Alternative, Sustainable Income Sources for Autistics and AuDHDers

Blue background with pale skinned woman facing the camera and smiling. Text next to her reads: "Alternative, Sustainable Income Sources for Autistics and AuDHDers"
How to generate ideas for work that you actually like, tips for making it work with your AuDHD brain, and be sustainable. Plus practical tips especially for self-employment.

Create work that works for you

Are you sick of giving all your energy, creativity, and brilliant ideas to employers who use you up without giving enough back, and grumble about the smallest accommodations? Are you looking for those fabled alternative jobs but coming up with no viable ideas?

In this workshop, we’re going to be discussing a variety of job ideas, how to come up with more (customized for your background), and a framework to make them realistic.

What do you actually need to know when trying to come up with alternative income sources? What does it really take for them to bring in real income? And practical tips to make your new work life sustainable.

This workshop is geared toward Autistics, AuDHDers, and other neurodivergent people and is inclusive. The presenter is likewise AuDHD.

This is a recording of a workshop hosted by Heather Cook of Autism Chrysalis on 23 January, 2024.

The recording

Alternative, Sustainable Income Sources for Autistics and AuDHDers

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    How to get the slides

    All the slides, transcript, worksheets, and extra tips, all together!

    I thought about what I would want if I were to put my hard earned cash toward this, and I’d want more than a simple file of the slides. I’d want something more useable.

    So I’ve added the complete transcript, interspersed with the slides, so you can read along with them on your device or print them out (but that would be a lot of paper).

    With space for your own notes and thoughts.

    Plus, I’ve added 20 more specific examples of job/business ideas based on using your AuDHD experience and interests.

    Plus plus, I’ve made six worksheets to help you use some of the more practical concepts:

    • From needs to job ideas, and from job ideas to needs.
    • How to turn your deepest wound into your truest niche.
    • Dealing with negative thoughts.
    • Sorting your income options.
    • How to build structures to suit you (with example).
    • Is my business idea viable?

    *(The Adjusted Full Time Hours concept will get its own extra resources in the near future.)

    All of this takes time and effort to create. Time that I would otherwise be earning income, which is why I’m offering this “workshop companion PDF” for a small fee, so that I can keep putting time into making these and other resources.

    If you’d like yours, for only $10 USD, it’s right here:

    Here’s the full transcript

    0:03
    Okay, let’s go ahead and get started. This is January 23, 2024. And this is the Alternative Sustainable Income Sources for Autistics, and ADHDers workshop. And I am Heather Cook, and

    0:28
    Okay. All right, to try and share my screen. All right, let’s get started then. So I do want to make it explicit before we start that you are welcome to have your camera off or on during this and to change that at any time. You’re welcome to move around, to fidget, stimm, tick, doodle, look away and see to whatever other needs that you have. There are lots of ways to pay attention. Please do take care of yourself. As far as zoom options go, you’re welcome to turn off or on the chat so that you can have it available or turn off the distraction. If you don’t like it, you can turn on or off the closed captions. And if you don’t like seeing that little picture of yourself, you can hover over the picture of yourself and there’ll be three dots that come up in the right hand corner. If you click that, you can press hide self view, so that you don’t have to see yourself the whole time. And I do ask that you keep your microphone on mute during this to reduce the background noise.

    1:46
    Alright, so here’s the plan for today and do just a couple minutes of intro, then we’ll talk about how to generate ideas for what type of work that you want to do. Then we’ll sort through the different options based upon what needs that you have. And talk about how to make work sustainable, whether you’re working for yourself or for someone else, whatever the different options are, how to make it so that you can do it, and continue doing it over a longer period of time without burning out. Then we’ll talk about some practical tips for Autistics and ADHDers and AuDHDers. And then there’ll be a section at the end for self-employment practicalities, if that is something that you’re interested in, and a couple of closing thoughts. So I do want your stress levels lower right from the beginning. This is not a sales pitch. This is not me trying to pitch my services. I’ll have a slide at the end for ways that you can contact me if you want to. But this is not going to be leading up to, here’s a product I want to sell you on. This is just good info that I want to put out there. I do ask for feedback at the end, and I’ll have the link to that feedback at the end as well. That way, I can get better at these workshops and make them fit people’s needs better.

