Finding a job when you have a disability – be it a chronic mental or physical condition – is tough. Employers aren’t supposed to discriminate, but we all know that it’s hard to find the gem who actually believes in hiring skills over health.
Taking their perspective, it’s actually understandable: if an employer thinks you’re going to be taking a lot of time off sick, or claiming a lot on the company health insurance, they’ll pick someone who is likely to be in work every day and never does anything to raise insurance premiums. They want someone reliable. They want someone who doesn’t have to take the lift up one flight of stairs, or who is able to go out and about to meet clients for dinner.
Ignore The Negativity
So, when you tell people that you’re going to run your OWN business instead, you’re going to get a fair few odd looks. Friends and family may try to talk you out of it. They are acting with what they believe to be your best interests, so don’t get too annoyed by this. They mean well.
What they don’t realise is that you are perfectly capable of running your own company. You can find work, you will get customers, and you’ll be a success.
These days, there is no excuse. We have an entire digital universe at our disposal – and a massive range of aids to help us keep up. Whether you need text-to-speech software, or speech-to-text, or need special screens on your computer monitor to help your eyes, or a vertical mouse to prevent a fibromyalgia flare – it’s all there to make you an entrepreneurial boss.
There are even plenty of grants from your local council, charities, and Government funds to help people with disabilities to start their own business. You’re more likely to find funding, in fact, due to being in this niche. It’s not fun to use your disability to an advantage – but hey, it’s got to work in your favour somehow, right?!
If you’re trying to find a job, or feeling sick and tired of having to work doubly hard compared to your colleagues just to feel like your employer feels you are pulling your weight, it’s time to stop.
Your time to become your own boss is now. It won’t be easy – but I promise it’ll be worth it.
I Know, Because I Did It.
I don’t usually share personal stories, so make the most of this one. I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia for my entire adult life. In fact, I was diagnosed aged 20 (over ten years ago now!), having already been struggling for over two years.
The doctors thought I was ‘too young’ to have these conditions. They were wrong.
These conditions are autoimmune and musculoskeletal. What that means is they fluctuate: some days are perfect, other days I can’t even crawl out of bed (literally, crawl). There is almost no predicting whether tomorrow will be a good day or a bad day, so you have to plan ahead twice for both scenarios.
General living is tiring when you have fibromyalgia and arthritis. I can’t cook for myself, because I can’t hold pans, a full kettle, or knives due to weak hands. Getting up my own stairs can sometimes take longer than I’d ever admit to a single soul. But you get on with it, you adapt, and you manage.
I’ve hopped from job to job over the past decade, and have lost a fair few because I wasn’t able to keep up. I could go for months and months at full whack, doing twelve-hour days in retail, or running conferences abroad, and it was fine.
So, when I had a flare-up, my employers thought I’d just got bored of my job. It’s hard to explain pain when you can’t show it to anyone else. I have some of the invisible disabilities, and it sucks.
When I Became A Freelance Writer, Everything Changed
I’ve always been a writer. Ever since I was very little, it’s all I ever wanted to do. In real life, I can talk the hind legs off a donkey too – I’m just so fond of communicating and interacting with people.
I trained in marketing, so have a good background in what works, and what doesn’t work, when it comes to starting up a business. I was lucky to have a running start at launching my own business.
Armed with a laptop, arm rests, and vertical mouse, I started writing. First for content mills, then for previous employers. My client network grew, and soon I was landing long-term retainer work. I was able to dictate my own hours, factor in naptime, and meet clients over Skype to avoid the exhaustion of travel.
I made a good and steady income, and it was all down to having digital tools available to me. You can do almost anything online these days – so the limitations your previous employers might have seen in you simply no longer exist.
I’m now back in a day job, because I missed being around people all of the time (I told you – sociable!), but still freelance in my spare time. I’ve finally found one of those gems of an employer who doesn’t micro-manage: they know I’ll do my week’s work on time, so they don’t care how I get it done.
You Can Be A Total Boss At Anything You Want
Your disability does not define you. It will not stop you. All you need to do is work out exactly how you need to adapt in order to make running your business work for you.
This could be hiring in a cleaner once a week so you don’t have to tire yourself out with housework. You might want to get a virtual assistant to help with your invoices and meeting bookings if you find numbers difficult. Find a business partner who is amazing with words if you get yourself a bit muddled up. Invest in computer software that helps you manage your schedule, or types for you, or reads things back to you.
Whatever you need to do, do it. And stop listening to the naysayers. We’re in 2017. The world is yours for the taking, no matter how others see you. It’s how you see yourself that matters.