Running a business while living with a chronic health condition
5 things that helped me, so they might help you, or someone you know
Before we get started - a quick note about why I’m writing this blog post
It is not intended to elicit:
❌ Tips, advice, and suggestions on how to fix me
It’s totally fine to message me to say this blog post is helpful.
But if you’re about to type out ‘have you tried…’ don’t, please (and I really mean that with an appreciation for your kindness and good intentions).
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of living with a chronic condition is being constantly reminded my experience of life is substandard and that I should be doing more to improve it.
Imagine going out for a jog and passers-by shout out running, fitness or nutrition tips - wouldn’t it suck the fun right out of your morning?
I believe that I am right where I need to be, living the experience I am intended to be living right now, and my intention is to follow my own intuition and explore options that feel good to me.
I say all this with love and kindness so that I am able to share my experience (in the hope that it will be beneficial to others) while protecting my own energy.
This blog post is intended:
✔️ To be helpful and encouraging to other people who want to live well while experiencing chronic conditions
✔️ To be helpful and insightful to those who work with people who live with chronic conditions - like clients, coaches, or contractors.
OK, let’s get started.
For context: My experience of living with a chronic health condition
I live with chronic migraine.
This means that in a typical month will have around 15 days where I experience pain in my head and/or extreme fatigue, brain fog, and body pain.
I also experience aphasia, which affects my ability to speak in coherent sentences, because the words don’t want to get in the right order inside my brain, and they definitely don’t want to travel from my brain to my mouth.
My perception is* that I have half the amount of productivity of a fully functional human.
(* yes, I am being mindful of my words here)
But I still have the same amount of housework, cooking and teen-related errands.
I still need to significantly contribute to the family finances.
I need to earn the same income as I would if I didn’t live with a chronic condition, because I still have the same bills to pay.
I have half as many days to work on my business or for my clients, but I still pay 100% of the monthly subscription fees for the software, memberships and programmes I am a part of.
This means I am constantly having to make difficult choices:
- Do I do this fun thing with my family knowing that it will cost me a full day’s recovery, and so one day of fun means two days off work and housework responsibilities….which means playing catch up the next few days which might bring on a migraine…which means a full day off…which means….. you get the idea.
- When I have a good day, I feel compelled to use it on meeting client responsibilities, because I need my business to make money, which makes it very hard to carve out time to grow my own business.
- When I feel a migraine coming, it is hard to decide whether to blitz through the must-do work before I am debilitated or honour what my body needs right now, in the hope that shortens the episode length.
… not writing this for sympathy. I’m hoping it’s helpful to people who have a similar experience, and to the people who work with them (especially coaches).
Also worthy of a mention at this point….I have been considering being assessed for ASD, ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) but it is pretty difficult to untangle what is a migraine symptom vs a symptom of something else, and which triggers what, so for now, I’m putting it all down to chronic migraine, but wanted to flag that there are probably some other brain-tingles going on there.
5 Things That Have Helped Me Run (And Grow) My Business While Living With A Chronic Health Condition
#1 My 20 hours per week ‘rule’
There’s a whole separate blog post (coming soon) about how I came to decide that 20 was the magic number, and how I plan what work to do when, so that I get the most out of those 20 hours.
To summarise… I figured out that 20 hours was the maximum number I could work in any one week without compromising my home-life (which would make me miserable and stressed).
- Always track my working time
- Don’t work in less than 30-minute chunks, because otherwise the switching focus fries my brain
- Match the type of work to my energy levels
- Do not try to make up for a bad week, by working over the 20 hours the following week
- Feel like I’ve done enough once I’ve worked 20 hours, even if I haven’t done everything on my to-do list (because that list was probably too ambitious anyway).
#2 Sharing responsibility with my clients
I am very open about my health and home life.
My clients know that if they’re working to a tight deadline they should probably work with someone else.
And if they really want to work with me, then they’ll need to do it my way - which means using Voxer instead of Zoom, and allowing plenty of time before deadlines in case migraines or health issues slow things down for me.
#3 Opting for coaches who get it
Joining Lizzy Goddard’s Profitable Playground has been hugely helpful in getting me to this point where I acknowledge and accept how life is and build a business around that.
Previous coaches have had a very fixed idea of what success looks like and the necessary steps to get there regardless of if that was what I wanted, or if it was compatible with my life and health.
#4 Getting to know myself
Learning about when in the week I feel most energetic, when I have the best focus, how I feel about deadlines, what happens to my health during launches.
I studied myself, and used that experience to help redesign my business, and I continue to do this all the time.
I am always adapting and improving how I run my business so it works around my well-being and my family.
#5 Changing what I offer
I’m not made for long Zoom calls, they leave me exhausted for the rest of the day.
And I can’t complete copywriting projects spaced out over long periods of time because somewhere in the middle I’ll get ill, and then when I come back to work I’ve lost all track of where I was and what I was doing.
I got to the point where I was so unwell, and so frustrated and so overwhelmed I wanted to totally quit.
And then I thought about all the people who wanted my help and wouldn’t be able to have it if I did give up.
I am filled with knowledge, talent and skills and many business owners would be happy to pay handsomely to access that expertise in whatever way I offered it.
Once I approached my business from this perspective, I could confidently create offers that worked for me and put them out there, with the energy of ‘if you want me, this is how you can have me, otherwise I’m not available’.
So instead of trying to make myself fit to the way I thought other people wanted to work with me, I decided to flip my perspective and put myself first.
Initially, I offered a Done in a Day copywriting service.
After a year or so of that, I switched to a more coaching/mentoring role, and offered a VIP Day of Collaboration with me.
And then people who enjoyed that day with me wanted to keep working with me, so I created my One To Another mentorship.
It also suits me to create courses and sell them because I can work on them 100% on my own schedule.
And for marketing, I prefer writing blog posts - because I can do this on my own schedule, and also because my migraines cause aphasia (problems understanding and expressing language) - but only of speech, not writing.
OK, that’s a wrap and now I need to press publish and share this blog post before I chicken out and hide it away forever as it feels sooooo exposing.
If you’ve found it helpful, it would make my heart so happy to hear from you (you can use the chat window or email firstname.lastname@example.org)