    3:16
    The most consistent feedback that I’ve gotten for all of the workshops I’ve done has been, can I have the slides? So I’ve been a little reluctant to do that. I put out free copies of the recordings and the free complete transcript. But actually, the slides themselves I’ve been reluctant to do. But what I’ve decided recently as part of changing my own business model is I’d like to have more ebooks, PDFs, small-cost resources available. So I’m going to be putting out the slides as sort of a companion book with a complete copy of the transcript and space for notes and all of the links to resources that are in the slides as a low-cost option later on. The recording will still be free. The transcript will still be free to this but if you want that, that will be available in a few days.

    4:11
    Okay, so a little bit about me, I’m Heather Cook, and I’m autistic. I’m ADHD. I have sensory processing differences. And I live with chronic pain from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. And I faced a lot of challenges throughout my life including physical disability, poverty, trauma, repeated burnout, depression, anxiety. And I’ve worked through a lot of those things to get to a point where I’ve found healing, I’ve found genuine deep friendships. I found compassion for myself and for others. I have more energy than I ever have, that I can ever remember. And a purpose, a meaning that’s directing what I do now. And I’m putting to that to work as a certified life coach. I work with Autistics and other neurodivergent humans to build autistic-positive lives and ND-positive lives. Lives that work for you that aren’t scripted to the standard model of what our society says you should do, but what actually works. So that’s my primary work. And this is a part of that, of just making good information available to the wider community. And I also do want to acknowledge that my ability to do this is because other people have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their lives. Specifically the Omaha tribe, the Ponca, the Iowa, the Otoe, the Missouri, Sauk, and Fox tribes in my area. Those are the specifics. But there are a lot of individuals and groups who have systematically been denied, systematically and deliberately been excluded from accessing income sources that other people take for granted. And what I’m hoping to do, as part of this workshop, is to help you be able to reclaim what’s been denied to you.

    6:13
    Okay, so in my burnout workshop, I had this framework of the five areas of burnout recovery, and I want to describe where this fits in. This fits into actually a few different of them. In order to make work that doesn’t fit the standards, that might go against the grain in some ways, that doesn’t necessarily live up to the timeframe that other people expect to the ways you work, you have to dissolve a lot of negative messaging, a lot of the ablest and capitalist propaganda that’s been put out. You also have to unmask to some extent to figure out what’s more authentically you. Find out what actually works better for you. And work on some energy management – working within your real time capacity, which may fluctuate over time. So those are the main areas of burnout recovery that this fits into.

    7:11
    Okay, so as I’m describing lots of different options in this, I want to demonstrate that I’ve actually tried a lot of these. I have been working most of my life to try and fit in the system, but also to try and break out of the system. The system has never worked in my head, I’ve always been trying to push out of it. I grew up in a business where my parents wanted to push out of the system. They owned their own business, and I worked in that business from the ages of 8 to 22, when we sold the business at that time. And since then, since I’ve been an adult, I’ve owned and operated four independent small businesses. Two of them have fully supported my livelihood, including this current one. One was a useful supplementary income. And my first business lost a lot of money and was a big factor in a major burnout. And I learned a lot of what not to do. And that was a really, really difficult experience. But I look back on that, and it’s given me a lot of information that I have been using this time around to learn, like Okay, so what are the signals that I’m starting to do those things again? Okay, I need to do it differently. And so that I make changes and find different ways to do it. Also, throughout my adult life, I have held a lot of regular jobs, some of them just for a few months, a few of them for three to five years. Five years is the longest that I’ve managed to stay in any job, and it was a part-time job. I’ve held two jobs for three years that were full-time and both of them lead to burnout. Major burnout. I’ve also done lots of just odd jobs, day labor, random ways of earning money. Weird things sometimes that people will pay me for. I’ve even found people that will pay me to organize their home libraries. That was awesome. It only lasted a day. But hey, I got a couple 100 bucks. There’s lots of odd things that you can do. And I want to introduce the idea that you can actually make a livelihood, make a living, doing odd things and in odd ways.

    9:28
    Okay. And here’s a mental shift that was really critical for me, and I want to introduce this early on. So to give a little bit of context, at this point, I had been employed intermittently for about 10 years post college. I have been in and out of burnout, in and out of employment, in and out of poverty, most of the time under the poverty line or just close to it. And at the time when I made this mental shift, I was at my absolute lowest financial point. I was living on $300 a month. I was living in my van because I couldn’t afford my house anymore. I was recovering from burnout, unemployed, unable to be employed because the burnout was so deep. And I was trying to process my recent autism diagnosis and my old traumas in therapy. And it was damn hard. No one should ever have to spend that much time looking for food and a place to sleep. I was literally looking in dumpsters for food occasionally. I went to homeless shelters for a meal and showers. I complained about money a lot. And I complained about capitalism a lot. And I wondered if I’d ever be able to work again. And if it was ever going to work, if I could ever do anything.

