Running a Photography Business with a Chronic Illness


If you’ve ever had a flare-up or been diagnosed with a chronic illness while self-employed, you’ll understand how difficult it is to manage your health and business interests. It can be difficult to focus on rest and recovery when you fear for the longevity of your business and the cash flow you need to live on.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2020 and experienced a particularly unpleasant 3 month flare-up which left me very tired and unable to move beyond the couch or bed. Luckily, I’m now in remission, but I want to share the tactics I used, and still use, to navigate this time around in the hope that it’s helpful for others struggling with managing a a business and the management of a long-term health problem.

Spoon theory

The Spoon Theory is an essential part of getting through any chronic illness. How many “spoons” should you spend today? Some days it might feel like taking a shower and making lunch, but other days you might have more spoons to spend than that. Sharpening an awareness of your energy and your limits for that particular day is an important part of navigating a chronic illness. Learning to be okay with a reduced schedule and encouraging yourself for small wins – which in your life before illness weren’t even considerations, like taking a shower – is really important for keeping your spirits up.

To delegate

Part of running a business with a chronic illness is learning to stop having to do everything yourself. Where in your business can you get help to remove some of the daily burdens? If outsourcing professional help is not an option, who in your network of family and friends might be able to offer you help? It doesn’t have to be taxes or changes, but it could be the kind help of a friend who helps you clean your desk every week, or a family member who brings a meal. hot. Lean into help and things might get a little easier.

Diversify your income streams

If it’s no longer possible to stand for 8 hours or more when your condition worsens, think of ways to diversify your sources of income that don’t require you to physically stand. Ideally, these will be streams that you can do from the couch or your bed. You might consider:

  • Photography mentorship
  • Sell ​​e-books
  • Online Classes
  • Editing or retouching services for other photographers
  • Social media contracts for other photographers

Cultivating a few different income streams based on your strengths and any other skill sets you have will give you greater stability. Not only that, but you’re laying down long-term foundations and creating relationships that you may have to fall back on in the future if your condition flares up again.


I recently wrote about templates to speed up your workflow. Along with implementing email and stock templates to help manage workflow, consider systems you can use to automate processes. This can range from planning social media to using something like Notion or FreeAgent to manage contracts and billing.

Adapt to your needs

If you’re able to and you’ve kept shots in your schedule, think about how you can make them as manageable as possible. It might look like reducing the number of hours you spend filming, hiring an assistant to set up, package, and do the heavy lifting of the day for you. If you need to, reduce your capacity and commit to fewer photoshoots until you’re back on your feet and schedule regular short breaks where you can sit on set for a few moments.

Start an open dialogue with the client and let them know where you stand with your condition. You’d be surprised how accommodating customers can be if you let them know what’s going on and how you might need to change the day to make it work for you. If the client likes your portfolio and has a great relationship with you, they will understand and be willing to be flexible.

Take it easy and take care of yourself

The reality is that living with a chronic condition often means you can’t move at full speed. Learning to accept this is part of a process. For many chronic diseases, stress is a trigger that can make symptoms worse. Staying on top of blood tests, pharmacy runs, drug deliveries, scans, and outpatient procedures is so important, and it’s all part of the new normal. Yes, it’s long and tiring, but it’s essential to stay on top of your health. After all, what is your business without you at its heart? Spend time recharging yourself in a way that fills you up and don’t beat yourself up on days when you don’t do much.


If you’re also dealing with a new diagnosis, a recent flare-up, or have been managing a chronic condition for many years, you’re not alone. I’d like to know how you approach running your creative business in a way that’s also sustainable for your health.


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