This reminded me, once again, that freelancers should always be ready to deal with illness or injury.
Independent contractors don’t get sick days. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. That’s just one more thing to think about if you’re planning to go freelance.
As someone who hasn’t had a square job since 2002, I have a year-round readiness plan in place. If you, too, are your own boss then you need a plan of your own.
That plan should include both financial and physical preparation. Something as simple as a bad cold or an intestinal virus can wreck your budget, and not having the right foods and medications on hand could make an ailment last longer – further wrecking your budget.
Freelancers: Stock up
You need to stay reasonably nourished and/or medicated during an illness, or after an injury or surgery. Plan to have some or all of the following supplies on hand:
- Canned soups/broths and canned fruit (a spoonful or two of the syrup helps quell nausea)
- Frozen or canned meals that are easy to prepare (the first day or two of a sprained ankle it’s easier to nuke a Lean Cuisine or can of beef stew than to cook)
- A loaf of bread in the freezer and a box of crackers
- Powerade or Gatorade, and canned/frozen/bottled juice
- Basic meds: painkillers, cold remedies, throat lozenges and the like
- A heating pad and a gel ice pack
The time to buy such things is before you need them. Don’t let your pantry or medicine chest run low on simple foods and medicines. In other words, if you’ve used up the last can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, make it your business to get another one. Only one tablet of Sudafed left in the box? Put that on the shopping list (and by the way, generics work just as well as the name brands).
Make sure you have some of your favorite tea on hand as well. Never underestimate the power of a hot drink when you’ve got a bad cold or bronchitis.
Ideally, you’d be buying these things when they’re on sale and using coupons. Otherwise you may find yourself at the closest convenience store – and the prices there are the insult to your physical injury.
Freelancers need EFs
An emergency fund comes in handy for medical co-pays and supplies – or, maybe for making the rent. Seriously: If you couldn’t write for a week or two, would you be able to cover basic expenses along with illness-related ones?
That’s one of the reasons you need an EF. Don’t have one? Start building it today. Freelancers and independent contractors can’t always count on regular paydays, and it can be tempting to think you can’t afford* an EF. Fact is, you can’t afford not to have one.
Nobody expects to fall ill or need medical treatment, even though sickness is a normal part of life. Certainly I didn’t expect an eye operation at my age. Heck, my dad is 80 and he’s never had cataract surgery!
It happened anyway. Having an emergency fund and a deep pantry made a big difference. Sure, I also have a loving partner who likes to cook and to fuss over me. But he didn’t need to head to the store for potatoes or ibuprofen to make sure I was fed and comfortable. We had everything we needed on hand.
Two days after the operation I’m still getting used to the bionic eye. That’s normal, according to the ophthalmologist. While I’ve been able to do some work on a current project, it hasn’t been consistent because I have trouble focusing both eyes in tandem. Although I’m not wild about the delay, I’m not stressing because I have the emergency fund.
It’s tempting to think you’ll always be healthy. Since few people spend their entire lives that way, the smart money is on being proactive. Take care of yourself, but prepare to be sick. It happens.
*I devote an entire chapter of Your Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul to “stealth savings” – some three dozen ways to squirrel away funds from even the tightest of budgets. Use the link above and the discount code WABPWR and get the e-book (pdf) for just $5.
As one reviewer on the book’s Amazon page noted, Playbook contains so many frugal hacks that “just a few of them will cover the cost of the book a hundredfold.”