I became self-employed in 2018 because I was too unwell to continue commuting and working full-time as a Buyer in Manchester. I was heartbroken at the time, I loved working in Buying and I felt I was progressing nicely and was working towards my CIPS qualification, having received a Merit grade for the first two exams.

This was a difficult time for me, I hated my body for being so useless, for not being able to keep up with me, for making me give up a job that was turning into a flourishing career. I don’t mind admitting I spent a lot of time crying in bed after I first lost that job.

But I knew lying around all day feeling sorry for myself would seriously affect my mental health, so I decided I would run a little Etsy shop on my good days – this little Etsy shop went on to generate £200k revenue in the 4 years I ran it, something I’m incredibly proud of.

I have a condition called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) as well as being visually impaired and the POTS affects my life in a much bigger way than my eyesight has, you can adapt more to not being able to see something properly, there are workarounds, vision aids but as yet they haven’t invented a pill or similar to overcome fatigue so overwhelming you feel like your body is shutting down and the only thing you can do is lie in bed and hope it passes – it always does, for me at least.

Luckily, I was given medication when I was first diagnosed in 2019 and that has helped a lot with the shortness of breath, pre-syncope episodes, chest pains and heart palpitations that had become part of my daily life.

Being disabled, in any form and running a business is very challenging, we have to think outside the box, be creative with how we do things and, in some cases, work much harder to do basic tasks. We can often be underestimated, which is something I struggle with because yes, I’m disabled, but I am capable of running a business as well as the next person.

Top Tips for Disabled Business Owners

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about being disabled in business for the last 5 years, and hopefully, you’ll find at least some of them useful.

Be Time Efficient

If your disability reduces your energy levels as mine does, then being efficient with the time you do have available is crucial to success. Write focused task lists, in priority order and work through them, try not to get distracted by other jobs that won’t move the business forward, but will zap your energy.

Know Your Limits

Over the last 5 years, I’ve learned a lot about how POTS affects me, and what my limits are, and I know that to be as healthy as I possibly can, I have to lead a rather structured life and when that routine is interrupted, I feel it and it can cause a flare up.

So it’s important to know your limits, and know how much you can do before you bring on a flare-up, if you have that kind of condition.

Outsource and Delegate

I’ve always struggled with this because I am a bit of a control freak but I decided with Dotty About Braille that I was going to outsource as much as I could, so far I’ve used a professional photographer for my Christmas range, and I’ve hired a freelancer to make me a load of Pinterest Pins and although this isn’t really outsourcing or delegating,

I have a business mentor, something I’ve never had before because I don’t like being told what to do, but she doesn’t! She’s just amazingly helpful, a great sounding board and she holds me accountable.

So let go of the reins and if you can afford it, outsource whatever you can, but focus on what will bring in value and what will help grow the business.

Embrace your Uniqueness

I’m guessing if you’re a disabled business owner then you’ve faced some challenges in life that others might find interesting or inspiring, so share it! Embrace who you are, embrace your disability and shout it from the rooftops.

There may be many people doing what you’re doing, but you’re the only YOU, so nobody is doing it in the same way.

Make Adaptions

For me adaptions mean a bigger computer monitor with the font enlarged and having really good lighting, as well as always having a magnifier to hand. Adaptions also mean only working part-time, taking naps when I need to, not doing things like markets and events because I just couldn’t cope with the long days, snacking and staying hydrated as this helps keep my POTS symptoms under control.

But for you, it might mean an adapted workshop, with ramps or handrails, or it might mean only dealing with customers online because you struggle speaking with people on the phone, or getting a TextPhone if you have hearing difficulties.

Whatever your disability, think of any adaptions you could make, to make running your business easier.

Don’t Give Up

Running a business is hard, it’s full of ups and downs, roadblocks, and obstacles. Resilience is key to being a successful business owner.

And if your first business idea doesn’t take off, no matter, on to the next, and the next until you find one that does. I’ve tried approximately seven business ideas over the last 5 years and only two have actually generated sales worth talking about! Several were never even launched. This doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it just means I’m full of ideas! Some good, some not so!

Celebrate Your Achievements

Shout your achievements loud from the rooftops, there are lots of people waiting to celebrate with you. Don’t feel like you’re bragging, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your achievements, more people should do it.

Get Support

Don’t feel that you have to do it all by yourself, believe me when I say even none disabled business owners rarely do it all alone. They have business mentors, coaches or accountability partners. They form mastermind and support groups. Getting support, of any kind is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of realising nobody knows everything and we all need a little helping hand now and then.

Unfortunately I am unable to find business mentoring that is aimed specifically at disabled people but I do recommend contacting your local council and asking what is available in your area. In Greater Manchester we have Enterprising You and it’s been a fantastic resource, free workshops on marketing, copyrighting, social media and more. Plus you get your own business coach for three months who you’ll have regular calls with. They also give access to health and wellbeing support.