I have a disability and am self-employed. The two don’t seem to go together but I have found them to be a match made in heaven.
Since leaving full-time employment back in 2016, I have come to the conclusion that I simply don’t have the energy to work full-time anymore. My health wasn’t the reason for my resignation but, with hindsight, I am grateful to finally be able to put my health first. It took a combination of factors to persuade me to leave my job but it has worked out to be the best decision I could have made.
I often see articles that tell readers not to consider self-employment if they are not in excellent health due to the time commitment required. However, I would say to these authors that they should consider ill health a positive and not a negative. I know a lot of self-employed folks who are not great with time management. They may think that they work a 40+ hour week but when you take coffee chats, family distractions and ‘freedom’ to set their own business structure out of the equation they probably do as many hours as I do (25+).
I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E). This means my energy levels are like a battery. I only have a finite amount of energy each day. I have to be able to get all work done as efficiently as possible before my battery goes flat. No time can be wasted. I know the quickest way to get from A-Z in business terms because I have to. I have to plan, in minute detail, how I will use my energy. If I have an important meeting or networking event coming up I know I have to rest…A LOT…. to be able to attend. This means I am also excellent at prioritising things and thinking about the bigger picture. Attending a networking event from 6-8.30pm will wipe me out. I will not be able to work 2 days later (Post-Exertion Malaise hits 48 hrs after exertion) and so I avoid making any client commitments on those days. I don’t work any fewer hours, I just move them to elsewhere in the week. Something I couldn’t do if I was employed.
I don’t make promises I can’t keep. If a client asks me to do a very large piece of work for them, I give realistic timescales. I simply can’t push myself to over-exceed expectations. If I get it done quicker than quoted that’s great but is certainly not the norm. A client will always receive 100% effort from me, despite my illness.
Working culture is changing, many more people are choosing to work for themselves. In many cases, health conditions, childcare, and carer commitments are the reasons for this. I consider my health to be as much of a commitment as having a child. My health controls my activities in the same way that childcare controls the working lives of parents. Instead of having to leave work because my child is being sent home from school due to illness, my battery has died and my body is forcing me to rest.
Don’t discount people with disabilities. In many ways, we are just as able as able-bodied people. We just need flexibility and the ability to control our own working patterns.
I created and manage charity brand ME Foggy Dog (see www.mefoggydog.org) to raise awareness of M.E. Please take a look.