What to do when you have to “call in sick” to your own business

Last night I knew that I’d feel pretty rough when I woke up this morning. I’ve had this post waiting in my drafts for a few months now, knowing that at some point, I’d be too ill to write a post.

When we’re ill, if we’re employed we call up our manager or boss and tell them we won’t be able to make it in. Most businesses are 100% fine with taking time off.

I never understood people who insist on coming into the office and working, even though they’re clearly ill. I don’t want you to spread your gross germs everywhere – go home.

But when we’re ill and we run our own businesses, who exactly are we going to call up?

I want to talk about what to do when you need to take time off, because of illness or any other reason, when we run our own businesses.

It’s a tough situation, because depending on your business model, 100% of the income and revenue could depend on you. Which is of course a dangerous situation to be in.

We feel we can’t take time off, because if we do, we loose out on income. So we continue to work, even though our body is calling out for rest. Which just makes us function worse and we produce poorer results.

It’s a downward spiral and unless we address it today, it’s not getting better by itself.

What to do TODAY


OK, so you wake up and feel like death. Not just Monday morning groggy or hungover, you’re clearly sick. The #1 thing you have to do is tell people.

Never in my life have I ever had anyone not understand when I told them I was ill. There are very few tasks that are more important than someone recovering. Even if it’s a cold or a sore throat, that’s your body telling you, that you need to take it easy for a few days.

If there are projects, deadlines and meetings that are happening this week, you need to tell people they’re going to be rescheduled.

People understand changes in plans and what they want is communication. It’s no good telling people you were ill when a deadline passes. They want to know today.


Some items can’t be moved. It’s a fact of life and not the end of the world. So, the first thing I’ll do is go through my calendar and list out the priorities that need to get done.

This is 100% needs to be done, no matter what. Bill payments, invoices and maintenance work are some of the things that I’ll always try to get done.

But, I’ll often ask other people if they can cover for me. I’ll always try to push back meetings or calls if I’m ill. I never do my best thinking when I’m feeling under the weather anyway.

If there are items that I need to do, no matter what, I’ll do everything I can to make them happen. I try to block out time before and after the event to give myself time to get there and recover afterwards.


This is critical. Actual recovery. Usually, on the first day of feeling under the weather, I’ll reschedule all my calls and meetings. I’ll set a few things to publish on auto-pilot and then make sure I’ve blocked out 3 days or so to recover.

I’m a firm believer that being ill is our body’s way of telling us that we need to slow down. I take recovery extremely seriously. No phone calls, no Skype, no emails.

Just 3 days of genuine rest, reading, eating and drinking plenty.

Yes, you can feel guilty taking time off, especially when everyone around you is working so hard. But the more you rest now, the faster you’ll recover and be back to your usual ass-kicking self.

Take the time off and listen to what your body needs. Marketing funnels are important sure, but your health and well-being are infinitely more important.

What to do TOMORROW

Update people

Cool, you wake up the next day and guess what! You feel worse. Ah well.

Most infections, colds, coughs and viruses work in waves. At 9am you could feel like you’re getting better, then by 11am you’re on death’s door again.

Make sure you keep people who need to know, informed. They don’t want to rush you, they want you to get better.

Fire off a few more emails and let people know you’re taking some down time. No big deal.

Review what needed to be done

Have a look over your list from yesterday, your priorities, and see what needed to get done.

  1. Did the world fall apart when they weren’t done?
  2. What still needs to be done?

I’ve written before here about how taking a day off can be productive. We can take that list and start to build workarounds for next time and start to shift those tasks to other people.


Again, rest. In 3 days, you’ll be back to your good old self. So take this time to really recover and don’t force an early return.

I remember having the flu back in 2016 and insisting that I was well again. I went back to the office and passed out at my desk.

I mentioned before that viruses have a “wave” effect. You feel you’re getting better and worse in waves. So make sure that you’re really recovered before committing back to work.

Drink plenty, watch Cheapest Weddings on Netflix (OMG so good) and eat some food. Sleep, be quiet and rest. You know full well you’d give the same advice to anyone else.

What to do in the FUTURE

Outsource review list

Cool so you’re fully recovered and you want to make sure you feel less guilty next time. Well, I’ve got news. You’ll always be busy and you’ll always feel guilty.

But, we can minimise that by taking our list of priorities and review list and outsourcing it.

Calls and meetings are harder to outsource. But what needed to get done that you could get others to do?

Website updates, email send outs, blog content, social planning. 99.9% of it can be done by someone else.

Make sure you try to move away from the tools as much as possible.

Build contingencies

This post was written months ago. It’s only being published now, because I always have a few posts ready to go. I’ve spent time building contingencies for meetings, calls, blog content, social content, emails and more.

It means that I can leave for a week at a time and the business runs itself. It wasn’t easy and meant a few late nights. But it means I’m no dependant on my input for 100% of my income and business growth.

Wrap up

I often hear people tell me they can’t take time off if they’re ill. The business relies too heavily on them. That’s a sign that the business hasn’t been set up to scale.

Unfortunately, a business being 100% reliant on you isn’t a good thing. It means that you’re in too many of the tasks.

Start thinking about what you can move over to other people, or you’re going to be in trouble when you really do have to take time off.

What else do you do when you’re ill and how have you mitigated downtime when you have to take time off? Let me know in the comments below.

Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.