Once upon a time, I worked in the health insurance industry.
It was everything you probably imagine:
- relentlessly demanding
- rarely rewarding
- super stressful
This environment helped me to identify my ADHD symptoms in the first place. My job involved strict attention to detail, timeliness, and high pressure. All of these things highlighted my lack of attention to detail, lateness, and difficulty with working quickly and accurately. (I can give you either one, not both).
Unfortunately, a girl has to work. So I kept at this role in this environment for 7 years.
I was knowledgeable, capable, and willing. But it became abundantly clear that the industry was not for me.
My job began to take a serious toll on my health. My depression and anxiety got so bad that I could barely get out of bed.
I took some time off through my job’s short-term disability plan. This was a temporary patch for a problem that needed a permanent solution. I tried another two industries, and I found that they didn’t work well either.
I finally discovered that working for anyone else simply wasn’t going to cut it for me. The best thing for me and my ADHD was for me to pack up my office and head home to start my own business.
Why the office didn’t work for me
Working in an office usually involves arriving at a certain time every morning. I was usually required to come in between 7:30 and 9 a.m. ADHD throws off my sleep cycle so badly that I rarely went to bed early enough to be in the office and effective by that time.
My ADHD also made me ineffective at gauging time. I was always running 10 minutes to 15 minutes late for everything. There’s nothing worse to some people than waiting for a habitually late coworker to start a meeting.
If I wasn’t late, I was procrastinating. I had difficulty getting through projects because my coworkers distracted me. Or, I got caught on the phone with a customer for hours at a time.
I was constantly getting written up and getting in trouble. The office pulled my attention in too many directions, and none of them were effective.
Perhaps most importantly, I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. Most ADHD people also gravitate toward novel and stimulating activities. I hate working when I’m not inspired. I wasn’t stimulated at my job.
In short, it was time to go. I decided to venture out on my own.
First, question your environment
Have you been striving for some time in your field but can’t seem to get ahead? Do a lot of your employer’s complaints center on things like you arriving late to the office or missing deadlines?
Perhaps you don’t need a career change. You might just need to create an environment where you can get the work done.
Take steps to make your work environment less distracting, like using noise-cancelling headphones and keeping lots of lists. Still not getting anywhere? It might be time to consider branching out on your own.
Qualities for small-business owners
Certain qualities make owning a small business the right fit for some people. I believe I’m a good small business owner because I:
- do better on my own schedule, even if that means working nights and weekends
- don’t mind spending lots of time by myself
- am driven by setting and achieving goals
- work best in an environment where I choose my distractions
- have tools to keep organized with finances and deadlines
Are you ready to start your own business?
Think you’re ready to start your own business? Here are a few of my tried-and-tested tips for success:
Identify your interests and talents
What are you willing and able to market? This is essential to figuring out what type of business to start.
Keep in mind that starting your own business requires a lot of time and dedication. You have to choose something you enjoy.
I love to write. I could do it all day long, even when I get frustrated with deadlines. And I’m good at it. I’ve won awards for writing!
Figure out if you can sell your skills independently
Know what you want to do? There has to be a market that’s willing to buy the services you sell!
Some industries lend themselves better to independent work. Designers can sell their work on Etsy, writers can sell their copy to publishers and advertisers, and accountants can sell their organizational skills to small businesses.
Reach out to your network. Scope out LinkedIn and check for people who work with companies that might require your skill set. Try to set yourself up with work from a client or two.
You might not be sure you can make enough money to survive at the beginning. Some people keep their day job at first to gain confidence before going full-time freelance.
Be open to change
Many of us enjoy and can do many things well! But what you love and what you can do for money aren’t always the same thing.
It’s important to be open to change. Be willing to experiment to find a business that works for you. What seems great in theory isn’t always the right fit in practice.
I’m a master at crochet, and I tried running a crochet shop at first. To put it mildly, it turned out that this was not for me. And that was OK.
Keep it simple
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details. Stress can make ADHD symptoms seem worse. And it’s already hard enough to stay on task and prioritize.
I like to start with a small idea and add details until the task seems insurmountable. I kept things simple at first when I was trying to start my own business. You can think bigger as time goes on.
Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean that being distracted isn’t still a serious possibility. Keep an area of your home just for work. Keep all things work-related there. Turn off your phone while you’re working, if you can. And try to avoid social media as much as possible.
Outsource what you don’t do well
The initial desire you might have as an entrepreneur is to do everything for yourself to save a penny. I find that I spend more time avoiding some tasks than getting them done!
There are accountants if you hate accounting. Copywriters if you hate writing. Don’t be scared to outsource what you don’t do well.
Being my own boss meant that I could create my own schedule, offer only services that I was interested in, and reduce the number of mundane tasks that fell on my plate.
Becoming a business owner made me the master of my work life. It really helped me to be a better overall person.
It wasn’t until I opened my own business that I finally felt in control of my career. Sound good to you? Perhaps it’s time to consider launching your own business!
For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00609 APRIL 2020