Patient’s Perspective - The Pros and Cons of Being Self Employed When Living with Chronic Pain

When living with chronic pain, I think work is often one of the biggest hurdles to tackle. We’re all brought up with this expectation that we will work all of our lives, but what do you do when something like chronic pain becomes a part of your world? Many people stay on in their jobs, either struggling or with adjustments in place, whilst others might look into other forms of employment. For those of us who can work, you may have found yourself wondering whether self employment could be a more accessible form of employment for you. I’ve been self employed for 3 years now, and whilst it absolutely is the best type of work for me, I wanted to share some of the pros and cons of it, because everything is not as easy and straightforward as it seems.

Choosing your own working hours is often one of the biggest reasons someone might go self employed. Many people want to spend more time with loved ones or have more control over their working day. When you’re living with chronic pain or a long term health condition, the ability to choose when you work can be a massive appeal. Self employment means that if I don’t feel up to working on a certain day, I have the ability to take that day off at my choosing. It also means I can tailor my day a little more to suit my pain, for example on my more challenging days I may choose to focus more on easy admin tasks, leaving the bigger projects for my better days. However, often this is all too good to be true.

When you’re self employed your income is reliant on how much you work. If I’m not able to work, then I simply don’t get paid. This can be a stressful situation to find yourself in as someone who may need to take more time off than others. Sometimes I feel the pressure to work beyond my physical abilities in order to have a livable income. Whilst I am beyond grateful for the control I have over my work, it is true that I often don’t have as much freedom as I’d imagined when I first became self employed.

Being self employed can often mean that you get to pursue a career that you truly love, whether that be a creative passion or otherwise. For me, it means I get to indulge in my love for writing and photography, I can truly say that I love my job. It’s important to remember that self employment comes with a lot more responsibility and admin though. You’ll need to do your own tax return, keeping a detailed log of any earnings and expenses throughout the year, as well as having to chase invoices, keep on top of emails and social media depending on your line of work. Of course, you are also solely responsible for finding your own work, which can become stressful at times.

If you think that self employment might be right for you then the best advice I can give you is to research and talk to others. Look into your chosen field and assess how much work might be available, plan how you’re going to keep your finances organised and if you’re able, have enough savings to tide you over when your income is lower.

It’s really important to go into self employment with an open mind and realistic expectations, but for those who can make it work, it really can make such a difference. I couldn’t imagine working a 9-5 traditional job now, having control over my hours and what I say yes to has helped my chronic pain enormously.

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