Cerebral Palsy Did Not Stop Me From Starting a Successful Business
Googling my name will provide a slew of results, mostly of articles I’ve written here and there over the years. What you won’t find out, however, is that I’m living with a disability. It’s really easy to hide behind the screen, and most people who see me face-to-face have to know what to look for before they even realize it themselves. I’ve been working from home as a freelance writer and WordPress designer for eight years now, and it’s all thanks to my Cerebral Palsy (CP).
For those who don’t know, CP, according to WebMD, is “a broad term used to describe a group of chronic ‘palsies’, or disorders, that impair control of movement due to damage to the developing brain.” It affects an estimated 1.5 to 4+ per 1,000 live births worldwide, or 1 out of 323 children in the U.S. Each case is dramatically different from the next, depending on the location and the extent of the brain damage.
What it means for me is: I walk a little funny, I can’t drive, and I deal with a lot of aches and pains. Thanks to virtually non-existent public transportation options in my area and the long walk to and from the nearest bus stop, a traditional job simply wouldn’t work. And that was OK for years, since my husband worked full-time in construction and made good money.
Then my husband lost his job. I knew I had to do something.
With a degree in Interactive Media Design, I could find a job and leave him at home with our then 4-year-old son, even in the plummeting economy. He could drive me to and from work. But, he couldn’t do that forever. I made it my mission to work from home, without falling victim to the millions of scams out there. People told me I couldn’t.
Working from home was a pipe dream.
I tried direct sales, working as a rep for Pampered Chef for about six months. But, even that required transportation to do in-home shows if I wanted to make “big money.” Online parties just didn’t have the same appeal. And, let’s face it -- selling that stuff is hard, because cheaper versions of everything in the catalog are available at any big box store in the country.
With money issues piling up, our marriage hit a rough patch. Suddenly, I was facing a future as a single mother with a debilitating handicap, a small child and an unemployed ex-husband.
Now, I really had to do something.
After an intense search, I finally found something viable, and it felt like I’d won the lottery. I started writing for a now defunct platform, Associated Content. A few days in, I learned that while it was a foot in the door, it wasn’t going to be enough.
I moved on to other avenues -- bidding sites like Scriptlance and RentaWorker and forums like WAHM. Still not making major headway, working long hours for what ended up being close to, if not less than minimum wage, I kicked it into high gear and started networking. I spent years honing my craft and now work with an array of small business owners and agencies to create quality content instead of spending hours bidding and hoping for low-paying gigs.
With my career finally at full speed, I supported my family as the sole income provider for three years while my husband worked his way through culinary school to become a professional chef. Thankfully, we made it through that rough patch.
I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and doors continue to open for me on a regular basis. I've experienced growth every year, both in terms of earnings and the number of clients coming to me for work. Am I ready to become an enterprise? No, not by a long shot, but I’m quite certain I’m not going back to a traditional day job of any sort.
The moral of this story?
Don’t let anything stop you from starting a business. Don’t let fear get in your way. Let it motivate you. It was my fear of remaining dependent on others for the rest of my life and my determination to show my friends and family that I could indeed have a job from the comfort of my home that motivated me.
Take that little bit of courage you have to leap -- and then do it. You’ll fall down. You’ll make mistakes. Keep going. With any luck, you’ll create relationships with amazing people and learn things about yourself and the world around you on the way.
My CP doesn’t define me. It’s part of who I am, yes, but I’m honestly thankful for it. It made me face circumstances and get creative with my solution. It gave me my career, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.