    10:51
    And then at some point, something shifted in my head and I realized that I was surviving. I had always survived, even when it was the hardest it had ever been, I was making it. Not well, not in any way that I liked. Not right then. But I was doing it, which meant that I could do it, which meant that I could keep doing it. And I want to be very, very clear. I’m not trying to suggest that that was something that I wanted to keep doing, or that I didn’t want to make major changes. I did very much. And after the shift, I still did. But that shift of like, I could keep this up. I could manage this. I can live like this. It freed me up to be able to try things and fail. It freed me up that I didn’t have to find the one job that was going to fix it. And if it didn’t work, I was going to be, I could manage, because I had managed that. Which meant that if it didn’t work, if I tried something and it bombed, I could be okay. It was going to be hard, it was going to be awful, it was going to be crap. But I could do it. And that meant that my survival did not depend on getting any particular job or on my finances improving radically in a short amount of time, which is what I felt like it needed to do. I felt like I can’t live like this, I need a big change fast. And I still wanted that change. But I was able to just try things. And when I started trying things, I started being able to think in a different way. I’m trying to be very careful not to suggest that my mental shift made it okay for the system to have done this to me. That is not what I’m saying. And I am also not saying that it was an okay situation to be in. No one should ever have to spend that much time and energy, just trying to find food and to survive and to find a place to sleep legally. But as I internalized this over time, and it it took a little while my desperation dissolved, and I started being able to make changes that did actually gradually and significantly improve things. Is this making sense? I’m not even sure if I’m describing this right.

    13:53
    Okay. If this is hitting you wrong, or if it’s just not making sense to you feel free to ignore this, or anything that I say, frankly, but I’m glad that it’s making sense to at least a few people. Okay. So let’s get into the practicalities. As far as I can tell, I might be missing something here, but everything that I can think of is, like ways to make money kind of fall into four overarching categories. You can either trade something of value for either money or things that you need. And you could be trading time, doing something that other people value, or your skills or experience that someone else values or your possessions, things you own or things that you can create, things you can make that someone else values. Or you can trade knowledge that you have, things that you know about, that other people want to know about. So you can trade any of those for money or to barter them for things that you need or some combination of that. That’s one way to have an income source. Another way is to have support from someone else, from a partner, from the government, a charity. And this is without shame. Half of the world gets supported by someone else. Most people, at least, I want to retract that slightly. Within the traditional family values framework, generally one person works and one person takes care of all of the domestic duties. Which basically means that if that is the case, and it’s not always the case, of course. Even during like the 50s, when that was the ideal, that wasn’t always the case, not even a lot. But assuming that that is how the world works, half of the world is being supported by someone else, financially. But also flip that around. The other half of the world is being supported by their other partner, by doing the domestic labor, and that’s the third category that I want to bring up. The domestic labor that you contribute to a household saves the equivalent cash that it would take to replace that work. The childcare that you provide, the cooking that you do, the cleaning that you do, if that had to be outsourced to someone else, if you had to pay for that, that would take a lot of money. So your doing that saves your household that amount of cash. So it is not free labor, you might not be paid in cash, but you are saving your household the money, which is income. It means that what you bring in does not have to be paid out immediately, because you’re saving the family money. You can also grow money from other money. This is like investments. That’s generally a long term strategy, not like short term, I need income tomorrow, but it is a way to make money.

    17:07
    Okay, so you can get money from any of these sources, from a partner, government or charity. I want to emphasize all of those, those are completely legitimate ways to be supported without shame. The government assistance programs, that’s what they’re there for, it’s when you need the help, when you can’t do it on your own, when you don’t have someone else to do it for you. It’s okay to use those. And yeah, no shame coming from me at least. Okay, so those are the areas in which you could have a source of income. And I’m going to be primarily focusing on the first one, the trading something – time, skills, possessions, creations, knowledge, whatever, for money for the most part. That’s what we’re gonna be talking about today.

