Earlier this year I announced that I have become a spoonie entrepreneur, meaning I was starting a business with a chronic illness.
It has only been about 6 months since I started but I definitely feel like I’ve learned things along the way that I want to share with you all.
Working with a Chronic Illness
It’s extremely difficult holding down a job when you suffer from a chronic illness. The unpredictability of chronic illness makes it sometimes impossible to maintain a work schedule, which can potentially frustrate an employer.
A lot of us spoonies are forced with the decision to return to work during COVID or lose our jobs. This pandemic is a perfect time to evaluate your job and how well it cares for your health.
Being in business for yourself takes some of those pressure off because your boss (aka you) is more empathetic and flexible to the needs of your illness.
Don’t get me wrong, chronic illnesses are still a pain and a challenge to deal with when you’re the entrepreneur. But at least the only boss you have to answer to is yourself.
However, the catch 22 is you may not have to call in sick and deal with a grouchy boss but you do have deadlines, projects to complete, and a never-ending list of things to do.
Starting a business with a chronic illness can be a lot of stress and pressure especially if it’s your main source of income to provide for yourself.
Why I Decided to Start a Business with a Chronic Illness
Long story short: It was time.
I’m a naturally creative person. My current job while it pays well and has its benefits – creativity is not one of them.
Have you ever done the journal exercise where you write out your ideal day/dream life? I did and it was eye-opening.
As I’ve been healing I’ve taken stock of what matters to me – helping others and cultivating my creativity are at the top of the list. However, I’ve built a life around the income I’ve earned and so it almost felt like I was trapped.
Instead of quitting my job and starting over from scratch, I thought I could find a way to use my creativity and make money which would better align with my core values and ideal life.
Concerns when Starting a Business with a Chronic Illness
Entrepreneurship in general is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of ups and downs. Of course, when considering that I have a chronic illness, I questioned my ability to take on such a feat.
Will I fail? It’s a possibility that I could fail.
Any entrepreneur can fail not just those starting a business with a chronic illness. The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics cites that 20% of all small businesses fail in the first year and 50% by the 5th year.
I had to ask myself what does failure mean to me? Failure is losing money. Failure is not achieving my mission/vision. The ultimate failure is not going after things because of fear.
Will I be able to handle the load?
As the boss, I realized I have the power to create a structure that works best for me and lifestyle. I also have an amazing support system that does whatever in their power to help me.
I didn’t think I could handle living with myasthenia gravis. But look at me now – a far cry from where I was 4 years ago.
I actually believe that having a chronic illness has prepared me in some ways to better deal with the ups and downs of starting a business. There are ups and downs with my health daily. I’m learning to adjust and keep focused.
So while there were some legitimate concerns. My true concern was never IF I should start a business it was what business should I start.
I decided to birth my home fragrance business, Arrows + Feathers. I specialize in nontoxic and good vibe home fragrance solutions. If you’re interested, check me out.
10 Tips for Starting a Business with a Chronic Illness
- Positive Mindset
- Keep yourself mentally lifted. If you are thinking negatively about your business, it’s not going to flourish. Affirm good things over yourself and your business.
- Keep Expenses Low
- Don’t overextend yourself financially (especially in the first year). Have a set starter budget and figure out how to make it work within your means. There are so many businesses that you can start with little to no coins.
- Focus and Prioritize.
- I’m spewing with so much creativity, sometimes I’m all over the place. But focusing on one project at a time allows me to give whatever spoons I do have to that one thing fully.
- When you’re starting a business with a chronic illness, you need to know all things may not get done. Prioritize on what’s important and leave the rest for another day.
- Automate as Much as Possible
- Emails, social media content schedulers, etc. Let the tech work for you.
- Do your Part to Keep Optimum Health
- Prioritize yourself and your health. If you go down, your business may too. So make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do to take care of yourself – resting, eating well, treatments, etc.
- Add in tons of flex time
- Having flexibility allows for those down days when you’re not feeling well and aren’t able to meet your deadlines. Also, sometimes we all just need a mental break from time to time.
- Maybe you’re amazing at the creativity but horrible with writing or website design. Save yourself the stress (and time) and outsource someone to assist if you can.
- No comparisons
- This goes in life and in business. Focus on your own vision and business. Do you boo.
- Be Patient
- Entrepreneurship is not easy. All of these brands that seem like they were overnight successes had to start somewhere too. Be patient. Stay consistent. Your time will come.
- Show gratitude for every sale, every product, every step in your entrepreneurship journey. Remember when it was just a thought and now its happening.
I’m only 6 months in but I think I love being an entrepreneur. It’s definitely a lot of work. But it’s worth it.
The feeling of gratitude that overcomes me every time I make a sale is immeasurable. I can’t wait until 5 years from now when I can look back at my growth (and quit my job lol).
If you’re considering starting a business with a chronic illness but afraid to take the step, I say do it! Like everything else in or journey, it can be done. It may just look a little differently than traditional entrepreneurship.