Building Your Business While Having A Chronic Illness

Written by Tammy Durden

I did not allow MS and Lupus to stop me from building my business. I’m sharing my discussion on the FreelanceU Podclass episode with Craig Cannings. I wanted to share this popular podcast for freelancers where I discuss how I built my business while having a chronic illnesses. If I can do it you can build your business too.

Images & All Rights Related Belongs To Freelance University

Speaking With Freelance University On Their Podcast

My friend, Craig Cannings of Freelance University, where I am also a Mentor & Online Instructor, asked me if I would do an episode of his ‘Freelance Podclass‘ podcast. Craig asked if I would appear on an episode that would focus on freelancers who struggle with chronic illnesses while trying to build a business.

Why Did I Want To Do The Podcast?

I was excited to do this episode because I wanted to help others with disabilities & chronic illnesses. I really want those with health struggles and diseases to know that it is possible to work from home (or bed) and build a successful business.

Self-Employed And Loving It

I love being self-employed. It is one of the best ways that have worked well with my chronic health conditions. Craig & I had a great time discussing this topic close to both our hearts (as his wife struggles with an autoimmune disease as well). We especially wanted to let you and others know how it is possible to build your business while living with Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and other chronic illnesses.

I am sharing a few written snippets from the podcast but to really understand it is best to listen to the entire episode. I am expanding on some of the interview topics discussed and added some additional thoughts on this important topic.

Tammy Durden - business coach and disability awareness
Me with the forearm crutch I use when venturing out.

“How Do You Build A Thriving Business While Dealing With A Chronic Illness?”

Craig’s Introduction:

“Today we’re joined by Business and Marketing Coach (and FreeU Mentor) Tammy Durden, who has dealt with severe chronic health conditions while at the same time building a successful business. Many students in our University can relate to Tammy’s journey because of their own chronic health issues. And this might be exactly where you are right now too. So, listen in and be inspired as we discuss strategies to overcome challenges and keep your business moving in the right direction!”

-Craig Cannings of Freelance University

I will share my answers with you and as a bonus, I am adding a some additional thoughts just for you.

After Craig introduced me he asked this important question:

“How do you build a thriving business while dealing with a chronic illness?”


How Did I Build A Thriving Business?

A Few Things

First, it was not overnight, it took a long time. I also had to change my perspective on many things, but especially on giving myself permission to rest (lay down and put my legs up – my Physical Therapist was adamant about this) each afternoon. Lastly, I learned so much along the way and this is why I love to share with others and coach people today. I love sharing the steps to create your business as well as growing & scaling your business!

Lessons I’ve Learned

Craig’s next question caused me to think…

“What have you learned from experiencing a chronic health condition while growing a business”

-Craig Cannings

This could take up the rest of the day to answer this question but I will try to keep it brief. If you have a chronic condition then you know what I mean! Thankfully we were on a time limit <big smile> so I kept my answers short. Here are some of my answers along with some added thoughts.

A Good Team Makes All The Difference!

#1 Having A Good Team Is Essential – One of the biggest lessons I learned was adding the right team members to our agency. I cannot stress this enough. As we struggle with illnesses and/or chronic diseases like MS & Lupus we may never know what each day may bring.

Being prepared ahead of time is key!

I shared an example of when I was hospitalized and coded. I was then out of work for almost an entire month. If I did not have a team I would have probably lost most of my clients.

One of the most frustrating things about living with these diseases is the unknown from day to day. It makes it very difficult to plan. Therefore we must work twice as hard on the days we feel well. That allows us the ability to lay low when we do not feel as good.

Challenge accepted - Fearless Business Boss

Prepare Your Processes & Systems

#2 – Processes & Systems – Put all of your processes & systems in place as you go. No matter the task, in your business or your clients, document it. Also, remember that every time you develop a way of doing something, write it down, step-by-step. This is imperative to keeping your business up and running.

More About My Hospitalization Story

The story I tell about coding in the hospital was very real as well as scary. I had no control over what was happening in my business. I was barely able to focus on my breathing let alone anything else. This surely would have cost me my entire business had I not had processes & systems plus a great team in place at that time!

Nobody ever expects to be in the hospital, let alone nearly die!


If you put processes and systems in place right from the start this will put you in a good place no matter what may come down the road. Good processes and systems also make your business more appealing to a purchaser if you should ever need or want to sell it.

Learning That Working From Bed Is “Ok”

#3 – Learning To Be OK Working From Bed – I used to get up and get dressed for work like I was going into corporate life. I thought this would help my mindset and focus as well as have a better appearance for my clients. I quickly learned that there were going to be days when this was not possible. I had to come to terms with working from bed when I needed to and that was alright. I had to give myself permission to work when and how I needed to for any particular day.

The great thing about doing what I do and what most of my clients do is that it is virtual and you work from home. As long as you are still delivering great results to your clients they don’t care how and where you do it.

Your Success Is Not My Success

#4 – Redefining Success – I define success much differently today than I did 14 years ago when I began. I had to learn to redefine success and it was a hard lesson.

