ENTREPRENEURIAL STRATEGIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
I am more and more convinced that to remain free, we must all strive to have a small business on the side at the very least, and especially those of us with disabilities. I came to disability late in life, and my eyes have been opened to the realities that our government is not on my side, for even as the government supplies me with disability income, it's hardly a living. The check barely covers rent, utilities, and insurance; I rely on food stamps to get groceries, and even those don't go far enough some months. So doing freelance work helps me pay the rest of my bills and sock money away for savings.
I'm encouraging my friends, especially those with disabilities, to consider entrepreneurship or self-employment options to exert control over their own income, so they're not at the mercy of the government for income.
Some of my friends are pet sitters and dog walkers. Others provide grooming for their clients' animals in addition to these basic services. One has even adapted her passion for yoga into a pet yoga and massage boutique service that has attracted a following in person and on YouTube!
A couple of grad students I knew in college had young kids to support so they launched a home-baked cookie hustle they dubbed "Two Girls Cookies." Every morning they'd show up to the Theatre Department with a Rubbermaid tub full of chocolate chip cookies they'd sell for a couple of bucks each (they were amazing cookies!) with discounts for bulk purchases and they sold out in a couple of hours. They quickly spread to the Music and Art departments and next to the Business College. Before long they were all over campus and their prices jumped. They couldn't bake fast enough and expanded into brownies and muffins. I'm pretty sure they funded both parents' grad school on that side hustle.
Then there's direct sales. For some time I've been peripherally aware of essential oils as part of the larger field of cosmetics and health care related products. Now no fewer than 7 of my personal friends are New Living consultants, selling essential oils and educating people on their benefits at a remarkably sophisticated level. And Young Living isn't your only option if network marketing or MLM is your thing. Personally, it's not my jam, but hundreds of business opportunities are structured this way, everything you can think of, both products and services.
Most folks neglect the obvious opportunity right under their nose: helping another merchant find customers. That's right, you can earn commissions or finder's fees by simply connecting buyers and sellers in your area. Consider the local tradesmen, like electricians, car mechanics, or HVAC techs. How could you send them customers for annual checkups? How much would those single transactions be worth to them? How much would those tradesmen pay you for the referral?
When I first became disabled, I generated income from home by dropshipping. Some of you have already heard about this method, or maybe you're doing it and making money already. It's pretty simple, though there's a lot of misunderstanding surrounding it; some people think it's a scam, while others think it's downright illegal. All I can tell you is the way I did it was straight-up legal and above-board: I listed items for sale on eBay that I didn't buy until I had sold them; when I got an order, I turned around and bought the item from another site (either Amazon or someplace else). I simply had the package shipped to my buyer. The price I paid for the item built in [my buyer's price for the item+ebay's listing fees+my profit]. It was a nice little side hustle, because I got to specialize in kitchen gadgets, a niche I enjoyed. And because I didn't invest in inventory, it was a lot more affordable than MLM or network marketing, and I enjoyed a much bigger profit margin on sales.
Early in 2017, I opened a web design and mobile app shop and begun consulting. This business allows me to help businesses promote, automate, and sell using the internet and mobile phones.
Later that year, I began re-training in real estate investment. It has been more than 20 years since I last did any transactions in real estate, so I figured I'd take my time, do some re-training and networking, warm up my contacts—you know, ease into things. I'm working on a wholesaling strategy that will allow me to find houses I can identify for purchase in my area, negotiate a deal with the seller, calculate rehab costs, and put under contract, then sell to investors for profit.
Using my businesses, I hope to replace my disability income several times over and focus my time on full-time Christian ministry and writing. And with God's strength, I will achieve it.
Are you working from home? Are you disabled or chronically ill? Parenting kids at home? What are you doing to supplement your income? Let me know what you're doing and let's compare notes. I'd love to hear from you!
Dom De Bellis is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, coach, and minister of the Gospel. When he's not serving his church or Boy Scout Troop, he is helping people in cities grow organic food.