Being your own boss with an invisible illness!

At MyLocal Gifts, we are passionate about helping small businesses thrive, for some the thought of running their own business may seem out of reach. That’s why for World Mental Health day we wanted to highlight the tools you can use to succeed in running your own business with a mental health problem.

This is important to us as members of our team live with a mental health problem. Being Autistic and having ADHD myself I understand some of the challenges that come with managing a hidden and often misunderstood condition.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’ and we believe with the right tools anyone can succeed in running their own business, so hope the tips we share below will help someone gain the confidence to allow themselves to consider the possibilities they have.

Someone with a mental health problem is far less likely to be able to hold down a full-time job. However, they also make a large proportion of small independent businesses.

Many people with a mental health problem can find the flexibility that working for yourself gives you, allows them to work around their individual needs and gives them the freedom to live a more fulfilled life.

We have put together 5 tips you can use to succeed in running your own business with a mental health problem.

Being your own boss

If you find there is a skill, craft or hobby that helps you find some calm that you enjoy, then you are already halfway there.

The most important part of any business is your product or service. For many people with invisible conditions, they find some form of craft therapeutic. If this is the same for you then you will probably already have the skill or product to sell.

While being your own boss can be very rewarding, you must consider the stress that comes with running your own business. Everyone has a limit, it doesn’t matter how strong, healthy or fit you are there is a limit. The limit is different for everyone, but most people have warning signs when they are close to theirs. Do not push yourself past your limit.

Don’t feel bad for taking time to do something relaxing to unwind or even do nothing. One of the worst parts of living with a mental health problem is mental burnout.

1: Work at your own rhythm

Create what you like when you like!

If you struggle to focus on one thing, you can remove the stress of keeping up with demand by limiting the availability of what you sell to what you have already created. This will give you the freedom to allow your creative flair to shine when you have the motivation to work.

This will lessen the impact on your mental demands, this also means your business will grow only as far as you are able to cope.

Create “work” hours

Some people work better if they have a routine they can stick to. With some planning, you can create a schedule that works for you. Decide when you work best and set yourself regular work periods throughout the day or week, this will give you firm boundaries where you can get into work mode.

Don’t be too ambitious, give yourself a realistic and achievable timetable that will not lead to more stress if you find you cannot keep up. If you find your schedule is no longer working for you, make small adjustments until you find your flow.

If you know you work better in the morning, try to get into the habit of preparing your work area the night before. This way you can get going when you are at your best.

There are many tools you can use to keep yourself on track with your schedule. Here are some that I find useful.

  • Trello - I find this is an easy way to keep track of more simple tasks I need to complete (for me this is more used for keeping track of our children’s Home education but I also use it for my work with MyLocal Gifts too)

  • PromoDone App – This amazing little app helps prevent me from becoming too hyper-focused on my task at hand and helps prevent me from spending too much time on one task and reminds me to have “breaks” I predominantly use this for my computer-based work and then the simple timers on my watch for more routine tasks.

  • Click up – This I use to track more complex/large tasks.

  • Bullet Journalling/ Calendar – As you have probably guessed I am more structured I heavily rely on my bullet journal and family calendar to keep myself on track If you haven’t yet come across bullet Journalling and structure is helpful to you I advise you to look into the joys of bullet journaling (we have a selection of lovely handbound books available on Wiltshire Gifts 😉)

  • LastPass - This app is amazing for those who have memory issues it will remember and allow you to safely share your login details with others (for instance sharing your website login with a friend offering to help you you can share it but they never get to see it!)

Batch your work

It often helps to batch your work. Batching your work means organising tasks into “like for like” groups. This then allows you to organise them according to when they can be completed in order to maximise your efficiency. For instance, a card maker may spend one day decoupaging all the toppers for the cards they want to make this week, the next day mounting all the toppers, the next day making all the inserts and the next day putting all the components together completing all the cards. This means they only need to get out the tools for each day’s job and not have all the tools required to complete a card out at the same time, therefore minimising the time they spend doing anything outside of that task. So instead of perhaps spending each day on one or two cards, they can instead create 10-15 cards in 4 days by batching the tasks.

The benefit of batching is that it can help avoid distractions that come with multitasking. It also protects against time-wasting activities, such as checking social media or doing something else on your computer when you should be working on a task.

2: Boundaries for success

One of the things that can wreak havoc on your self-care is boundary violations. So you need to know your limits and enforce them. This is especially important when your business and its success relies on you, and even more so when your end goal is to be able to rely on that business to help you make a living.