    18:02
    So let’s talk about different ideas, like how you come up with ideas for what you want to trade for money. Now the next few slides are different questions, different points of view that you could use to generate ideas. So here’s the first set, you can go top down or bottom up, these are basically the same questions in reverse order. You can start with, what’s something that you love and how can you make money doing it? This was one of the best pieces of advice my dad ever gave me. He kept asking me like, just what’s something you love? How can you make money doing it? So from there, what do you need to make that workable? Whatever the goal is, what do you need to make it actually practical? And then what are the supports that you need to be able to do that? These might be supports from other people. It might be routines, systems, etc, etc. And then also what must not be a part of it? What are the things that get in your way and make you not able to work? It’s very important to know not just what you need, but what you need to not be there. You can also ask those same questions in essentially the reverse order. If this works better in your head, you might start with what are the things that you know that cannot be a part of your new work life? This might be easier if you’re very dissatisfied with your current job. And you’re like, these are the things that I’m constantly complaining about. Here are the things that I need to not be a part of my work life. Get very specific. It’s not just that asshole of a boss. It’s like, he does these specific behaviors or has these particular personality traits or these particular ways of communicating that just do not work with my brain, with my style. These are not a compatible fit. Or it might be time. It might be a number of hours, whatever it is, we’re going to get into those more later. So what are the things that you need to not be a part of your new work life?

    20:15
    And then what are your practical needs? What are the things that you need to be there that either are there or aren’t there at the moment, but you need? And then what are the range of possibilities that fit those and will make money? And then out of those range of possibilities, which do you actually care about? Which one could you see yourself doing and not hating, ideally?

    20:51
    Kieran, I see your question, we’re gonna get to that. Okay, so here’s another set of questions that might help. What’s something that you would be interested in working on, that has enough depth to make your autism happy? So you can hyper focus and you can really get in there and learned lots about it. And it also has enough facets to explore, to make your ADHD happy so you can always have something new at the same time, and that will maintain your interest over time? Is there anyone else in your area or in the world, who wants to learn what you know about this? Or who wants the skills that you can do in this area? And I mean, like literally anyone. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic market. It doesn’t have to be lots of people want this. It doesn’t have to be, everyone needs this, you don’t need that. You just need a few people. And then is this something that you care about enough to deal with the parts of the work that you don’t like? Because even with help, even in the best case scenario, there’s going to be some of those things that you’re just going to have to deal with.

    22:16
    Okay, here’s another approach to coming up with ideas for a work idea. Jeffrey van Dyke said several years ago, your deepest wound is often a doorway to your truest niche. In other words, is there a way that you can help people who are now going through the things that you’ve overcome and healed in your life? Another way to put this is, you might be particularly suited to help the people who are now where you were five to 10 years ago. That’s basically what I do now. Another way to ask this is what does the world need to learn from you that you know precisely because of the things that you’ve been through, because of the shit that you’ve had to go through, because of the crap that you’ve endured, because you’ve been discriminated against. You know these things that other people are completely oblivious to. You can market that, you can monetize that. I do want to say, like, give one caveat here. It’s not enough to simply have gone through crap. In order to be useful in helping other people to navigate it, it has to be something that you’ve worked with, you’ve wrestled with, you’ve healed enough of your own wounds around it, that you have the capacity to not be triggered around that issue anymore, that you can help other people, you can kind of navigate. Here’s the places where it’s likely to be hard. Here’s the things that you’re likely to get tripped up on. Here’s how you avoid them. Here’s how you deal with the harder parts. So you need to have some distance from it and you need to have worked through it internally. Enough, not completely, you don’t have to have reached some sort of bliss state about it. But you have to have worked past it enough that you can help other people without triggering yourself or them or getting just mired in it. Does this make sense?

    25:06
    Alright, so I hope that those are some useful general questions. I want to get a little more specific about, like, how do you figure out what the needs are?

    25:26
    Sorry, I’m just looking at one of the questions. Um, there was a question, how does this fit up against chronic pain. I’m actually going to be talking a little bit later about capacity and consistency. So I’m going to get into that.

    25:56
    Okay, so let’s talk about some more specific questions like, here’s how you figure out like, what accommodations you might need, or what needs you might have, or what different practical options might be? And you can go through like, the who, what, where, when, why, how. So who, who do you want to work for? Is there a company, is there a person that you want to work for? Is there a type of person that you want to work with? It could be like a group. I’m thinking here like, I work with later identified Autistics, that could be the group that you work with, or at least that I work with? Or it could be like, there’s a particular person that lives in my area that I want to work for that person. Or it could be I like working for this business. This business is great. I use their services. I like how they treat their customers, hopefully they treat their employees well. Also, who could be, do you want to have coworkers? Do you want to work solo?

