Well yes, but ...
I will be the first to admit that on days when I get a particularly nasty spring allergy attack, it's nice that I can take a nap when the antihistamines kick in and make me sleepy. But there are days when a person simply cannot work, even propped up on pillows on a snug bed.
I experienced this firsthand recently when my blood glucose got out of control (I'm diabetic). I was knocked flat for the better part of a week, and there were a couple of days when I could not work at all. This is demoralizing to someone who is used to seven-day work weeks. The truth is, even the healthiest freelancer should have a plan for sick days. Your mileage may vary, but this plan works for me.
1. Develop Your Track Record
I pride myself on meeting deadlines consistently and not turning in work that I'm not happy with, even if I'm ghostwriting something and an editor and I are the only ones who will know I wrote it. When clients know that you consistently meet deadlines, even with last-minute assignments, they're more willing to cut you some slack when you can't. This is the long-term foundation of your sick-day plan.
If I'm sick and know I'll only be able to accomplish, say, half what I would normally do, I go through my list of assignments and prioritize by how easy they are. There are some topics that I find it easier to write about, and I put these at the top of my list on sick days. Things that are new, need to be heavily researched, or that otherwise require a lot more of me I put off until I'm feeling better. It helps that my assignments generally come in with a weekly deadline. Sometimes it isn't possible to shuffle the order in which I do assignments, but when it is, I'll do the easier ones when I'm under the weather.
3. Rest When Possible
A nasty head cold may mean writing one piece, sleeping for a couple of hours, then writing another. I might work until seven or eight at night, but my work periods are broken up by periods of rest. I find that if I try to power through with the goal of finishing early, I don't do my best work and end up feeling worse.
4. Accept Help
If my daughter is running errands and offers to bring me a chicken sandwich and a Diet Coke, I take her up on it because it's one less meal I'll have to prepare. If my mother stops by and offers to return my library books for me, I'll happily hand them off knowing I won't have to get out (and possible expose my contagious self to others). You don't have to ask to be waited on hand and foot, but it's OK to accept offers of help. Just be sure to reciprocate or pay it forward.
5. Keep Clients in the Loop
When something out of the ordinary occurs, like the diabetic problem I had a few weeks ago, and you think you may miss deadlines, let clients know what's going on. If you're a valuable worker for them with a track record of doing good work and doing it on time, chances are they will gladly let a deadline slip to give you time to get back up to speed.
Paid sick leave is becoming a luxury perk in the traditional working world, and lack of paid sick days is something freelancers have been dealing with forever. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your health. Powering through can often mean substandard work that you're not proud of, but taking care of yourself and letting yourself heal is an investment in yourself as a person and as a writer. You owe that to your clients, but more importantly, you owe it to yourself.
Photo Credit: Jeroen Van Oostrom / freedigitalphotos.net