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Launching a Business - with Chronic Illness!

I've been a bit quiet on this blog lately, but for good reason. I am officially launching my own business!

I'm pleased to introduce you to Evergreen Words!

Hello, Career Pivot!

Never in my life did I expect to do a major career pivot in my 40s, or ever really. I've spent my career—and my life—focused on two areas: writing fiction and being part of the broader movement for social justice.

I got an undergraduate degree in "writing and social justice" and then spent 20 years working in nonprofit organizations. In that time, I specialized in fundraising. But I always worked in rapidly-growing organizations—meaning I filled in for pretty much any nonprofit role at some point. I truly thought I would work in nonprofits for my entire life.

But then came my big life shift: leaving a job after 8.5 years with nothing else lined up.

I figured I'd spend the summer in Sicily, gloriously unemployed and writing as much as my heart desired. Then I'd start applying for jobs in the fall back in NYC.

But Sicily threw a wonderful wrench in my plans. I immediately realized that two to three months a year in Sicily would never be enough. At the same moment, a writing friend in Brazil introduced me to "design thinking" and, together, we set out to create new careers.

My Adventure in Design Thinking

My Brazilian writer friend and I started having weekly calls and reading a book together: Designing Your Life. Written by two designers, the book isn't your classic self-help book. Instead, it introduces the concept of design thinking.

There are many definitions of design thinking, but a simple one that I like from Stanford is:

Design thinking is a methodology for creative problem-solving.

Design thinking is built on the process designers use when tackling new challenges, such as product design. It includes five standard steps:

  1. Empathize

  2. Define

  3. Ideate

  4. Prototype

  5. Test

The authors of Designing Your Life decided to apply design thinking to helping people rethink and "redesign" their lives.

Design Thinking, Career, and Chronic Illness

As diligent students, my writer friend and I read the book, did the exercises, and discussed what we found every step along the way. For us, the first three stages of design thinking turned out to be a lot of observation and brainstorming.

  • We noticed and took notes about what we enjoyed doing (and what was a pain)

  • We noticed when we got into a good "flow state" while working, including type of work and conditions

  • We outlined all of our various skills and experience that could translate to a variety of work

  • We came up with different potential paths and started "prototyping" them—THIS was my favorite part

I became completely inspired by prototyping and testing. As chronicled in an earlier post about careers and chronic illness, in the fall of 2022, I started freelancing. As an experiment, I said yes to every freelance opportunity that came my way.

Did I love them all? No! But the cool part is I was in the mindset to test, observe, and evaluate. All without judgment. My only goal was to see what I enjoyed most and what worked best for me as a person living with chronic illness.

It sounds like a minor shift, but for me this approach was revolutionary. For the first time in my life, I thought about shaping a career that SUPPORTED my health, rather than undermining it.

What would it look like to have a job that didn't make me sicker?

Designing a Business That Works With Chronic Illness

Of course, designing your own career pretty much requires creating a business. Over the last seven months, as I've tested out all kinds of work and made my self-observations along the way, I started to discover what works for me.

Here's what I personally need in a career:

  • The ability to wake up and choose which projects I work on (most days) based on how I feel (health) and what I'm in the mood for (following my inspiration!)

  • A variety of types of work that I can do based on the level of cognitive function I may have on any given day (since migraines can give me pretty bad neurological symptoms)

  • A combination of writing, creative thinking and problem-solving, and technical and/or data analysis (I love it all, strangely)

  • Space to develop, test, and iterate strategies

  • Ability to learn, learn, learn (I love learning!)

  • Few meetings (very few!)

  • Collaboration with business partners or clients rather than colleagues

  • Flexibility to work the days I feel well and rest the days I don't

As you can tell from the list, I get very enthusiastic about things. I love learning. I get invested and curious and excited. And I believe that curiosity is the KEY for me in creating a career that supports my health.

And yes, I know what a huge privilege that is. The ability to be curious and have choices is an incredible privilege. So I'm determined to not let this opportunity go to waste.

I'm embracing this moment of transition—and the experience of creating a business—with curiosity and design thinking.

So, What Exactly Is My New Business, Evergreen Words?

Out of these months of "prototyping" different business paths, I've found one that's right for me for right now. So I'm pleased to introduce my business, Evergreen Words.

Evergreen Words provides copywriting and SEO strategy services, with a special focus on serving nonprofits and the consultants that support them.

To be totally honest, a year ago I didn't know what copywriting or SEO strategy even were. Which is why the Evergreen Words home page describes both in very simple language!

Coming Up: Interviews with Chronic Entrepreneurs!

Keeping up this spirit of curiosity, over the coming months, I'm going to share interviews with other people with chronic illness who have carved out their own career paths. Get ready for some incredible and inspiring stuff ahead!


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