by Joan Friedlander
Meet Cass. Cass is one in a million, yet representative of so many people struggling to put their career back together after a serious medical setback. Her life has been completely overturned by not one, but 2 challenging medical issues. They affect both her mobility and her speech, not all the time, but enough to make life difficult. Furthermore, she and her husband recently moved to a somewhat rural area in Virginia, she’s on Long Term Disability and after 18 months of being ill and out of work, she feels completely isolated.
Her stated desire: To be economically less vulnerable, to feel less isolated, and to do something useful and satisfying.
Like many people in her position, Cass is at a loss about what to do and where to start. On a good day she has enough energy – and the mental bandwidth – to work for a few hours a day, but she has difficulty focusing on tasks that require basic organizational skills. Even the act of reviewing her bills and writing checks is difficult for her. Yet, if you were to talk to Cass for any length of time, you would hear that her innate intelligence is fully intact.
How Do You Decide What Kind of Work to Pursue?
Many businesses get their start when an “owner” successfully tackles a difficult problem that others, just like them, find daunting. An idea started to take form as I listened to Cass talk about how she successfully obtained State funded Long-Term-Disability (LTD) benefits through her own efforts. My clue? From her perspective “anyone” can successfully gain access to these benefits on their own, thus avoiding the often-high attorney fees that come with such assistance. She sprinkled our conversation with additional facts about how LTD insurance works in Virginia, including the fact that she can earn up to $1000/month before it starts to impact her benefits.
Despite her organizational challenges, Cass had a good command of that particular system. What was “easy” for her was likely to be difficult for others. I wondered if she could start a small business helping others apply for these benefits. I shared my idea with her and asked if she might enjoy helping others make their way through the application process. She said “yes.”
Good Idea? Where Do I Start?
Ah yes, the test: is this really a viable idea, and something that is interesting enough to give it a try? If it is, how can she start?
Step 1: Assess. Is there enough personal interest to see if this might be a good way to fulfill her stated desire? Can she picture herself helping others with the online application? Is she willing and able to give 3-6 months of her time and energy to determine if and how it could work?
Assuming positive responses to the above:
Step 2: Start small, start simple. She could change her Twitter handle – or start a new account – to something like @VirginiaLTDHelp or @VirginiaLTDadvocate or @VirginiaLTDsupport.
Step 3: To continue to gauge her interest and test the potential for an audience, she can use her Twitter account to share information about the ins and outs of getting and keeping these benefits.
Step 4: Develop a 30-45 minute informational workshop to help people understand that they have options and what they are. She doesn’t have to charge a lot, $25-30 a person is a good place to start.
Step 5: Ask for help. Identify people and organizations in the area – and on Twitter – who could introduce her to people who need to access State-sponsored LTD, or who would be willing to sponsor short workshops. Slowly, over time, this could help reduce her sense of isolation and further assess the real potential for this kind of business.
Disclaimers and Caveats:
I am not an attorney, and I’m not arguing against the use of attorneys when needed, neither is Cass. There might be some legal aspects to this option Cass needs to explore.
My aim: to show you that sometimes you only need to listen to yourself talk – or talk to someone else who can hear what you might not – to get an idea about what you could do to start earning money again.
Sometimes good ideas are just good ideas. It’s really important to pay attention to your body. If there is no movement towards any of the steps outlined above, it might mean the timing isn’t right OR it’s not the right business opportunity for Cass. That’s OK. The beginning of anything new is often accompanied by a great deal of trial and error. You might THINK you’re heading in one direction, only to uncover a gem you’d not considered.