    27:11
    What field or industry do you want to work in? Is there something in particular that you want to work in that area? Is there a particular product or a service or a type of information that you know a lot about that you can work in, that you love, or something that you could develop that you have an interest in, that you want to learn more about and then practice that. That modality, or learn how to do a particular thing. I know I’m being very general, because I’m thinking of everything from like Feldenkrais to hair braiding, like this could encompass so many different things.

    27:54
    Where do you want to work? Do you want to work locally? Do you want to work remotely? Do you want to work virtually? Is there a specialty location? A forest. At one of my points, I was thinking about learning to lead forest bathing retreats. That would be a specialty type location. Do you want to work in a yoga studio? Whether or not it’s Yoga, you could do other things. But that fits with that sort of type of audience. And you might work with a yoga studio to rent space from them? Or in a bar? Or like, is there a particular type of location that fits your service? Or product? Or the thing that you want to do? Where could it be? Do you want to work from home or work away from home? So when do you want to work? Do you work best at night? In the morning? Do you want to work full time, part time, daily, or just occasional work? Do you want to have regular hours? Or do you want it to be very flexible? All of these types of things.

    29:05
    Why? What’s your larger purpose? Is there an internal motivation, something that you see in the world that you want to fix that is driving you? Or is it simply to support your family, to pay your bills, to see that you’re not kicked out of your apartment? Those are perfectly acceptable reasons. Those are good motivations for work. But any of those just simply clarify like what is your motivation? And what can you do that will work towards that?

    29:34
    And then how do you work best? What are your sensory needs? Both the things that you need to have, plus the things that you need to not have around you? What are your social needs, accountability needs, executive functioning support needs? We’re gonna get into all of those more later. And also another how is like what’s your style, your method? What’s your unique approach or your point of view to something?

    30:08
    All right, so here’s a question that comes up a lot. Should you do work that you love? Like, should you work in something that you absolutely love? And I have an answer here, that might seem contradictory. But I hope it’s not. It’s not in my head at least. So here’s one aspect of it. When you monetize the things that you love, it’s a great way to start resenting them, especially if you feel trapped, like, Oh, this is my business now so I have to do it. This is my only income source so I have to keep doing this. And yet, the more people who want me to keep doing this thing, the more I’m bored by it, and then I’m resenting it, and then I don’t want to do it. But again, this is my only income source, so I have to keep doing it. That can lead to a bad spiral. So that’s one extreme. On the other hand, doing something that you don’t care about at all, can lead to anger, depression, burnout, resentment in a different direction. It’s like, I have to keep doing this thing. And I hate it, I just don’t want to get up in the morning. Like, I have to drag myself to bed. There was one job that I was doing that it wasn’t so much the job, well, it was a little bit, but it was mostly my burnout. I’ve been doing the job too much, too long, that I described to people, it was like dragging myself out of bed by the scruff of my neck. Like you’d pick up a cat by the scruff of their neck. It felt like I was doing that to myself every morning, and I hated it. I barely managed it, but I had to.

    31:37
    So those are the two extremes. But you don’t have to exist in either of those extremes. And I would suggest picking something that has the potential to continue igniting your curiosity and your interest for a long period of time. It might not be the thing that you are most passionate about in the world, or it might be, depending on what it is. But something that has enough depth and enough facets, like I said earlier, that will keep you interested, that will keep you motivated, for a long time so that you don’t feel trapped, just doing the one thing, over and over and over. And over. And over. Yeah. At least, to me, that sounds like the worst thing ever. When someone says to me that they’ve done this, they’ve been an office manager at this office for 20 years, all I want to do is gag, frankly. I know some people that is like bliss to them, that is their best thing. But it makes me want to throw up. I cannot imagine doing that one thing for that long. Especially something that just doesn’t have a lot of meaning to me. This however, this what I’m doing now, my coaching practice, it does have a lot of depth. And I’ve already been doing this for around four years. And I can actually conceive of myself doing this for another 10 more. Because there’s so many different facets. I’m not just doing the one thing. I’m doing a workshop on alternative income sources one month and another time, it’s about burnout recovery. And I’ve got a big course I’m creating about burnout recovery, because it’s just such an important and big topic and everyone needs and I’ve been through so many times and have a lot to say on it. But like there’s those things and I have stuff that I’m creating on sensory stuff. And like there’s all these different aspects to it, that it keeps my interest. Like it’s not just doing the one thing, but also like the actual coaching that I do. It is still coaching all the time. But I’m working with different people and they have different personalities, different things that they’re working through. And it’s always endlessly fascinating to me. It’s like, oh, who do I get to talk to you today? And what’s your situation? And I love it. And so it doesn’t feel like I’m just doing the same old job. So if you can find something that has those aspects of, it’s same enough that there’s predictability and consistency and you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel every single day. But there’s enough interest to it that it can keep you going and motivated for a long period of time. That’s your sweet spot. And also, it doesn’t have to be forever. It’s okay to switch jobs every couple of years.

