In most cases, these are likely going to be the tasks that are non-billable. Things like your own blog (obviously this is me), social media, answering emails, etc. These are the things that you won’t get paid for and won’t seriously hurt your business if you miss a day or two.

Wait or Pass It On?

Now let’s talk about the tasks that you must do. Like your client work. You don’t want to do more than you are up to. If you are really ill, your first job should be to get better. Taking on too much right now will only prolong your sickness.

Basically, you have 2 choices here:

Delay – These are going to be the tasks you can put off for a few days until you recover. Things that have flexible deadlines or even projects for super cool clients can fall into this category.

Delegate – Tasks that absolutely need to get done can be outsourced. Tap into your freelance contacts and find someone you are comfortable handing these over to.

You can hire someone to do the work for you while you keep a portion of the payment as a referral fee. If you plan to completely hand these tasks over to someone else, make sure you are upfront with your clients about doing so.


Getting sick is no fun. Having to stay in the hospital was even less fun. As a freelancer, your work and current projects are always in the back of your mind. If you do get sick, follow these steps to handle the situation like a pro.

Over to you: Have you ever had to take a break from work due to illness? How did you manage your business and health at the same time?