From the Archives: Spring 2005 Issue of Lupus Now Magazine
Is Self-employment Right For You?
By Gerri Miller
Five years ago, I gave up a job as a staff editor to become a freelance writer. It was a bold move to start from scratch at the age of 45, especially leaving a job with benefits. But I was diagnosed with lupus 17 years ago and felt that the flexibility, personal satisfaction, and ability to take afternoon naps when I needed trumped the steady paycheck.
It was a struggle at first, but my savings—even though I didn’t need to dip into them—made me feel secure. I am now doing better than ever. As for having crucial health care insurance, before my coverage expired with my previous employer, I purchased an affordable plan through an HMO under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which guarantees coverage for formerly employed persons with pre-existing conditions.
Having lupus doesn’t mean you have to continue working for someone else. By starting your own business, you can enjoy the perks of arranging work hours to fit your lifestyle and working at your own pace.
However, there are several things to consider before making the leap to self-employment. Paul M. Adam, M.S.W., along with Diane Lacaille, M.D., of Mary Pack Arthritis Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, recently interviewed more than 200 self-employed people with arthritis. In quotes, below, are some of the interviewees’ suggestions.
Look before you leap:
Can you afford diminished income? “Self-employed people tend to make less money. Estimate the time it will take to make a profit on a particular assignment, and double that time.”
Can you get health insurance from a spouse or organization, or purchase an affordable individual plan? As someone with a pre-existing condition, you’ll want to investigate coverage options before giving up your benefits.
Consider whether you’re prepared to work long hours at home. “You’re often thinking about your business 24 hours a day. It can be isolating, and it isn’t always easy to separate work from family life.”
Are you a born entrepreneur? “It’s really important to be a self-starter, a risk-taker, to be motivated and disciplined, and to be someone who can work independently.”
How much financial security do you need? Self-employment can be unpredictable and your income may be inconsistent. Plan for financial setbacks. “Have contingencies through a support network or a financial cushion to help you through a rough time.”
How manageable is your health? “You need to understand how your disease works and how it affects your day-to-day life.”
Do you have a good support network of family, friends, or perhaps a business partner? “If you’re having a bad day, you may want to have someone to help out.”
Can you handle deadlines? Even if you can, you may want to choose your clients well. “Try to work for clients who are less demanding so you can be more flexible.”
Know which business will be a success:
What are your skills—and are they marketable? “Know what the market can bear for your kind of business.”
What’s your passion? “Even on days when you’re tired or in pain, you’re going to get out of bed if you’re passionate about what you’re doing.”
How high is the stress factor? “Try to pick a business that is less physically and emotionally stressful.” Being able to pace yourself in your daily activities and in running your business may make the difference between success and failure. If, after considering all these matters, you still decide to take the plunge into self-employment, have good business plan and start small. It’s also a good idea to consult your doctors—make your healthcare team an active part of your care so if problems arise you can get help early. Good luck!