So each day set yourself achievable daily goals.

By achievable, I mean make these daily goals based on your worst day, these are the minimum you know you can achieve when your mood, pain or symptoms are at their worst.

By setting your daily goals on your worst day you will get an amazing boost when you are able to achieve more. When a good day comes, learn to listen to your body so you don’t overdo it.

15 work – 15 Rest – 5 Listen

This is a great method you can use to ensure you don’t overdo it. The idea is 15 minutes of work, then 15 minutes of rest followed by 5 minutes of meditation.

I find for me I can actually achieve more without overdoing it just with the simplicity of PromoDone App. I have the app on my phone and the Chrome attachment to my browser. simply click on the timer for however long I want to focus for then it reminds me to take a break.

It’s so important for people with mental health problems to take care of themselves in ways that work for them. And it’s hard because no two people with the same problem will have the same way of dealing with it. But when we know our limits and listen to our bodies, we can create a schedule that will allow us to do what needs to be done while also maintaining some peace. Give yourself achievable daily expectations.

Set your goals based on your worse days

3: Adapting to your Abilities

You have probably already found ways to adapt with your disability to be able to get through the day but you will need to adapt for your business needs too.

Asking for help from those around you:

This is one of the most important parts of managing any mental health problem. This is your support network and making the network you have work for you. This is also one I personally find very hard but you need to learn to communicate efficiently with those who support you and ensure you have the support you need especially from your “cheerleaders” (those in your life who see you for what you can do and not what you can’t, those who believe in you even when you don’t and “cheer” you along to keep you on track)

What are some good ways to stay organized?

Organising your life to be more friendly to your weaknesses can really help. To help manage my ADHD, this means being overly organised and having ways to remind me of things that need to be done. For your needs, these may vary.

Lists, planners, alarms and reminders are all ways to stay organized. In the modern world, all of these can be achieved either through physical or digital means. There is an array of apps or add ons out there both paid for and free to help you spend some time learning what works best for you. Be prepared to be changing these as your needs change too!

What are some good ways to stay focused?

There are many ways to stay focused, most of which involve removing distractions. Some good ways include: finding a distraction-free environment, avoiding multitasking, and eliminating noise or in the case of some people it’s having the right background noise or distraction. For those on the ASD and ADHD lines, the likes of Body doubling could help you.

To find out more about Body doubling here

Other Adaptations to try:

Visual Aides

These can be anything that provides a visual aid to remind you of something so it could be a large calendar on the wall, Sequencing displays to remind you to do things in a set order or even what extras to add to your orders, it can be flashcards with words or pictures on or even a handwritten card left in a place to remind you of something you still have to do.

To-do lists

To-do lists are a great way of keeping track of things you still need to do. If you go for this don’t ever be tempted to exceed your boundaries to achieve more than you should or to try and clear it and complete them all.

Alarms

The Alarms app on most phones, Tablets and smartwatches is also great for remembering appointments. There tend to be two different types of alarms you can use:

-Regular alarms are based on a specific time.

-Irregular alarms are based on the day of the week.

Timers

The Timers app on most phones, tablets and especially Smartwatches are a fantastic help to help you keep track of time. As mentioned above I also use Promodone and the timers on our google home devices.

Home assistant devices

Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri all offer a range of useful features, Not only can they keep track of your calendar, set alarms, timers, reminders and that’s not to mention they can access recipes and talk you through cooking recipes.

If you pair these with other smart home devices and you can programme lights to flash instead of a doorbell ring, have lights turn down slowly to prepare you for bed.

Sticky notes

These are a type of visual aid but a very versatile one because you can stick them in places that are visible and in a relevant location (update blog on a computer screen, Change washing over on or near kettle etc)

Reminders

These too can fall under visual aids but I find my phone’s reminder is far more useful especially with tasks that need to be done outside the house. I find the ability to set a reminder based on a time or place is helpful.

Bullet Journalling

This is one of my most useful tools. It helps me plan, track taking my meds, drinking, working and a whole range of other stuff including housework and overtime.

Although the term bullet journaling means a very specific way of doing a journal, which may be useful for some, I personally do not get on with the “proper way”, but it is the closest way to describe what mine is. So don’t be put off by the rules and instead look into it and remember you can take from it what you want and what you feel will work for you.

4: Bookkeeping Help

When you have hidden conditions to contend with it can be hard to keep on top of receipts and finances. Thankfully, there are some amazing apps that offer you simple ways to keep on track.

