“You look okay to me” said a client on my third zoom meeting. Yes, that’s because I’ve got the beauty filter on and a hot water bottle strapped to my tummy. 

Hi, I’m Jess. A high profile event marketing manager pandemically transformed into a social media marketing consultant butterfly. Included in this blog is everything I’ve learnt so far on balancing my new biz and my flare ups. 

At 18 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, at 22 Interstitial Cystitis, at 25 SVT and now, at 28 I’ve got a big question mark next to the word Endometriosis. In contrast, at 18 I got my first events management job, at 22 I ran a thriving children event department for one of the largest cinema chain in the UK, at 25 I ran an award-winning marketing campaign which lead to sell out events and now at 28 I’m working for myself and guiding social media marketing campaigns and coaching services for small creative brands and businesses. 

Unlike many others, It wasn’t the pandemic that thrust me into freelancing, though it did help.

In December 2019 my health started rapidly declining, From Jan – March of 2020 i was off sick a lot and then hello pandemic and hello furlough.

My then employer had me on the furlough scheme, but would often ask me to work from home anyway. Though illegal, I probably would’ve been fine answering emails from home but my health was so up in the air that I declined.

Due to the nature of invisible illnesses on the outside I looked fine and my social media persona also looked fantastic. (I was really going for it with the selfies before I started my biz)

Suddenly, my then employer hit me with:

Dear Jess, without prejudice, your social media account presence appears to me that you are fine. It concerns me that you are declining work.. “

It was that, mixed with the ‘never wanting to call in sick ever again’ feeling that prompted my resignation.

The Balancing Act

Spoiler, going freelance didn’t heal me. In fact, it’s pushed my body to the limit a few times. Here’s everything I’ve learnt, some resources and some real and raw advice for achieving your dreams as an auto-immune freelancing warrior.

Set Boundaries 

What are your triggers? Mine are stress, negativity and sitting down for too long. How can you avoid these at all costs? I’ve re-organised my packages to work around my health. For me that means more consulting and less “done for you” work.

Prioritise Your Biz

It’s easy to put your clients first, especially in the beginning because they’re actually giving you money. My biz came second and my health came 10385389th. It’s health first, then everything else. Always.

Have honest conversations with your clients 

Before someone signs a contract with me for long term work I have “The Talk” with them. I tell them my intentions for the project and also explain the nature of my disease. So far, nobody has back-out of working with me.

Give yourself strict opening hours 

Do not be flexible here, even if you’ve been sick for a week but are feeling better over the weekend, do not work over the weekend. Personally I work from 10 – 6pm from Monday – Thursday. I choose to start at 10 because my mornings are spent sorting out my pain levels or assessing how many hot water bottles I may need to have on hand.

Curate your community

Surround yourself with a support system. One who gets chronic illness and business, one of my 2021 goals is to create a community for women in business with chronic illness, but there are some great pages out there. I recommended following @youlookokaytome.

Have an emergency fund

If you can, save up to one month’s living costs and pop it in an emergency fund account. If you need to take a month off, money is one less thing to worry about.

Where to find me

InstagramLinkedIn | TikTokEmail

Jessica Bruno

Jessica Bruno

About your author

Jessica works with creative small business owners on how to ‘get good’ at social media with a clear marketing strategy. Together, you can create engaging, purpose-led and POWERFUL content that actually engages your audience. Jess is a marketing lover/expert who’s been managing accounts for creative individuals and brands for the last 10 years. Her career began in marketing & delivering high profile events, which she credits her success in the events world entirely to social media marketing! 

You can find out more about Jessica and her business here.

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