Self-Employed and Sick – 4 Tips for Sick Days

What do you do when you’re feeling under the weather and you are the business?

“I’m so glad we’re not busy,” I said to myself. That’s not something you would normally hear from a business owner but I’ve been sick. Thankfully it hasn’t affected my orders or turnaround time.

I was thinking though, what would I do if I were really busy and had deadlines to meet? What if I was sick for an extended period of time (heaven forbid)? What would happen to my business?

Maybe you have had the same thoughts or experienced this yourself. When you are the business you kind of can’t take sick days. So what do you do?

1. Prioritize
At the first sign of sickness make a list of all the things that have to be done. Finish up any orders that take priority and would be overdue if you missed a few days of work. You’d be amazed what a good list can do for your productivity.

2. Contact Customers
Contact your customers who have outstanding orders and let them know their order might be delayed a few days. Hopefully, you left yourself some wiggle room in your quoted turnaround time and you can still get to things in a timely manner.
I say make it personal and tell them you’re feeling under the weather. Most people will understand. If they get upset you could offer a discount on future purchases or free shipping. But I think most people are decent human beings and will understand (at least I hope so).

3. Ask for Help
This might be hard for those of you who have a very particular way you like things done but it may be the only way. You could have a significant-other package up orders or run to the post office for you. If you have kids they could fill orders with inventory you have on hand. Thankfully I do have a partner (my mom) and she’s able to pick up the slack when I’m not feeling well.

We’ve also hired extra help during busy times so we have a few backup people we could ask. If someone else is going to be doing the work you normally do try to train them ahead of time. Maybe you have a stay-at-home mom friend, or a teenager looking to make some extra cash. Teach them to do a few basic things. Then when you get desperate you have someone to call.

4. Close your business
Yikes! That scared me just typing it. Only as a last resort would I recommend this. You could put upcoming projects on hold or if you have an online shop (ours is on Etsy) you can suspend your store so that no new orders can come in. I don’t recommend this because it can hurt your rankings in search engines and take awhile to recover from but if you absolutely need to it is an option. Hopefully, you’ll be feeling better soon enough that you won’t have to even consider this.

Here’s how to start feeling better with the 3 R’s
Rest. Relax. Recover.

The best solution for most sickness is rest. Give yourself permission to crawl in bed and binge watch your favorite TV show (or sleep). If you were able to get the most important things done before you took a day off there should be nothing to worry about.

Stress can cause a lot of health-related issues. It weakens your immune system and can lead to Chronic problems. Don’t let worry consume you. While you’re resting the only thing I want you to do is write down your thoughts and to-do’s that pop up. Then let them go. They’ll be there in your notes when you’re back to health. Take a hot bath. Drink some herbal tea and think of this as a vacation you never have time to take.

Whether your recovery time is just a few days or a week don’t rush it. Trying to go back to work too soon before you’re fully healed can extend the life of your illness. Only return to your regular activities when you feel 100% better. I know that sounds hard. I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah right. I’ll get back as soon as I feel a little better.” The keyword there is “a little”. Trust me muddling through going back to work the last days of a cold or the flu isn’t going to make you very productive. Give yourself the time your body needs to make a full recovery.

Well, there you have it. What to do when you’re sick and self-employed. If you have any other good tips or a story to share leave a comment below.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post! This was so well written! I started my blog about almost 2 months ago and it has been a fantastic experience. I have battled Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years and it has come with a lot of pain. But I try to remain positive and not let it control me. I look forward to more of your posts! Take care!!!

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