    34:34
    Okay, so let’s talk about practical stuff, actual options for concrete jobs. Here’s a few questions, real, practical questions Do you want to work at home or away from home? Also hybrid is an option. But which one works best for you? I work at home. Do you want to work for someone else or for yourself? Do you want to work virtual or in person? By the way, that is not the same as the first question I asked.

    35:11
    Once you know the answers to those, you have a lot of options. And I want to talk a little bit about some of those. So working for yourself or someone else. If you work for yourself, you could work for a solopreneur. I have an assistant who works for me, like 10 to 20 hours a month, it’s not a lot. But it’s enough for them, they get some money, they get some experience. And I get some of my executive function needs met. It helps. Do you want to work for a small or mid-size business? One that is a little bit more like people centered than giant corporations where everything is very bureaucratic? Or do you want to work for the bureaucratic big business or corporation? Do you wanna work for a nonprofit, an aid organization, an NGO? Do you want to work for the government, a local, regional, national government, civil service, military? Any of those are options of working for someone else. Working for yourself might be as an independent contractor, a freelancer working in the gig economy, a solopreneur. You can do consulting based upon your lived experience and knowledge, you can sell info about things that you know, you can find a gap in the market, find something that needs to exist but doesn’t or not enough of it. But when you’re working for yourself, you can do that. You can create a job.

    36:38
    And then the virtual versus in person. If you’re working remotely, you can work asynchronous or in real time. My work is part of both. I work in real time with people actually coaching them, but a lot of the content creation is asynchronous. I do it whenever I have time, whenever I feel like it, whenever I have the capacity, whenever I’m not hurting too much. Working remotely also has the potential for a global customer base. You can work with anyone literally anywhere in the world. It also frees you from local employer options, especially if you’re in a rural area or an area that is dominated by a single industry or a single major employer. You don’t have to work for them. You can also use existing portals, like marketplace seller portals, to simplify a lot of the administrative stuff. I taught on Outschool. I still teach on Outschool a little bit, but I taught on Outschool quite a lot for a few years. I was a school teacher. So that was a natural move for me. But you can work through, you can sell stuff on Gumroad, on Etsy, on eBay, freelance sites like Fiverr. You can use those portals as ways to find a customer base and to simplify a lot of your payment processing taxes, administrative stuff. So that’s working remotely.

    38:10
    Working in person, you can work for a local business, you can work as a hybrid type thing, you can work from home some and go into the office some. Or you can travel to a larger city that might be a couple of hours away from you, work two or three days a week, make a fair amount of money and then come home. Or some types of travel where you can travel a long ways away for short periods of high paid work. I know a couple of people. One person I’m thinking of, she lives in Las Vegas, she’ll fly to New York to meet a customer for two days, he pays her a couple $10,000 for two days of work, and then that’s her month. She only needs that. You can find things like that in certain industries.

    39:05
    Okay, just a quick note on nomenclature. I talk about virtual work, remote work. I’ll use those terms largely interchangeably. They do mean different things. But there’s also the terms hybrid, flex, telecommuting, work from home. Some people mean things very specific by those, some people use them very inconsistently. I put a link to an article that does try to explain the differences, but this is still fairly new terms. This is a fairly new work environment so not everyone uses it consistently, unfortunately. But I just want to say that when I talk about virtual and remote work, I mean kind of all of those possibilities. Okay, so here’s an opportunity for a screenshot. Here’s kind of how it can break down. Once you have the answers to what type of work do you want to do? Like, do you want to work at home? Or do you want to work away from home? We can split those off. Do you want to work for someone else or for yourself? You can split those off. Do you want to work remotely or in person? Split those off. And you can have lots of different options for working at home for someone else in person, working at home for someone else remotely, working at home for myself remotely, working at home for myself in person, etc, etc, all of those different options. So I’ve tried to add in a few examples of each of the types of things. And this is just a few ideas, but I’m hoping it’ll get you started.

    40:47
    I’m not gonna stay on this slide as long as you want probably, but you can take a screenshot. There will also be a recording and like I said, there will be a PDF of this so you can come back to this later. All right, so options for working for someone else. Here’s a few different places you can go. There will be links to all of these in the PDFs but there’s the black freelancers web directory there. Freelancing females is another web directory for females who are looking for freelancing jobs, connecting freelancers with possible employers. Bework is a job board for meaningful work. Flexjobs.com is also available. I did not realize, as I was putting these in there, that the links would not come through. I mean, of course they didn’t. But there’s 50 jobs over $50,000 without a degree that was supposed to be from mrmoneymustache.com. Look for his site, look for that article. The link will be available in the PDF. But that’s where you can find it. And if you know a place that you want to work, it’s okay to email them. Describe what you want to do for them and ask if there’s a need that hasn’t been listed. Do they have a job for you? That’s okay to do. I once emailed an author and offered to translate her book for her. I noticed that she didn’t have an English translator yet. And she emailed back. And she liked the idea I actually translated a chapter of one of her books that I just fell in love with, from German to English. And we got in touch, and a year later, she offered me to translate one of her books, and I got paid for that. And that was what I did for a year. So you can do this kind of thing. Not just for an individual, but for companies, for corporations, small employers. Make your own job.

    43:07
    Alright, so here’s some more options for working for yourself. Okay, so those were ways to work for other people, here’s ways options for working for yourself. Basically, it breaks down into three different options for working for yourself. You can either sell a product, either a physical or digital product, you can sell a service, providing your skills, experience. And the service could be a co-operative service. Coaching is a live thing. I work with my clients directly in real time. Or it can be a done for you service like a web designing, or graphic designing. You could do the thing for the other person. Or it could be you could sell information, which can be either live or recorded teaching for youth or adults. It can be consulting work. You can make courses, ebooks, PDFs, files, all sorts of different things. But it’s basically you’re selling either product or service or information.

    44:15
    Okay, so as you’re thinking about different options for work, negative thoughts will come up. They’ll be ableist propaganda that goes through your mind. There’ll be capitalist propaganda. There’ll be just general negative self talk, all sorts of different things. Here’s a series of questions that you might be able to talk yourself through. This is adapted from the work of Byron Katie. And the idea here is to look for the truth, is to question the thoughts that come up. See them compassionately but question like, is this true? What if something else might be true? What might else be going on in this situation? So start with like, when I think of the things that I want to do, I think I want to do this type of work. I want to provide this service, I want to start this business, I want to work for this employer. What are the negative thoughts that comes up? Get very specific, like what is exactly the negative thoughts? What is it actually saying? And what are the goals of those thoughts? Are they trying to talk you out of something? Are they trying to keep you safe? Are they trying to help you by keeping you out of a situation that you got hurt in before? Are they repeating the things that you heard as a kid?

    45:58
    Who doesn’t have to change or put in effort if you don’t pursue this goal? Another way to put this is who gets off the hook if you don’t do that? Hat tip to Kelly Diels for that particular framing of the question. Some people describe it as who benefits from you not doing this? So basically, like, if you stay small, if you don’t rock the boat, if you don’t shine, if you don’t make waves, if you don’t create this thing, if you don’t break out of the mold, if you don’t stay in line with the way things are supposed to be, what you’re supposed to do – who doesn’t have to change? Who benefits? Who gets off the hook? Is it society? Is it a particular employer? Is it your parents? Is it someone who feels threatened by you? Or someone who’s jealous? Is it that neurotypicals don’t have to adapt?

    47:26
    And honestly ask, Do you value that person or that system enough to make things easier for them? And that’s a genuine question. I’m not trying to be sarcastic or anything like that. There might be. It might be that it’s your partner, and you’re making changes. They just simply don’t have the capacity to deal with that right now. They’ve got too much on their plate. Maybe now isn’t the time, maybe you need to work on other things first. Maybe that’s a relationship that you value enough that it’s worth going about this in a different way or working through what changes need to happen in your household, in order to make this more possible? Or it could be like, the system really needs to hear what I have to say. They need to change, and I’m willing to put myself out for this.

    48:25
    Next question is what is it cost you not to pursue this? It could be something as practical as money. It could be self-esteem, it could be your dreams, it could be being authentically in touch with who you really are and what you have to bring to the world. Maybe something else, I don’t know. What is it for you? And here’s a really interesting thought experiment. What would be different if you weren’t able to think those negative thoughts? If the universe changed in one fundamental way, and the only thing that changed was you were not able to access those negative thoughts, what else would be different? How would you feel different? What would you be able to do? How would your relationships change? How would you change inside? And can I be absolutely certain that those negative thoughts are true? Can you be absolutely certain that those thoughts are true?

