When you Google mental health and self-employment, you’re initially presented with a depressing list of reasons why starting your own business can be a bad idea for people prone to experiencing poor mental health. That’s not necessarily the whole story, however, and I want to take a few minutes to unpack the idea that starting your own online business can actually be good for your mental health.
Some statistics suggest people in business suffer more with mental health problems. When you look more closely, though, is that really the case? One in four people experience mental illness in some form or other. That’s 25% of the population. 25% of people who are employed, and 25% of people who own businesses. From that perspective, then, it would be unfair to say that the stress of owning your own business is the cause of mental health problems.
In fact, personal testimonies of people who have started their own business after experiencing a mental health crisis tell a different story. Here’s why: when you have a mental health difficulty, being employed can actually be more challenging than being self-employed. Many people who’ve battled with bipolar, for example, have lost their jobs because of the unpredictability of their illness. Running your own online business when you have bipolar, therefore, makes sense - and it’s a particularly popular option for people who are naturally creative.
The Benefits of Self-Employment with Mental Health
Maintaining employment with mental health conditions can be a huge challenge and whilst attitudes are changing, many people have lost jobs because of their illnesses. When your self-esteem is already low, being told that you’re no longer an asset to your employer can be a huge blow. It’s for that reason that a lot of creative people find that setting up their own online business is a boost for their mental health. There are a number of potential benefits.
1. You Don’t Have to Worry About Explaining to Your Boss
When you are the boss, there’s no fear of having to discuss your mental health challenges with someone who doesn’t understand. What’s more, you’re free of the feeling that you have to hide your illness.
Stigma around mental health is still high and people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be misunderstood than people with physical illnesses. It shouldn’t be that way, but the sad fact is that mental illness is still both feared and looked down on.
Self-employment relieves the pressure of employers and colleagues who don’t understand what living with mental illness is really like. It also reduces feelings of shame and inadequacy.
2. You Control Your Hours and Workload
Of course, running your own online business isn’t without challenges, and you still have to earn a living, but there’s much more flexibility involved. You call the shots. If you plan effectively you can make sure that your workload never becomes overwhelming.
Many people with mental health issues struggle with the rigidity of the workplace, so being in control of working hours is a big bonus. You are the expert in your own capabilities, and you can structure your business around them. That means you’re not constantly being set up for failure as often happens in employment.
3. You Get to Feel Like A Valuable Part of Society Again
This is probably the biggest benefit for people with mental health difficulties who have experienced unemployment. It’s easy to feel like mental illness has robbed you of your dream career and left you without anything to contribute to the world. Starting an online business gives you the chance to resolve both these issues. You can start a business doing something that you love - such as web design, writing, marketing, graphic design - and feel valued for the contributions you’re making.
Some of the most creative people out there are self-employed because of their mental illness, and their work brings joy to others. If you’re sitting on the fence about whether self-employment with mental health issues is possible for you, my advice is to give it a try! What have you got to lose?
Tips for Online Business Success
It can be daunting when you first start your own online business - and that’s the same whether you have mental health problems or not. Here’s some tips that can help you increase your chances of success in your new venture.
1. Build Your Web Presence Professionally: The Benefits of ProfessionalWeb Design
Your website is your online shop window, and your potential clients will make decisions based on the quality of your website. Creatives often fall into the trap of wanting to do everything themselves, but unless you’re experienced in web design, it’s advisable to invest in a professional web design agency to build your website. Professional web design doesn’t have to break the bank, and there are a wide variety of agencies who can offer a great deal. To help you find the right agency for your needs, read independent reviews.
2. Talk to SEO Experts
Building your business online requires driving traffic to your website, and the best way to achieve this is through SEO. Search Engine Optimisation is a complicated thing to get right - and you need to get it right to do well. SEO agencies offer a variety of services that can put your website onto the first page in Google search results and get you noticed.
3. Market Effectively
Know your target audience and you can focus your marketing strategy on reaching the right kind of people to build up your customer base. It’s important to have a digital marketing strategy that employs all the latest trends to maximise results in the most cost-effective way.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Online business can be tricky, and it’s important that you build a network of other business owners who have the experience to give you solid advice when you need it. Never be afraid of asking ‘stupid’ questions. Every business owner out there started out with the same questions you have, and most will be more than happy to help.
Starting an online business can be the best thing you could ever do for people who battle with mental health challenges. For me, it certainly was. My mental health has actually improved since I took the plunge and started my own online business as a copywriter, and I can honestly say I wish I’d done it sooner!