It starts as a dream. You imagine how empowering it feels to own a small business, develop a winning product or offer an amazing service. You yearn for control over every aspect of the business and your future financial growth.
Then, it hits you: You remember your medical condition or chronic illness that requires daily attention. Your conscious taunts you: Can I really embark on this adventure? How can I find adequate health care coverage for freelancers, and how can I stay on task when I feel lousy?
Don’t second-guess your ability to be an incredible entrepreneur. If I can make being an independent contractor into a viable, successful career while surviving Stevens-Johnson syndrome and managing rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and eczema, you can give it a go, too.
Manage Self-Care and a Productive Work Life
The key to juggling it all is planning a schedule that works for you. Playing each day by ear is too unstructured; instead, plan time for work, health care and rest.
I use Google Calendar to map out each workday. I estimate the time needed for each work task and give each a block on my calendar. To make larger projects manageable (especially on days I don’t feel well), I schedule multiple blocks of time to complete each step. For example, one block for research, the next for writing a rough draft and, finally, one block to edit and submit an article. Then, I shift the tasks around on the calendar as needed to accommodate any last-minute health issues or needs from my clients. To make sure I always meet my deadlines, I start working on assignments as soon as possible. If I need to unexpectedly take a sick day, there’s some wiggle room before the due date. As a bonus, my editors love when I turn in an article early.
I also add blocks of time to my calendar to attend aqua therapy, yoga class, water aerobics and circuit training. Exercise keeps me healthy, which directly translates into more productive workdays. Finally, I block out time to rest. I schedule naps or half days, when I know I’m wrapping up a large project and don’t want to overextend my fragile immune system. I need to mentally and physically rejuvenate to do my best work when moving onto the next project.
Plan Your Health Coverage
When you’re self-employed, you manage your own benefits, including health care. If you don’t have coverage through a spouse’s employer, look into the Freelancers Union and government plans. You are your business; having adequate coverage is essential.
Talk with your insurance provider about health care coverage for freelancers, short-term disability coverage, retirement savings plans (such as IRAs and Roth IRAs) and business insurance to cover any property you take on to complete your services. When I did photography on location, I had multiple insurance polices for my business, including one segment that took care of my clients if they got hurt during a photo shoot. When you’re self-employed, you need every ounce of prevention in place, so you don’t worry about the “what if” moments that put a strain on your mental and physical health.
Stay on Top of Business Tasks
Sometimes, I just need to get away from my desk for a while and rest. If I’m not tired enough to nap, I use my smartphone to catch up on some light work tasks, such as replying to messages on my business social media accounts or sorting emails. I can also browse Google Docs to review article outlines, make financial transfers from PayPal or my business bank account and jot down article pitch ideas with the Notes app.
Just because I’m relaxing on the couch with a heating pad and my feet elevated doesn’t mean I need to let my business tasks pile up. With mobile apps for freelancers, I can stay on top of most business communications.
Make Smart Business Decisions
Cherish and utilize every ounce of energy and every minute of healthy days to the fullest. More than any other business owner, you need to pay attention to the return on investment of each task you tackle in a day to boost your productivity.
Step back and evaluate how much time and effort you spend on a task and how much it moves your business forward. Think not only of the financial gains, but also how it builds your customer base and visibility in the marketplace. Every month, I evaluate how much time I spend on a specific client or my own business marketing, and see where I can trim the fat and tighten up how I complete these tasks. Sometimes, an app can automate or expedite a task. Or, maybe it’s time to hire an assistant for some basic office tasks, such as billing or processing orders.
I’m not your typical freelancer. I don’t sit down at my desk, tackle my work from nine-to-five and log off for the day. Each day, I orchestrate a delicate balance between caring for myself and reaching my lofty business goals. If I can do it, you can, too.