So, let’s talk about working with a chronic illness.
We all know that managing a chronic illness is like a full-time job in itself. Not everybody with a long-term condition is able to work, and nobody should ever be forced into a job to the detriment of their health and wellbeing. However, hundreds of thousands of talented disabled individuals want to work, and are just looking for the right opportunity to do so. Since I started blogging, there’s one question I’ve consistently been asked more than any other: how do I find my flexible, work-from-home opportunities?
My name is Pippa, and I’m a disabled writer, speaker, and communication consultant. I started my career in employment, but these days I’m a self-employed freelancer. Nevertheless, the core parts of my work have stayed fairly consistent. I currently split my time between consultancy and content creation in the charity sector, freelance writing and blogging, speaking and media work, social media and disabled influencer shenanigans, and incessantly guzzling tea whilst making extensive to-do lists.
If you feel it would be helpful, you can find out more about my background here, and read about my personal career journey so far (including employment and self-employment!) in this post.
This post first came about rather spontaneously, following preparations for a livestream where I was to discuss accessible employment and managing work with a chronic illness. It was whilst doing my prep that it hit me: although many of us talk about our personal experiences, there isn’t really a great deal of practical support and signposting to actual resources and opportunities.
So, that led me to here. A blog post hastily put together before the livestream, which I’ve since returned to and have been expanding ever since. It’s no secret that there simply aren’t enough flexible opportunities out there for chronically ill people, with many employers yet to realise they’re missing out on a huge wealth of talent, but I’m working on it. And in the meantime, I hope these resources go some way in helping you to kick-start your own career. In my humble opinion, any organisation would be lucky to have you.
If you find this post helpful, you may also like my YouTube videos and vlogs – especially this playlist dedicated to inclusive education and employment. You can also find me on Instagram, and shop my books and eBooks here!
The following opportunities are organised into schemes, mentoring, work-from-home job searching tips, resources for organisations, and a brief introduction to freelance opportunities. Let’s jump right in…
- BBC’s Extend Hub: a talent recruitment hub for disabled people, providing industry opportunities in journalism, production, technology and business.
- EmployAbility: a portal of events and vacancies specifically for disabled students and graduates.
- Change100: Leonard Cheshire’s database of paid 3-month internship opportunities with top UK employers. I will say that I had a not-so-positive experience with this one in 2016, where my application was rejected on the grounds that I wasn’t well enough to work full-time: in my opinion, quite a contradiction for a scheme that hails itself as wholly accessible and inclusive. However, I’ve heard that they’re now committed to implementing more flexible working going forwards, so I wouldn’t rule it out purely based on my experience!
- 4Talent: Channel 4’s collection of apprenticeships, training schemes, mentoring and work experience in the media industry. Whilst not exclusively for disabled people, their Support & Advice page highlights their desire to employ more disabled people, and outlines the steps they’re taking to make sure people’s needs are met.
- Reed in Partnership: this programme, by The Reed Foundation has been anecdotally recognised as a particularly supportive scheme for applicants with disabilities. You can search for specific jobs on their site, and they’ll take care of any reasonable adjustments you need to thrive. Many of these positions are managerial/executive, with corresponding salaries.
- VERCIDA: recent winners of the prestigious Best Specialist Job Board at the 2018 National Online Recruitment Awards, VERCIDA use specialist technology and artificial intelligence methods to create a tailored job search. They promote the benefits of having an inclusive workforce, and prioritise working with organisations with diverse initiatives.
- Access to Work: a government scheme to provide practical and financial support for disabled people in work, where reasonable adjustments cannot be covered by an employer. I haven’t experienced this one myself (yet), but Gem Hubbard and Jessica Kellgren-Fozard discuss their own experiences of the scheme in this video (from 13:30 onwards).
- Scope’s two support programmes, Starting Line and Kickstart: Starting Line involves group training and one to one employment advice over seven weeks, and Kickstart features tailored support from an employment advisor on how to reach your goals. Both of these operate in the London and Leeds areas.
- Scope’s Support to Work programme: a 12-week action plan featuring telephone and online employment support for applying for paid work, potentially most accessible for those who struggle to leave the house.
- The Prince’s Trust: a youth charity that helps young people to access education, employment and training, including business mentoring schemes. You can read a bit about my personal journey with The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme here!
- Bright Futures UK: workshops, mentoring and tutoring designed for young individuals who are forced to take time out from education due to medical circumstances – both mental health and physical health.
Find Work From Home opportunities:
- Astriid: a small charity and online platform matching talented workers with long-term illnesses with volunteering and employment opportunities. Candidates upload their CV or LinkedIn page, and can specify how many hours they can manage, whether they’re looking for short-term or long-term work, and whether they would prefer to travel or work from home. The Astriid team also works one-to-one with candidates on helping them to identify career goals and develop their skills, and they proactively advocate with businesses and organisations to demonstrate the value of inclusivity and the potential of chronically ill workers. I’m slightly biased as I’m part of the Astriid team myself, but do come and say hello on Instagram!
- Guardian Jobs: filter searches right down by selecting ‘work from home’ and ‘part-time hours’ options. Some of them are usually quite niche, but there tend to be frequent well-paid opportunities for experienced workers in here too.
