Welcome to the next post in my Boost Health Awareness mini-series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme!

Successful business owners are notoriously hard-working.

After all, where would we be without hard work? Eventually, though, becoming engrossed in our work and neglecting our health can catch up with us. Most ironically, the current theme on the blog is boosting health awareness to boost productivity… and last month I caught the flu.


The fact is, we are all going to get ill at some point.

We’re only human, after all. But rather than let the situation bog us down, taking the business with it, we can take steps to circumvent problems before they happen. I got thinking about this when I read this fantastic article by Karen Rückert, a colleague of mine with some very shrewd insights into what to do when illness strikes.

Naturally, as Karen points out, we should all already have things like health insurance and an emergency fund set up for this very scenario. What we often forget to plan out are the practical steps we can take, ready for when the phlegm inevitably hits the fan and we have to deal with a health crisis (big or small). I have to confess that I have not yet implemented all of the measures below, but I absolutely plan to do so over the coming months; this month’s flu certainly helped to put things in perspective!


1. The buffering system

We should all be using this already; when we give a deadline for a job, especially a larger one, we should always factor in more time than we think we really need. The reason for this is simple: if anything at all goes wrong, we can still get things back on track without putting our clients out. This same principle applies when you’re sick; if flu strikes, the last thing you want to be worried about is meeting that one deadline you didn’t buffer.


2. The buddy system

Do you have a trusted colleague/friend who speaks your languages? Why not pair up with them and offer to be their emergency buddy? That way, when either one of you is sick or hit by some other crisis, you can contact them to help you deal with things like client correspondence, invoicing, and project management.


3. Good client relations

The moment illness strikes is the moment that your good customer service and reliability should pay off – at least to some extent. For those projects for which there is simply no buffer large enough, or perhaps just those times when you have been truly knocked for six, the best thing you can do is keep your clients informed and ask for extensions where necessary. Clients are – contrary to popular belief! – living, breathing human beings, and they understand that people sometimes get sick. Knowing this fact, don’t be afraid to contact your clients to say that you are just too ill to continue working on the project right now. They will understand, and should also have some of their own buffers in place to account for this kind of thing.


4. The emergency file

As mentioned by Karen in her post on the topic, an emergency file is an excellent way to ensure that a colleague or family member can keep your business ticking over when crisis hits. Essentially, this should include a list of your clients’ email addresses, some template emails (or perhaps you could save these for your buddy… see point two), and a summarised action plan so that your stand-in isn’t completely lost. Karen also suggests including bank details, usernames, and passwords for big emergencies. Naturally, you also need to keep this file up to date! I’d recommend updating it at least once a month, or as needed.


Prevention is better than cure.

Yes, that old chestnut. Unfortunately, it’s true that prevention is a whole lot better than cure, especially when it comes to a nasty virus like the flu – for which there’s no remedy other than to just buckle under and ride it out! Fortunately, my recent health awareness posts should have given you plenty of food for thought regarding how to stay fit and healthy – thus helping you to avoid freelancer illness in the first place!


Do you have any crisis-busting tips that could pad out this list? Please do share in the comments!


Edit: I would actually go so far as to say that the above are not exclusively steps you should take to prepare for illness; accidents, major damage to our property, family crises and bereavement all have the potential to trip us up with little or no warning, which is all the more reason to have a plan in place.


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