Early in my business journey, I thought I had to hit $100,000 and keep climbing. Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful to set and hit my revenue goals, but today I focus on other factors first.

My Focus Today Is Different

The things I focus on today that indicate success to me are the following: (1)more time with family than an outside corporate job, (2) the ability to work from bed when needed, and lastly, (3) the ability to earn an income to add to our household income.

-Tammy S. Durden

When I am scoring on all of these fronts then I am successful! Focusing on what is most important to me and prioritizing those are also key to keeping me at my best and healthiest. After these goals THEN I can set revenue and other business goals.

What Skills Are Best When You Have A Chronic Illness?

Developing skills for building a business that focuses on non-urgent tasks is best for those with chronic illnesses. Projects that do not need to be delivered immediately. Some VAs work with demanding clients – and yes, I’ve been there too, but when you have MS or Lupus or any other disease you need the flexibility to have ‘down days’. So focusing on work that allows you the freedom to work when you want or can work is crucial.

Skills To Develop That Can Work For You

Some skills that may work best for those who struggle with Chronic Illnesses:

  • Copy Writing
  • Consulting
  • Graphic Design
  • Podcasting Production
  • Social Media Management
  • SEO Blogging
  • Website Design & Development

There are many others but these are few that will work well with those who have autoimmune diseases or chronic illnesses. One way to develop these skills is through Freelance University. I have taken courses here for years (long before I was a mentor and truly believe in their programs). The best thing about their program is that it includes all the certification courses, workshops, Facebook Lives, and more – you get it all included. It is not just one course but you can take any course. If you are interested to know more click my affiliate link below – you do not pay more (in fact sometimes you save) and I only share products or services that I use myself and believe in.

If You Do Not Have A Team

Craig asked my advice for those who did not yet have a team or simply want to grow and not build a team. He wondered what I would tell them. Below are some nuggets I wanted to share with you that I believer are a good fit for anyone with chronic illnesses.

Type Of Work If Disabled When Building Your Business

Choose Work That Is Not Immediate Turn-Around Times

1. Choose Work (projects or clients) That Does Not Have An Immediate Turn-Around Time – some VAs, Freelancers, and Small Businesses accept clients who want immediate turn-around. This is not a good fit for those of us who have health conditions. Especially when you have something like Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a brutal attacker when it wants to flare and is not easily reversed (if reversed at all). Often we end up on IV bags for days and more steroids for a month. This is why I suggest finding a way to do tasks that have more than a day turn-around time.

Schedule Out Your Work

2. Schedule Work Out – use calendar blocking as much as possible. Schedule out your work by using your online calendar (like Google) and your paper journal, like Bullet Journal (or another type of journal you choose which kind of book is best). I use both of these to help schedule specific days and dates. This will also help with fatigue if you are like me or have an autoimmune disease where fatigue is debilitating. Doing tasks a chunk at a time rather than pushing through the entire project will help.

Set Goals for 2022 Planner

Our Planner may help you with this as well. Download it free here.

Work Ahead

3. Work Ahead When Possible – meaning do tasks ahead of time as much as you are able. Do not wait until the last moment. Get ahead of your work so that you are prepared as well as possible for each day no matter what comes your way. If you happen to complete the entire project ahead of time and deliver it early the client will be even happier.

Focus On What You Can Control & Not On What You Cannot Control

4. Stay Focused On What You Can Control – do not focus on the uncontrollable. All of us have things we cannot control. It is easy to think we can control these other things in our lives, but you will only end up frustrated and possibly angry. Keep your focus on taking care of yourself much as you can and continue to do the work you love to do and before you know it you will have built your business.

Know Your Limitations When Building Your Business

5. Know Your Limitations – this was very difficult for me and took a lot of time. I’m one that just jumps in and is ready for action to get it done. That even means when I’m past my own physical limits. This can be very detrimental to my health so I have many people who support me and help me know when those limits are reached. Yes, this was hard at first, but those who love me most are telling me because they care. Find people who will be ‘real’ with you and honest as well as know you well enough to know when you have truly reached your limit.

If you are still wondering if Freelancing Is For You be sure to read more in the article I wrote not long ago.

Is Being Self-Employed Better Than Working Corporate

Do I think self-employment is better than working corporately or even outside of the home? Absolutely! Working for an employer is no longer conducive to my health conditions. In fact, I even attempted to work part-time again years ago (after diagnosis) and sure enough, I ended up in the hospital. I had to make a hard decision at that time and left corporate life for good! I love being self-employed and will never go back.

The benefits far outweigh any cons related to self-employment. I truly love what I do. I love helping clients and seeing them and their businesses grow. This is the lifestyle for me.

To Your Continued Success,

Tammy Durden - Business & Marketing Coach
Fearless Business Boss Logo with Tammy Durden

Some of the links within this article may contain affiliate links. These are links that give me credit for your visit and/or purchase. You do not pay morein fact, sometimes you may get a savings. It simply means that I make a little if you purchase something from them.

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