Always speak to your accountant first as they may have one they already work with; however here are a few of the most popular ones for you to give you an idea of what they can do.

Please check on the individual companies websites as while the information is accurate at this time as I write this, services and features may change. (We have added what you can get for around £10 per month to make it a fairer comparison)

Quick Books

This is top of our list because this is what we use.

Main Features

  • Manage income

  • expenses

  • Send ‘pay-enabled’ invoices

  • Connect your bank

  • Forecast cash flow

  • Snap & sort receipts

  • Track mileage

  • Create estimates & quotes

  • Run customised reports

  • Prepare Self Assessment

  • Get Income Tax estimates

  • Check VAT for errors

  • Submit VAT to HMRC

  • Calculate and submit CIS

  • Manage bills

  • Do business in 145+ currencies

  • 3 Users

Sage Accounting

Main Features

  • Create and send invoices

  • Track what you’re owed

  • Automatic bank reconciliation

  • Calculate and submit VAT

  • Be Making Tax Digital Ready for VAT

  • Supports one user

Sage Cloud 50

Main Features

  • Making Tax Digital Ready for VAT

  • Manage cash flow, income, expenses and payments

  • Create, send and track professional personalised invoices and quotes

  • Set up invoices to recur

  • Automatic bank reconciliation

  • Calculate and submit VAT to HMRC

  • Supports unlimited users

  • Manage and submit CIS to HMRC

  • Create and run advanced reports

  • Manage inventory

  • Multiple currency invoicing

  • Snap receipts with AutoEntry and get 3 months free!

 Crunch

the shortlist is for their Free options.

Main Features

  • Bookkeeping Software

  • Record and track Expenses

  • Create and issue invoices

  • Connect your bank account

  • easy bank reconciliation

Xero

Main Features

  • Send quotes and 20 invoices

  • Enter 5 bills

  • Reconcile bank transactions

  • Submit VAT returns to HMRC

  • Capture bills and receipts with Hubdoc

  • Automatic CIS calculations and reports

5. Believe in yourself and your products

So many people undersell themselves and their work because they don’t see the value in it. Your work should reflect the time and resources that go into it.

Before Wessex Digital Solutions we have run several successful businesses offering services and products including a shop in France. During this time we learned the best three ways to reasonably price our time and cover costs.

Type 1: Cost of supplies + time taken by the hour.

Perfect for those whose craft takes specific skills, practice or those offering services that require specific qualifications (bookbinding, leatherworking, nail technicians, beauticians, sculptors, artists, complex greetings cards etc). The cost per hour will change based on your particular skills.

Type 2: Cost of Supplies X 3 = price

This is perfect for most small craft items, simplistic cards, these are smaller items that are quick and easily made but still handmade or printed using your own unique design, more simplistic Jewellery pieces.

Type 3: Wholesale cost X 2 (or wholesale + 20%)= price

These are items you buy in to sell. These can be items made by other small businesses, Items that you use during your service your customers may want to use in between sessions with you or  Items that compliment your business/business ethos and your customers may find beneficial or interesting.

Mass production comes with a lower cost, therefore, a greater profit however handmade or from a fellow small independent comes with a greater cost and smaller profit but generally offers better quality and also businesses that support one another have a greater chance of survival.

Don’t Limit yourself

Those selling Products

It is worth it as a business to have items that fall into at least 2 categories you earn more on type 1, However, you are less likely to sell these as often.

You will find more often than not it will be the Type 2’s or 3’s that provide you with a living when you are selling products so try to ensure your product range offers something for as many budgets as you can this will increase your chances of sales as it will widen your customer base.

Those selling Services

If you are selling a service your major income will be from Type 1’s However, You can boost this income by offering to sell the items you use during your service.

For instance, A masseuse could sell creams or essential oils for their clients to use at home. A nail technician could sell the nail varnishes they use, someone offering courses could sell the items used within the course.

If you find another small business that makes high-quality creams, scents or whatever you may use this then give you a greater opportunity as not only are they likely to find those products themselves cheaper elsewhere but also because they will recognise the quality.

You are not alone

It is important to remember that if you are struggling with your mental health there are organisations out there that can help you. Don’t feel like you are alone, please seek help if you need it.

Below are some links which you may find useful;

The Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/

Young Minds – https://www.youngminds.org.uk/

Caroline Brown

Founder and chief marketing and support person

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