Entrepreneurship, freelancing, and remote work is offering chronic illness and disability sufferers more opportunities than ever.

As the founder of Sick Biz, I have fought crushing fatigue and worked when all my strength couldn’t force my body to sit up.

I was coerced into business ownership when transverse myelitis took me down in 2014.

I’ve shown up for clients when everyone, including my doctors, told me to take a day off, rest, and stop pushing so hard.

But the reality is I can’t, and neither can the millions of other people with chronic illnesses.

Chronic illnesses and disabilities are on the rise…

  • 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease
  • 4 in 10 adults in the US have two or more chronic diseases
  • 1 in 4 adults has a disability

And if you have to pay bills, you have to work.

The good news is entrepreneurship, freelancing, and remote work are offering chronic illness and disability sufferers more opportunities than ever to do what they love, be financially independent and make a difference.

When you have a chronic illness or disability, you have to be conscious of what your body and emotions are doing at all times in order to simply stay the course.

For example, many autoimmune diseases respond to stress–even great stress. Try crushing your goals and then fighting not to get too excited so you don’t flare!

But there’s something special about people with chronic illnesses taking control of their destinies and building their own businesses.

While most people are grateful for a Netflix and chill day, this community craves work over rest.

  1. Focusing on a project or task is distracting to pain and helps to alleviate intensity.
  2. Ill and disabled entrepreneurs achieve goals efficiently because their health depends on it.
  3. This segment of the population works hard to prove themselves to their clients and peers. You will get quality work.

These five entrepren-hers refuse to allow any so-called challenge to block their path.

Use their stories to inspire you to move mountains in your business.

Wendi LindenmuthAfter three rounds of meningitis, chronic Lyme, MRSA, and other life-altering conditions that left her bedridden for a year, Wendi had had enough.

She dove into alternative treatments, finding relief in energy healing. It worked so well that she received her national energy healer certification to help other chronic pain and illness sufferers.

Wendi encourages entrepreneurs to remain flexible about re-prioritizing their to-dos to deliver high-quality service to their clients while meeting their health needs.

Wendi’s message is simple– “There is life after you get sick.”

Megan StewartSince the age of 12, Megan has tried “78 forms of birth control,” but none of them stopped the pain from extreme endometriosis that would render her unconscious.

Megan’s health forced her to transition from journalist to content creator and blogger. “I had to take my skills and think what could I do if I couldn’t get out of bed three days a week?”

One of the tactics that helps Megan slay in her business and deliver exceptional content to her clients is a To-Do list with 20-30 items, and the dedication to knocking out 3-4 things per day.

Samantha Bennett“It was a huge relief when I finally got diagnosed with lifelong depression.” Samantha is in the world and, by all appearances, functioning normally. But no one sees the internal struggle. The world notes her successful business, two published books, a musical that’s taking off, and the stages around the country she’s speaking on and draws the conclusion that Samantha’s inner life must be as sparkly as her accomplishments.

Self-monitoring with chronic illness is imperative, as is self-compassion. “You have to be super strategic when you don’t have unlimited amounts of energy. You have to make sure you’re spending your quality time on the stuff that will move the needle. You can build a business in 15 minutes a day; you can write a novel in 15 minutes a day.”

But how do you practice self-compassion when you know your brain is lying to you? It takes commitment to remember your brain will lie to you, but if you can do that, you can build evidence for more supportive thoughts. Samantha suggests, “Start with the premise that what you think is not true.”

Jamie Thurber “Have a blueprint and don’t walk into your day.” After years of debilitating, unpredictable illness and scant advice from doctors, Jamie learned how she feels every day is just as important as what she does in her business.

Jamie knew if she was going to be a success that she had to take her self-care seriously. She advises entrepreneurs who are struggling with chronic illness, chronic pain, fatigue, or lower energy levels to “get clear on what you need to do, and implement tasks with a timer, so you can come back from the rabbit hole and not lose hours of time.” As a bonus: you will learn how long a task really takes.

Erika Ashley – Diagnosed with JV rheumatoid arthritis at 18 months old, Erika was supposed to be in a wheelchair by the time she was a teenager.  In October 2015, Erika was put on the waitlist for hip replacement, and found herself bedridden without a job due to excruciating pain.

“I had bills and expenses to pay, so I needed to figure out how to make it work,” she says in creating her business. “It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”

She doesn’t have to deal with fixed deadlines the way she used to, and now her schedule accommodates her treatment instead of the other way around.

An observation she practices: Making sure that you treat your business with the same respect as your job.

As the gig economy strengthens, there has never been a better time to launch your business, and if you’re dealing with chronic illness, pain, or disability, there’s never been a better time to find success and make a difference with your genius.

This post originally appeared on Thrive Global.


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash