I recently taught at Stitchfest in Totnes and part of the subject matter was starting your own craft business from your hobby. The latter half of that workshop was a question and answer session, as is my usual remit for classes. One of the ladies I met in the class asked me how she could find time to start and continue to run a craft business, or indeed any entrepreneurship journey as a full-time carer. I had to be very honest this isn’t my area of expertise, but I do have experience in running my own business alongside suffering complications from treatments for the last eight years or so. With that in mind I answered the question… but I wasn’t sure that she was inspired enough to see the feasibility of it.
Having come away from that class I felt I ought to talk about this more, because I certainly have met several people who are chronically ill, or care for chronically ill family members and still find time to run their businesses quite successfully.
Today on the podcast I want to give you the seven steps that I think will help you find the time to build a craft business and still be focused on your main carer duties, or take the time away you may need if you are chronically ill.
How to find time for entrepreneurship when you are chronically ill, or care for a chronically ill family member
There’s a lovely article by Erin Migdol of The Mighty, called 8 Businesses Owned By People With Chronic Illnesses You Can Support which shows that there are others out there who run businesses and battle illness daily. I also know artists myself who either suffer from, or care for family who suffer from chronic illness and still find time to run their businesses successfully. Based on what I also understand of living with pain almost daily I have created what I think are the seven steps to create an entrepreneurship structure that works for you.
Before we dive in I need to be honest, there are going to be times when your ‘entrepreneurship structure’ flies out the window… for me it was a month off here and there with hospital trips and bed rest (a huge burnout hit with the first trip). There are also days where I am still quite unwell and can only manage a quick dog walk and then sofa rest.
BUT… here’s what I’d recommend you start with;
Seven steps to create an entrepreneurship structure that works for you
Step 1 – Block out time for work
My best advice is to sit down and really have a look at what your day to day schedule looks like. Mark on a blank weekly diary page what times you need to medicate, or carry out other duties related to your, or family member’s illness. This will give you a good idea of what time you have left and when that might be. This will naturally vary from person to person, depending on your situation but what it will do in all cases is show you clearly if you have time for a business.
If the answer is yes, then see if you can find patterns of time where you can block out maybe an hour or two here and there to attend to business things.
By blocking out time you can start to see two things; firstly, when you can focus on your business and secondly what open hours you can share with your customers. Remember your customers will want to know when you can be reached, as well as how!
As you set up your business make sure that you let everyone around you (who you either care for, or who care for you) know that you are working certain hours each week on your business and that you need to time away to focus on that… and by time away it could be time in another room, or the other end of the table with a laptop. Letting those around you know what your working hours are, will help them to get used to the fact that they need to allow you some space (where possible).
The next trick is to battle your own self need to interact with others around you while you work… your business needs your focus and dedication too!
Step 2 – Pick a business model that works for your situation
I created a list of eight craft business models in my free resource, called ‘The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Craft Business That SUITS You!’ Make sure you read that, because some ideas might be more workable than others for you.
In that list I cover a number of options that might suit a business owner in this particular situation, for example a digital business. A digital business could be something like; a knitting pattern designer, or a sewing pattern designer… it could also be a book author. Yes, these businesses need as much time as others, but the beauty of self-publishing is that at least you can take as long as you need to work on your first collection, or book title. Businesses like this might take the pressure off those of you who have very small time commitments to give your business.
Remember whichever model you choose you must be profitable enough, so that with your projected sales (based on what you can produce each week) you can pay yourself a reasonable wage. It should also be something that allows you time away without hindering production, or shipping too much (this is where digital products might be a better option in some cases) because although your customers will be understanding, they may not be so forever.
Step 3 – Automate for social media consistency
There’s another freebie that I created for craft business owners, called ‘Powerful Tools That Help Grow Your Business’. In that free class I talk about automation (triggering pre-scheduled actions on your behalf). One example of automation is pre-scheduling your social media. If you want to know how to do that then check out that Freebie as I give you the tools and tutorials to do that!
Ultimately being consistent for your customers is more enticing to them. It shows them that you have something to say, something to sell and that you take your entrepreneurship seriously. The moment that momentum breaks is the moment that your audience’s attention span wanes and they disappear.
Plan and create a content library for yourself, so that you have plenty to pre-schedule on social media to go out at regular intervals. This will spring into action, even if you are stuck at the doctors. Wouldn’t it be nice to sell something while you are off dealing with something else?!
Finally an extra tip for social media is to choose just one or two channels to appear on. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself, if you don’t have the time.
Step 4 – Plan your time
If you are responsible for others, then planning your time needs to start with planning for those whom you are responsible. Think about activities they can do without you that will cause minimal problems for you to deal with. This should give you the space to focus on your business effectively (or at least as effectively as any good plan can play out when things just want to go wrong!)
Even if you are the chronic suffer it is important to sit down to each of your time blocks with a clear focus of what you want to achieve. By starting out your sessions like this you will find you are much more productive even in shorter bursts of time.
And… you know… if something happens and today is clearly not your day, then skip to step seven!
Step 5 – Don’t fixate on competitors
This is a general tip for anyone really, regardless of their situation.
It’s important to remember that any successes that your competitors are having on their entrepreneurship journey, are just that… it’s part of their journey. You are on a different path and you will find your own success, I promise. My advice is to follow your path and enjoy your journey. We can all look at our peers and feel a little jealous from time to time, even if we are at the top of our industry. So whilst it is always important to understand where you sit next to competitors in the market place, don’t fixate on what they have in comparison to your business.
Step 6 – Keep things simple
Don’t create a business that needs more of you than you have to give.
Don’t create a massive to do list that cripples your motivation and creativity.
Don’t give up when things get hectic in your life.
Do have a plan for how to handle things if you get sick, or you need to spend more time caring for a loved one. Scaling back for a time is ok (I still had my business after two separate month-long sabbaticals).
Step 7 – Accept tomorrow is another day
Let’s be honest there are some days when you wake up and despite having a lot to do in your business, life smacks you in the face with a doozy, or the doctor delivers some gut-kicking news.
In that moment you and your family comes first and it’s ok to take time out.
Accept that tomorrow is another day and that your business can wait.
I don’t have all the answers here, but I hope that I have made enough sense to show that entrepreneurship is possible for those who are carers, or even those who suffer from chronic illness. Like everything you need a plan and to remember that your plan needs to be flexible to account for your unique situation.
I hope that has been helpful… I’d love to hear more about your stories and experiences, so please drop them in the comments below. And if you have more tips to share, then drop those in too!
Thank you for watching!