You may have noticed that this space has been empty for two weeks. The reason for the lack of posts is a bad tumble I took in my office that left me with bruised knees, and, more problematic, a badly bruised right rib cage. After determining that nothing was actually broken, I followed the advised remedy for bruised ribs, which is to do as little as possible. It has been a two steps forward, one step back healing process, but things are finally moving in the right direction and I am trying to catch up on work.
With this episode in mind, I am re-publishing below a post I wrote several years ago, when another health emergency put me out of work. It’s about the importance of being prepared for health emergencies when you’re self-employed.
Perils of self-employment #1: When your health lets you down
Last Thursday, I was reminded once more of one of the big perils of self-employment. My retina specialist informed me that, as I had suspected, I had another tear in my right retina. He put an air bubble in my eye to flatten out the retina on Friday, and then on Saturday he lasered the tear. His first prognosis was that I’d have to stay in bed lying on my left side for four to five days…something anyone who is self employed never wants to hear.
Fortunately, it turned out that the air bubble worked magnificently and I only had to stay in bed through the weekend. Thus, I only missed work on Thursday and Friday, not bad all things considered. The last time I had a retina problem I was totally blind in my right eye for a month before surgery repaired the damage. I could work during that time, but since I was relying on one eye to do all the work, I found I could only work a few hours a day. So in addition to the $2,000 deductible I had to pay for the day surgery required to repair the damage, my income for that month was also down. (I have known self-employed people who opted not to have health insurance coverage due to its high cost; I personally couldn’t sleep nights if I went that route so I’ve always made having insurance a high priority.)
Anyone who is self-employed lives in fear of such events. And, if like me you are also single, there is no Plan B…no back-up plan in which a partner or spouse can help you if you hit a financial rough spot due to illness.
Such events are something anyone who is considering self-employment needs to seriously consider. Cash flow is king when you’re self-employed. Having an emergency fund to tide you over rough spots, such as a slowdown in business, is important at all times, but it’s particularly wise to amass a rainy day fund if, like me, you have a medical condition that might periodically put your cash flow in jeopardy.
In my experience, it is issues like this that many people do not take into consideration before making the leap to self-employment. I never like to discourage people from following their dreams, but you really do need to consider all the ramifications of such a big decision. Self-employment is definitely not for everyone, and it particularly is not for people who can’t stand the inevitable stress that comes when you can’t work for some reason, such as a medical issue.
I encourage anyone who is considering self-employment to have a realistic view of the potential downsides. Being your own boss is great. I’ve done it for over 20 years and except for the three times when one of my retinas has gone kerflooey and scared me half to death, I’ve loved it. But it is times like I just experienced that reminded me that it’s not for everyone.