Self-employed with cancer – Top Tips

Being self-employed and diagnosed with cancer can be extremely stressful. Not only do you have to contend with a potentially life-threatening condition but you have to consider how you are going to run your business and pay your bills too. This is particularly difficult when you can’t take sick leave and there are scant disability benefits available to you that will pay you to have time off. Cancer Therapist Clare Reed‘s top tips while being self-employed with cancer will give you some direction on what to do.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

I am a self-employed person, and having gone through cancer last year myself, I know what it is like to be in this tough situation. I had been self-employed in CBT for ten years and things had gone really well for me in building up my CBT practice. I formed a great reputation with doctors and my clients, who helped me enormously with referrals. Things were thriving. Then wham!

The first thing to do, as a self-employed person with a diagnosis of cancer, is not to panic. Easier said than done. But cancer loves stress. Adrenalin and cortisol helps promote tumour growth! I appreciate that you are all in a unique situation. Some of you may just be starting out in business, some will have a high intensity of work and demanding clients, some of you may be living gig to gig, some supporting families, some paying sky high rents and this can be a very big trial, whatever situation you are in.

Cancer can also give your self-esteem and confidence a big bash, making you have self-doubting thoughts. I highly recommend CBT for self-employed people experiencing such negative thoughts, as the last thing you need when trying to keep your business afloat is a self-doubting devil on your shoulder.

I am going to keep my self-employed with cancer tips as general as possible to capture as many of you in this situation as I can.

Self-employed with cancer – Top Tips

1. Look into your social protection benefit entitlements for self-employed people with cancer. These differ country to country. Are there benefits or charities to help small business owners cope financially if you need to cut back or stop working?

2. Get your calculator out and work out what the bare minimum is that you need to live on during your treatment. Good news is you will be protecting your immune system so going out to bars, restaurants etc will be best curtailed – saving money!

3. If you are in a relationship with a supporting partner have a frank discussion at the outset about how you are going to manage. Will your partner be able to cover the financial deficit?

4. If you don’t think you will be able to manage financially is there anyone else in your life that you can take a loan from to tide you over through treatment, a parent, sibling, best friend etc.

5. Work out with your Oncologist when you are likely to feel too tired to work or concentrate much. This will depend on the treatment given to you. See if you can plan your working week to accommodate ‘low energy’ days. Your Oncologist will probably be able to accommodate a specific day of the week for chemotherapy, such as a Friday, if you think that is the quietest day for you. Then you get the weekend to recover – particularly useful for some chemotherapy.

6. If you are on intense daily radiotherapy you will have to decide on an appropriate time of the day to do it. For example, can you be the first on the list each day so you aren’t waiting around for hours. In and out first thing will be very handy, if that suits you.

7. Decide if you are going to inform your clients. I am a realist and having been a client with my own suppliers myself, in my former HR life, I know clients will worry about whether you can do the job, at the same quality and to their timeframe. If you are competing with other suppliers I would caution not to tell your clients, if they don’t need to know. If you have taken on a project with lots of travel or other work that will be difficult to achieve during treatment, can you get a freelancer or temporary partner to take on the work?

8. Plan as fast as you can how you are going to deal with hair loss, if this is part of the treatment outcome. Wigs take a while to source and high-end wigs normally need to be ordered to measure. Even if you think there is only a small chance of hair loss is it worth the risk to your business. Looking like you are healthy on the outside is key to a confident you and confident clients.

9. Manage your expectations of how much you will be able to do. Your Oncologist may be able to refer you to a support group for self-employed people where you can speak to others in your position to see if any are on the same plan, how are they handling their workload?

10. Get yourself and your lifestyle in check. When you are self-employed and working through chemotherapy/radiotherapy you have to throw everything you can at it. Be ruthless with yourself. No more sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and eat as many vegetables as you can and drink at least 2 litres of water a day. Exercise for at least 3 hours a week at a moderate intensity. If you are changing your lifestyle to help with your cancer from a standing start, I am here to help, don’t let this be a struggle, I can help you with motivational CBT for Cancer techniques and tools.

Bonus Tip

11. Manage other people’s expectations. Your clients are probably demanding, few are relaxed about deadlines but if you truly know a new commission/project is not going to be delivered to their time frame let them know a more realistic time-frame at the outset. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver as that will make you and them anxious. Negotiation and assertiveness are key, if you need help with communicating or negotiating for successful outcomes, I am an expert in this and able to help you.

For more information about Clare or to book a Skype Session with her, visit her website CBT for Cancer here. Clare offers tailor-made CBT for Cancer Therapy Programmes depending on whether you are at a pre-diagnosis stageduring treatment stage, or if you are post cancer. She also offers a Programme for family and friends of someone going through cancer if there is someone in your life who you think might benefit. 


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.