Good news, you do have a safety net. In fact, there are a few options for the sole trading self-employed to prepare for the frailties of the human vessel. The government can help with two types of benefits. There is an ESA (Employment Support Allowance) that can offer financial support if you have paid enough into your NI contributions. If you are on a very low income and haven’t made such contributions, there is an income related ESA. Details of these benefits are here on the government website https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/eligibility This information is based on the UK benefits system, but wherever you are in the world, do check with your government. You may well have more support than you realise.
There is also the option of insurance cover, a policy you contribute to while you are working to pay out when you fall ill. If you have a successful business that is fully providing your standard of living, take the time to secure a policy that is tailored to your specific needs as a business person. It will need to cover your lifestyle and its responsibilities while you are incapacitated. This can help with housing costs as well as earnings and living expenses. It is worthwhile arranging such cover if you have a thriving business as opposed to a new startup in the first year. If you are ill and self-employed, there is no need to struggle. There will be an option to allow you to be paid while you get well again.
These are options you would, and should, explore if you will be out of commission for a while, such as a chronic illness, accident or hospitalisation. What if, like myself, you are hit with something mundane but it lays you low for a week or so? I felt guilty and worried, completely helpless to do anything about it. In this situation it is a matter of damage limitation, delegation and trust!
If you know you are getting sick, (and we all go through that stage of denial and vitamin C binging until the hot cotton wool feeling envelopes your head and chest), put arrangements in place now while you can. Take stock of your expected workload for the week ahead. You will need to do this.
Delegation is the name of the game. If you have a trusted and responsible friend or colleague who can collect mail and incoming work, use them. You can keep your business running in a basic fashion by delegating as much of your workload as possible. If someone can keep things ticking over simply, it is some of the worry off your shoulders.
I highly recommend generally having a shortlist of friendly colleagues in your industry’s field. It is valuable to have a close network that you can rely on for advice, support and the occasional pep talk, as self-employment can get lonely. When you are under the weather, I would advise passing assignments to a close and trusted colleague, offering the reason why to your client. Yes you will lose this assignment, but it will show your client that you are taking responsibility and regarding their needs very highly, and it will strengthen your networking bonds with your colleagues who will no doubt return the favour.
Your next responsibility is to take great care of yourself and getting well again fully. Don’t be tempted to go back too soon, be strong and well. You will not apply your full talents and focus on your work if you are running on empty, and you will be doing you and your clients no favours. Purge, rest and recover, and that’s an order! When you return, you can contact your clients and your colleagues personally, thanking them and letting them know you are raring to go! That is my cough bottle policy for the sick and self-employed! Live long and prosper!!