Running a photography business with a chronic illness


If you’ve ever had an outbreak or diagnosis of a chronic illness while self-employed, you’ll understand how overwhelming it is to take control of your health and business interests. It can be difficult to focus on rest and relaxation when you’re concerned about the longevity of your business and the cash flow you need to survive.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2020 and experienced a particularly bad 3 month flare up that left me severely exhausted and unable to move beyond the sofa or bed. Luckily I’m in remission now, but I want to share the tactics I’ve used and am still using to get through this time in the hope that it’s helpful to others who are familiar with running a business and coping struggling with a long-term health condition.

spoon theory

An integral part of overcoming chronic illness is the spoon theory. How many “spoons” do you have to spend today? Some days that might seem like showers and lunch, but other days you might have more spoons on hand. Gaining an awareness of your energy and your limits for that particular day is an important part of coping with a chronic condition. Learning to cope with a reduced schedule and cheering yourself on for small victories—that weren’t even considered in your life before you became ill, such as: B. Showering – is really important to keep your spirits up.


Part of running a business with a chronic illness is learning to do it all yourself. In what areas of your business can you get help to remove some of the day-to-day pressures? If outsourcing professional help is not an option, who in your network of family and friends could possibly offer you support? It doesn’t have to be taxes or the editorial team, but it could be the kind help of a friend helping you tidy your office each week, or a family member bringing in a hot meal. Lean on the help and things might get a little easier.

Diversify your income streams

If it’s not possible to be up for 8 hours or more when your condition flares up, consider ways to diversify your income streams without having to be physically up. Ideally, these are streams you can do from the sofa or your bed. You might consider:

  • Photography Companion
  • Sale of e-books
  • online lessons
  • Editing or retouching services for other photographers
  • Social media contracts for other photographers

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


I recently wrote an article about templates to speed up your workflow. In addition to implementing inventory emails and templates to manage workflows, explore what systems you can use to automate processes. This can be anything from scheduling for social media to using something like Notion or FreeAgent to handle contracts and billing.

Adapt to your needs

If you’re able to do this and have some shots saved on your calendar, think about how to make them as manageable as possible. It might seem like reducing the number of hours you devote to filming and bringing in an assistant to do the setup and packaging and do the heavy lifting of the day for you. If necessary, reduce your capacity and do fewer photoshoots until you’re back on your feet and schedule regular short breaks to sit on set for a few moments.

Start an open dialogue with the customer and tell them where you stand with your illness. You’d be surprised how accommodating customers can be when you let them know what’s going on and how you might need to tweak the day to make it work for you. If the client loves 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 just can’t move at full speed. Learning to accept that is part of a process. In many chronic diseases, stress is a trigger that can make symptoms worse. Keeping track of blood tests, pharmacy runs, medication deliveries, scans and outpatient procedures is so important and all part of the new normal. Yes, it’s long and tiring, but it’s important to take care of your health. Because what is your business without you at heart? Spend your time re-energizing and don’t feel guilty on the days when not much gets done.


If you’re also coping with a new diagnosis, a recent flare-up, or have been treating a chronic condition for many years, you’re not alone. I would love to hear how you run your creative business in a way that is also sustainable for your health.


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