Last week was bad. Really bad. I caught a really nasty bug that took me out for almost 7 days.
That’s a long time for a self-employed teacher. If teaching and tutoring is your full-time job, 7 days is almost 25% of your monthly income! Unlike most jobs where you can call in sick and still get paid, for SETs, missing a day means missing a day of pay.
I’ve put together a quick survival guide to help you prepare for your inevitable unpaid sick days. Here goes.
Step 1: Expect to be sick at least 1-2 times per year.
I carry hand sanitizer in my work bag and have extra bottles in my car. I am a fanatic about washing my hands. I am careful about not sharing pens with my clients. I still get sick. You will too.
If you expect to get sick, you will be more likely to plan for it.
Step 2: Use price and advance payment to cushion the blow.
I’ve talked already about the importance of charging enough for your services and about the importance of asking for payment in advance. These two points can also make a sick day (or week) less of a headache. It sounds simple, but the more money you charge for your services, the fewer hours you need to work. That means that come sick time, you will have to contact fewer students to cancel. More importantly, if your margins are better, you are also more likely to be able to save some cash. Having this extra cash stored away in an emergency fund in your business can be a lifesaver if you have to miss a week of teaching due to illness. Accepting payment in advance can also give you a bit of a financial cushion and ensures that your students won’t cut and run if you miss a few appointments due to illness.
Step 3: Stop working!
It is really difficult to focus on your students’ questions when your head is pounding or you have a fever. Also, if you continue to meet with your students when you are sick, you risk getting them sick. The illness may then start to circulate among your students. If that happens, you will be facing a lot of cancelled lessons anyway. When you get sick, stop working.
Step 4: Send one email to clear the week.
Send an email to all of your students, taking care to hide their email addresses using the BCC function. Tell them that you are ill and will need to cancel your lessons for the rest of the week. That’s it. If you are still sick the next week, send another email. Keep it simple. Preparing an email list (and even a draft email) in advance can make your life much easier. You don’t want to be drafting an important email to your students when you’re not thinking clearly.
Step 5: Rest.
You have enough money in the bank. Your students understand the situation. Everything is going to be just fine. Stop worrying about your business or your students. Sleep. Hydrate. Eat soup. Relax. Take care of yourself.