For one thing, it can’t fix my eyes.
I don’t know anyone whose life wouldn’t be turned upside down by a very sudden and very serious deterioration in vision. But when you’re self-employed as a content strategist, watching the letters on the screen turn into blurry gray smudges is a big deal. Fortunately, my husband’s consulting business is doing well, so we’re not getting tossed out on the street any time soon. (I hate to even think about how hard something like this would be for someone in that situation.)
But, to be perfectly honest, this knocked me on my ass. I kept trying and trying to keep up the pace, but the words just kept getting blurrier and blurrier. And then I got the news that it will take weeks, if not months, for my vision to get back to where it was.
So I spent about a week fishing at our neighborhood lake and playing with my Aussie, Mavis. Then I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and start thinking about what I could do. Because I wasn’t willing to just quit and sulk for six months or so. That’s too long to be out of the game and still expect my business to be there afterward.
And that’s what this post is about: Coming up with options when you feel like you don’t have any. Because I know I’m not the only person who’s faced something like this.
What I’m doing while I can’t see straight
Content marketing phone consultations
I got this idea from my husband. He works with several agencies that connect their clients (usually prospective investors) with experts in a certain industry. Usually they talk about things like market size, market potential, positive and negative trends, and other types of non-proprietary information. This gives the potential investors more insight into whatever play they’re considering. And it’s been pretty darn lucrative for my husband.
That’s something I can do whether I can see or not. I don’t know of many investors who are interested in content marketing, but there sure are plenty of businesses that are interested. And I love the model, because it’s based on an hourly rate and, therefore, unlike most consulting arrangements, doesn’t require a long-term commitment. So whether you have just a few questions or need someone to guide you through developing your organization’s entire content marketing strategy, my brain and vocal cords work just fine. So give me a call and I’ll be happy to share what I’ve learned over the past few years.
Articles and blog posts in my wheelhouse
From the moment I launched my business, one of my soap box issues has been that, in most cases, you don’t need a content writer who’s a subject matter expert; you need a writer who’s a business expert. And, while I still believe that wholeheartedly, I don’t have the vision bandwidth right now to do a lot of research. I’ve decided to save my “eye time” for topics I know inside-out. So if you need an article related to marketing, blogging, writing, business, or Elvis (I was a tour guide at Graceland all through high school and college), I’m your girl.
I dropped personal blogging years ago in favor of content marketing… partly because it pays better, but mostly because I’m fascinated by business and love helping clients. But, as I get older, it’s really sinking in that most of my kids’ friends’ parents are about 10 years younger than I am, and that couples the same age as my husband and me are either empty nesters or have kids off at college.
So I’m going to give “50ish with a Full Nest” (coming soon, I hope!) a try and see where it goes. No deadlines, no research, and plenty of material. I’m pretty excited about that one.
Tips for getting back up when life knocks you down
But enough about me. What about the rest of you who suddenly find your ability to do your work come to a screeching halt? Here are my suggestions:
If you have a “real” job, talk to HR
Even if you aren’t eligible for full disability benefits, see what you can work out as far as reduced hours, a different type of work, working from home so that you can do it in short spurts throughout the day, etc.
If you’re self-employed
I won’t even pretend that my advice alone will guide you through this predicament, particularly if you’re a sole provider. But it might help, and for people like me whose spouses will still be generating income, it might see you through a rough spot.
Which parts of your job do you absolutely have to do yourself, and which can you either outsource or drop completely?
I have to do my own writing; that’s non-negotiable. And I’m not comfortable entrusting my research to anyone else (someone who might link to The Onion as a credible source, for instance), so I’ve decided to drop work that requires a lot of research until my eyes get better.
And do I really have to spend an hour a day on social media? Nope, because I’m not trying to grow my business right now; I’m trying to maintain it. If I did think social media was a non-negotiable, I could outsource it.
What about you? When life gets too crazy, or when your body refuses to follow your brain’s instructions, what can you drop and what can you outsource? Do you really need to spend time and energy on drumming up new business when you’re struggling to take care of the customers you already have? Maybe you should drop that for now.
Do you really need to spend time and energy trying to figure out your estimated quarterly taxes, or should you hire someone to do it for you?
Do you really need to sort through all of your junk emails, respond “Got it; thanks!” to half of them, and add items from the rest to your to-do list? Or can you hire a virtual assistant to do it for you?
And it’s not just writers. What if you’re the most in-demand cake decorator in town and you have an arthritis flare? (That’s why I had to give it up, although I was certainly never in demand.) You may not be able to squeeze those bags yourself, but can you communicate your design ideas to your staff, either verbally or through sketching? And maybe you could devote the time you’re not decorating to putting your portfolio online, getting testimonials from customers, and making your website a showplace that will draw in even more business.
What to do with those lemons…?
When life gives you lemons (without even the courtesy of some vodka to spike the requisite lemonade), it sucks. But what I discovered was that trying to power through and ignore my vision problems didn’t work (because I wasn’t physically able to), and sitting around feeling sorry for myself only made me and everyone around me miserable.
So before you give up and decide that the business you’ve worked so hard to build is doomed, take some time for the shock to wear off. Go fishing. Play with your dog. Binge-watch all 10 seasons of Friends. Do whatever it is you always wished you had time for.
Then get back to reality and break things down into what has to be done (and only by you), what can be dropped, and what can be outsourced. And then get busy making it happen. It may not be what you planned, but it’s definitely better than nothing!