Friday, July 6, 2018

Guest Post: Can Self-Employment Benefit People with Mental Illness?



Is your mental health interfering with your 
career? 

Conditions like depression and anxiety 
make it hard to show up to a job day 
after day and give it your all — not to 
mention dealing with office politics and 
other workplace stressors. 

Rather than going through the motions 
and letting your mental health suffer, 
consider branching out into the world of 
self-employment.

The rise of the gig economy has made self-employment possible for countless people. 
No longer do you have to launch your own full-fledged business to be self-employed. 
Between apps that let customers hire on-demand services to websites that connect 
freelancers with paying clients, it’s easier than ever to make money without signing up 
for an office job.

The flexibility of self-employment offers enormous benefit to people with mental illnesses. 
Mental illnesses make it difficult to adhere to rigid office schedules — and when you do 
show up despite feeling unwell, it’s impossible to give it your all. According to Inc, 
absenteeism and presenteeism due to mental illness cost U.S. businesses an estimated 
$225.8 billion per year. Workers in the gig economy, on the other hand, can set their own 
hours so they can work when they’re feeling most capable and productive.

While not for everyone, working solo can be an ideal scenario for people with social anxiety. 
In a self-employment scenario, you control when and how you interact with others. That’s a 
big shift from an office setting where coworkers drop in on a whim, managers peer over your 
shoulder, and office politics reign supreme. While few people can (or should) escape inter-
acting with others entirely, working independently gives you time and space to craft cogent 
messages and rehearse interactions.

Of course, there’s also the benefit of not working a job that feels like drudgery day in and 
day out. Whether you have a preexisting condition or not, spending 40 hours per week doing 
something you dislike isn’t doing your mental health any favors. By striking out on your own, 
you can pursue an interest or schedule paying work in a way that accommodates unpaid pursuits.

Despite the benefits, working in the gig economy isn’t for everyone. Running your own business 
requires specific traits: you must be self-motivated so you can set and meet deadlines without a 
supervisor pressuring you — because while you may have a flexible schedule, you only get paid 
if the work gets done. You have to present yourself well and interact confidently with clients and 
fellow business owners, because branding and networking are key to business success. You need 
to be a natural problem solver; when you work alone, it’s up to you to fix any and every problem 
that arises. And you must be orderly and regimented, because if you can’t follow up on invoices, 
keep the books, and pay your taxes, you won’t last long in business. If you feel you may fall 
short on any of the above, find and pay someone trustworthy to handle this for you. 

If you don’t have these essential traits, self-employment may not be the path for you. However, 
that doesn’t mean you’re stuck in 9-to-5 drudgery until the day you retire. An increasing number 
of companies are offering flexibility to employees. Flexible workplaces include perks like 
working from home, flexible work hours, compressed workweeks, and generous paid time off. 
Even if an employer doesn’t offer these benefits as standard, workers may be able to request 
flexible working accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if they 
have a diagnosed psychiatric disability. Learn more about workplace accommodations for 
mental health conditions at ADA National Network.

For many people with mental illness, self-employment is ripe with opportunity — both for a 
fulfilling career and improved mental health. However, if you don’t have the right personality 
for it, entering the gig economy could do more harm than good to your mental well-being. 
Before you take the leap and strike out on your own, make sure you’re suited for the path ahead.

Image via Unsplash



Brad Krause graduated from college in 2010 and went straight to the corporate world at the 
headquarters of a popular retail company. But what started as a dream job soured quickly. 
After four years of working 15-hour days and neglecting his health, he decided enough was 
enough. Through aiding a friend during a tough time, Brad discovered his real calling-helping 
people implement self-care practices that improve their overall wellbeing. He created 
SelfCaring.info to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he finds on his 
self-care journey.

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