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Coping With Sickness When a Deadline Looms

All the Nyquil in the world won't get that project done when you're chained to your bed with an illness.

Achoo! Sniffle, cough, wheeze. Those sickly sounds sum up my most embarrassing entrepreneurial experience yet. A new client had given me an assignment needing a quick turnaround: Spend an afternoon at her day spa, experience the different treatments, and create the text for a brochure and press release. The day before the assignment, I was attacked by a vicious flu bug.

Determined to meet the deadline, I dragged myself from bed at the scheduled time. A few dozen sneezes and a cup of herbal tea later, I managed to interview the women at the spa, I turned in my assignment on time-and I never heard from them again.

Consider it Murphy's Law for homebased entrepreneurs: The more pressing the deadline, the more important the project, the sicker you will be. All you can do is create a plan to deal with those inevitable illnesses. That's something Kristen Timmers, founder and president of Los Gatos, California, marketing and event planning firm Timmers & Co. Inc., learned long ago. "[I've] had many [instances] when deadlines were approaching and I was miserably ill," she says.

Timmers handles these situations in various ways: "If it's a self-imposed deadline, I immediately let the client know I would like to extend the deadline by a day or two to do additional research and work." If the client has given her the deadline, however, she has worked through 102-degree fevers. Says Timmers, "One thing you learn quickly as a consultant: If you don't deliver, the jobs stop coming."

Still, working through those colds and fevers can be incredibly draining. One key to surviving illnesses without damaging your business or yourself is to build a support group of colleagues who can come to the rescue, as Timmers has done. Although it costs more to hire others than to do the job yourself, "it's worth it," she says. "If I can enlist the help of a fellow consultant and pay them a fee but save face with the client, the outcome and repeat business far outweigh the strain of hiring someone to help me wrap up a project."

Joanne Eglash is the author of How to Write a .com Business Plan: The Internet Entrepreneur's Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Business Plans and Financing Options.

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