Sunday, 6 November 2011

Health Blogging Month Day 6: Chronic Illness Business Network

If I could do anything as a Health Activist... Get aspirational. Money is no longer an option. What is your biggest goal that is now possible? How could you get there? Now bring it back down to size. How much of this can you accomplish now, in a year, in five years?

What an amazing topic this one is! It's not only made me think, but actually do something. (We'll get to that in a minute.)

The topic says money's not a problem to start with. I want more than money - I want to recruit some brilliant mind with expertise in computing and the on-line world, and with an understanding of business. So, let's assume Bill Gates has come on board as advisor.

My brilliant idea, which Bill will know how to implement, addresses the issue of how people with chronic illnesses support ourselves financially, when our health is a bit unreliable for regular work. Don't get me wrong here, I really do appreciate the social security system and the support I've received, but I'd rather earn my own way. I suspect lots of other people with conditions like mine would rather be earning our own income than relying on social security as well.

My new best friend Bill and I would set up an international network of on-line businesses, run by people with chronic illnesses. We would sell clothes, secretarial services, books, anything and everything that can be done from a computer (so not hairdressing or dentistry, but a lot of other things.) It would mean we could totally control the amount of work we do and when, being flexible enough to account for Bad Days and putting in extra effort when we are well.

Earning our own money (instead of pensions) would help us to feel more that we were contributing to society, which would help with the problem of depression that often accompanies chronic illness. A website which offered a directory of such businesses, and information about setting up your own on-line business, with advice and support would help strengthen the network and assist the individual businesses to be successful.

That's the dream. In the real world, the closest I come to knowing Bill is following him on Twitter, and he does seem a bit busy (even in retirement) to take on the project.

So what can I do?

Right now, I can start researching what opportunities are available for people with chronic illnesses to start up their own on-line businesses.  This is where I did some actual work while thinking.  I set up my own t-shirt shop. Cool huh?  This is a set-and-forget business. I create designs and put them on a website that I got for free from the printing company.  Customers order from the site, and the printing company prints up the shirt (or mug or whatever), sends it to the customer, and sends me a commission. There's no stock to buy and store, because the product is only made when it's ordered. That's the theory. As I only set this up on Friday and haven't sold anything yet, I can't tell you for sure how well it works.

In case you are interested, the link to set up your own shop is: customyourshirt.com/open-a-tshop-pg-freeshop.html .  If you want to check out my shop, the link is irisshirtshop.toctopus.com.

If you want to make your own t-shirt designs like my "Lupus Bites" one on the left - you will need an image manipulation program, like Paint.Net which you can download for free. Should you use images from the internet, be careful to check the copyright - some people make their images freely available, but others do not.

Another thing I can do immediately, is to ask anyone who has lupus (or another chronic illness) and has their own internet business - please send me the details of your business - I will post it on the "Lupus Links" page of this blog. (When I have a few of them, I'll give them a separate page.) If you have hints, or tips for setting up your own internet business, that you're willing to share, please tell me about that as well.

As for what I can do from here: I can continue to trawl the internet for business ideas - and post them on the blog as I find them. I can also publish details of any internet businesses others have operating. For the next year, that seems a good enough goal for something I'm doing in my spare time while I'm well.

Over the next five years? Who knows? Perhaps the network really can grow. Maybe my blog will become a minor part of  sometimesitislupus.com, and the most important part will be a directory of lupies' businesses, and business hints and tips.

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J

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