Working as a freelancer has many perks, the biggest of which is that you have total control over when and where you work. Of course, every perk has a downside and the downside to the freedom that freelancing affords is that fact that no one will just pay you to show up; if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Most times, the pay-for-play nature of freelance work isn’t a problem. In fact, for many freelancers, it’s a reasonable trade-off for not having to punch a time clock. However, if you are ever stricken with a serious illness, such as cancer, it can present a serious obstacle.
Working Through Your Illness
Unless you have a nice little nest egg, you will have to continue working through a serious illness; the mortgage company doesn’t care that you have stage II mesothelioma, and the phone company won’t take a doctor’s note as an excuse.
But basic survival isn’t the only reason freelancers need to work; if a you drop off the face of the earth to deal with an illness, you could lose an important client. This is why even freelancers who have decent nest eggs to fall back on can’t afford to take too much time off.
Unfortunately, the nature of some illnesses makes work difficult. Chemotherapy and radiation can often leave you feeling worse than the cancers they are designed to treat; not to mention all the time you have to spend in treatment. But, as any freelancer knows, the show must go on, and you need to find ways to deal with your illness and still get work done.
The truth is that you might not be able to handle everything on your own. If you can delegate some of your work responsibilities to someone else, that will give you more energy to focus on getting well. You might have to pay someone, but what you pay could be well worth it because you’ll still be able to meet your deadlines and keep your clients happy.
You can also use helpers for other tasks. For example, if your illness is the result of someone else’s negligence, you can have someone help you deal with the legal aspects while you focus on work and healing. Baron and Budd, a firm of attorneys that specializes in asbestos cases, recommends that you get the process started even while you are in treatment due to statutes of limitations and other issues.
Make a schedule
If you are used to working more organically, you will now have to live by a set schedule. Once you enter treatment you will have to take medications at a certain time, and schedule treatments at facilities for specific days. If you don’t have a set schedule, it will be easy for work to fall through the cracks. The schedule shouldn’t be set in stone, but it should be a strong outline of each day so that you can stay on track.
Communicate with your medical team
Your medical team will be in charge of coordinating your care, including treatment schedules. If you know that a certain treatment is going to take a long time to administer, and knock you out for the rest of the day, then you can work with your doctor to arrange as many treatments as possible around your work schedule.
Decide which clients to inform
You might decide not to tell any of your clients, for fear that they will stop working with you. However, there could be some instances where keeping them in the loop can actually help your career. If you know that, despite your best efforts, the treatments might affect your work, you might consider communicating with your important clients.
You don’t have to tell them everything, but you should make it clear that there are some unforeseen events that have changed the way you normally do business. You can even offer them an incentive to continue using your services, such as discounts.
Don’t be afraid of disability
If your illness is debilitating enough, you could qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. With SSDI benefits you might still be able to work, but you can significantly reduce your workload while you are dealing with your illness. SSDI won’t help you keep clients, but it will help you keep your house.