- indeed.co.uk: similar to above, but with more miscellaneous opportunities. Some are junk, but there are legitimate and remote/flexible hidden gems in there too if you’re prepared to hunt for them.
- EvenBreak: similar to the above, job advertisements aimed at connecting inclusive employers with talented disabled workers. The enterprise also provides online information and resources, and runs campaigns highlighting the benefits of employing disabled people. As of 2016, Channel 4 advertise all their current vacancies on this site. Highly recommend their fortnightly newsletter – one of very few that are worth signing up for and scrolling through!
- Timewise Jobs: search recruiters and individual job opportunities that accommodate flexible and part-time hours. Vacancies are organised according to region and at the time of writing, there are often a handful of remote opportunities listed on there too.
- FlexJobs: a site full of opportunities designed to better work around people’s unique circumstances, including remote and part-time roles. They host success stories and online information guides on their website too. However, it’s only after signing-up that you’re asked to pay a subscription fee to access the jobs, so please proceed with caution!
- PeoplePerHour: A platform that allows people to share one-time jobs for freelancers to search through and apply for. The bonus here is that most jobs listed require less commitment than contracted full-time/part-time work, and you can pursue as many or as few as you feel up to. Lots of social media and digital tasks on this one, ideal for home-working!
- Approach specific charities: if you live with a specific chronic illness or disability, charities dedicated to the cause are often looking to recruit workers with valuable lived experience of that condition or who embody that organisation’s ethos. There’s no harm at all in popping over a friendly email *with your CV*, expressing an interest in future opportunities. This method has worked rather well for me in the past!
Freelance writing/paid blogging gigs:
- START A BLOG: If you want to get into freelance writing, starting a blog is an ideal first step. Get writing, create an online portfolio, put yourself out there, and make sure your contact details are as visible as possible. As somebody who’s been on both sides of the process, a contact form on your page often won’t cut it: whack your email address everywhere you possibly can to increase the likelihood of professionals reaching out. Yes, initially you may be working for free and there’s no guarantee that it’ll ever amount to more, but enjoy the process, and it could pay off. Massively.
- Disabled Writers: These guys are committed to introducing more diversity in the journalism industry. Create a profile to add to their database, which is frequently utilised by those who commission written work. Many opportunities (which they often also tweet out) are USA-based, but I’ve had UK copywriting agency offers come from here: potentially a good starting point for those who want to try out freelance life.
- The Bloglancer: my pal Jenna Farmer runs this brilliant site, full of useful tips and advice for monetising and earning a living through your blog. This Opportunities Board for bloggers lists various opportunities and how people can engage with them.
- Find your people. Use social media to build a community – not only followers who engage with your own work, but people in your chosen field who you admire and look up to. There is so much you can learn from observing the way they go about things, especially if they’re part of the same marginalised group (e.g. chronic illness, BIPOC, LGBTQ+) as you are.
- Pitch to brands: once you’ve built up your confidence and know you have something to offer, it’s completely okay to approach brands and organisations who align with your values. The Bloglancer, mentioned above, hosts the Ultimate Guide to Sponsored Posts: a cracking read for more experienced bloggers looking to begin earning. Blogger Beth Sandland also has some fab guidance on pitching blog collaborations to PRs.
- Online networking can be a game-changer for people who are wanting to work freelance and find new opportunities… and it took me years to get the hang of it. Anybody interested in making new contacts whilst working remotely may find my How To Network Online eBook helpful!
- Astriid: if you’re a business looking to become more inclusive and recruit chronically ill talent, get in touch with Astriid. The team can connect you with individuals who fit the brief, and also provide bespoke training and consultancy to help you become an employer of choice for this growing community.
- Business Disability Forum: if you’re an organisation looking to become more inclusive and disability confident, this organisation provides pragmatic support and advice, facilitates training and offers specialist networking opportunities to make it happen.
- Disability Confident Accreditation: organisations certified in this way have made commitments and taken action, such as ensuring their recruitment process is as inclusive as possible, to make the most of the talent disabled people can bring to their workplace.
- Endometriosis UK Friendly Employer Scheme: employers can sign up for Endometriosis UK’s scheme to show their commitment to supporting the wellbeing of employees with the condition. By signing-up, organisations will receive free training and resources, and also have their name proudly displayed on the charity’s online list of signatories. This scheme is relatively new but looks to become a good one!
That’s all for now! If you know of any schemes or opportunities that I’ve missed, I’d love to hear about them: every single recommendation could turn out to be another reader’s starting block. I’m thrilled to bits to know that this blog post has provided comfort and practical support for readers over these last few years – it truly makes my day.
If you found this post helpful, you may also like my YouTube videos and vlogs – especially this playlist dedicated to inclusive education and employment. You can also find me on Instagram, and shop my books and eBooks here!
As I mentioned at the start, life with a long-term condition is tough, and managing chronic illness is like a full-time job in itself. If you are unable work because of your condition, or have had to step back from work, I hope you know that this has absolutely no bearing on your worth or who you are as a person. If, however, you do wish to pursue employment, I wish you all the luck in the world. I know it can be tough to find things that suit both your skillset and your condition management, but it can be so worthwhile. Put yourself out there, and you never know what could happen…
Thanks again for reading! If you know of any tips or opportunities worth sharing, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!