Self employment exploring the new enterprise allowance. Picture of a blank diary open with a pen on it

As most of you know, this year I have been exploring new ways to return to paid employment. Specifically, I have been considering the idea of self employment. My biggest passion is mental health recovery. I love sharing my story of gender transition and recovery from addiction. Inspiring people to make changes to their own lives gives me great joy. I wanted to turn what I love doing, into a way to make a living and I have spent 2018 exploring how exactly I might do that. (Thank you for your patience with me!)

Mental Health as A Barrier To Employment

I have had mental health issues for many years. Poor mental health has prevented me from working which means I have been reliant on government benefits. I have been in recovery since 2010, but balancing addiction and mental health recovery, while having gender confirmation surgery, has made returning to work difficult.

Although paid employment has been impossible, I have been doing lots of other things to improve my chances of work. I have been volunteering in the LGBT community and studying by distance learning with the Open University. These have helped me to develop my skills while progressing with my recovery and gender transition

I manage my mental health far more effectively now. I know what I have to do to stay balanced and well. The biggest tool I use to is flexibility, meaning I adapt my daily life depending on how my mental health is at any given time.  Though this has improved things a great deal, it unfortunately still gets in the way of full-time employment because I cannot stick to a rigid schedule. 

Exploring Self-Employment as An Option

At the beginning of 2018, I  had a flash of inspiration. I realised I could turn my hobby of vlogging and blogging, into a small business. Working flexibly, from home, would mean I would be more able to work around my fluctuating mental health.

Discovering The New Enterprise Allowance

I had heard of The New Enterprise Deal, a government scheme which helps people on state benefits to begin developing a small business. I started to research this, to see if I would qualify and it seemed I would. The idea that I could write about mental health and make a living from doing so, filled me with exciteiment (and a little fear too!).

I needed to be cautious. The most important thing was to make sure I could sustain working from home without damaging my mental health. Fortunately, I had experience with this because I have been studying from home with the Open University.

Self- Employment – How Flexibility Helps Mental Health

I can honestly say, 2018  has been one of the toughest for me. I relocated to my hometown towards the end of 2017 because mum had become seriously unwell. Then, in January, Mum was diagnosed with dementia. While this has been happening, I have also been recovering from gender transition surgery. To top it all off, I became physically unwell and had a massive mental health relapse. The cause for this relapse surprisingly turned out to be due to hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. My doctor is still trying to get my level of medication right, and in the meantime, I experience bouts of extreme fatigue.

Despite all of these challenges, I have managed to write content consistently. Sometimes, I have worked in bed. Often, I have not managed to get dressed or leave the house for days. I think that because there is no pressure to leave the house and talk to people and because I can schedule my work day accordingly, a bad mental health day does not mean I can’t manage to work.

Ready For Self-Employment

In November, after recovering from my last gender transition surgery, and confident that my instinct was right, I had a meeting with my job coach Karen. I told her I was ready to explore self-employment and would like her to refer me to The New Enterprise Deal.

Referral to The New Enterprise deal

Karen advised me that my next step would be to attend a no obligation seminar, to give me an overview of the NEA. If at the end of the seminar day I still was keen to progress forward, then I would be officially referred. Karen called through to the company who runs the Scheme. Much to my surprise there was an appointment available for the following week for a seminar. I hadn’t expected it to be that quick!

That was the first time I have ever left the job centre with a smile on my face. Fingers crossed for next week!

Finlay Games is the founder of The Recovery Writer and the host of Finntheinfinncible. He is a freelance writer and speaker for hire, who advocates, informs and inspires on topics of mental health, recovery, gender transition, and sexuality.