    50:02
    By the way, the answer to that might be yes. If it’s a genuine circumstance about like, this is simply the way things are, that’s not something that you need to talk yourself out of. But if it’s just the way you’re thinking about it, that’s been hurtful for a long time, there might be some flexibility in there.

    50:35
    So sometimes it might be difficult to figure out whether it’s actually a negative thought, or, like the practicalities of the situation, especially as some of these negative thoughts feel really true, and you’re so used to thinking them that it’s hard to tell. That’s beyond the scope of this particular workshop. But there are ways. I said it wasn’t gonna turn this into a sales pitch. It’s not. But I do work on that, in my course, on anti anxiety practices, we get into like, how do you tell whether it’s actually a negative thought or a circumstance? How do you tell the difference? But also, like the work of Byron Katie is good at that, and the work of Martha Beck, I highly recommend as well. She does a lot of that discerning whether this is a negative thought, or the truth. And depending on what it is, you can do different things with it. Okay.

    51:38
    So I’m gonna move into the next section here, which is, once you’ve got an idea for some sort of work, and you’ve dealt with at least enough of the negative thoughts that you’re wanting to start it. That series of dealing with negative thoughts will come up over and over and over throughout the process. It’s not just something that you did once and then you’re done with. It will be a continual, ever-refreshing source of personal growth. So I want to talk about like how you actually build that sustainable work. And this applies whether you’re working for yourself or for someone else. So the idea here is that you’re able to work in a way that you can continue working for as long as you want to work or needed to work. If you just have a brief burst of work followed by a long burnout, that’s not really effective; it’s not sustainable and practically, you’re gonna get less done with that than if you work just a little bit consistently or semi-consistently, over the same amount of time.

    52:50
    So there’s a lot of cultural messaging – and I would put this into the category of negative thoughts – that says that you’re not good enough, if you don’t work full-time, for your entire adult life until perhaps retirement. There’s a lot of cultural messaging that says part time work isn’t good enough. And a lot of it really comes down to a narrow focus on productivity, as the only measure for personal worth. That framework is destructive and inhumane. It’s also inaccurate, but it’s something that is pumped into our modern society heavily, at least in the United States. And I would imagine in a lot of cultures nowadays.

    53:52
    So okay, I’m just getting my thoughts together. I could go off on a whole soapbox about that. And I’m not going to right now, because we’ve got a lot to get through. But my point is, that even when a limited income isn’t enough for your whole situation, it’s more than you have right now. And it may lead to other options later. So starting out with just a little bit is an improvement. And when you have a little bit more, your scarcity mentality or feelings of genuine scarcity might be just enough soothed that your brain can start thinking about other options. And not just other options, but your capacity will also increase over time. And both of those together increase capacity, and increased options and ability to come up with other options will lead to a better overall work situation. Okay, so how do you actually do the making work sustainable thing? I would encourage you to experiment with how much work gets enough done to keep the momentum going, while having some energy leftover for when you’re done. So that you’re not constantly working at your max. That might not be possible all the time. And your max might be so low that you’re always kind of at your max, especially if you’re just starting to recover from burnout. But this is the goal – experiment with how to make that work. Set a maximum of hours per day or per week, have a regular schedule, with natural reasons to stop. For example, someone expects you for dinner at 6pm, that’s a natural reason to stop. Build in days off, build in long weekends, weeks off without shame and guilt.

    55:58
    So that you can do the things that you want to do for as long as you live. So here’s my suggestion. Okay, I would like to propose an adjusted full-time hours. So the IRS – in the United States, that’s our taxation department – allows businesses to claim certain types of allowable business expenses as deductions from your income. Well, it’s not just business expenses, but household expenses. There are certain types of allowable deductions. So you have the actual gross income that you make, and you subtract the allowable deductions, which could be medical expenses, it could be business expenses, it could be childcare. Certain types of expenses are allowed. And that results in your adjusted gross income. That’s what the IRS calls it. So I suggest doing the same thing for full-time work hours. For those of us who simply can’t do the standard 40 hours a week, this is a way to adjust it so that it’s a way of getting around the shame messaging, essentially, because your full time might be different than other people’s full time. So your typical full time, the typical full time hours, which in the United States right now is around 40 hours a week, minus your allowable deductions equals your adjusted full time hours. This is your cap. And deductions can include your disability. It can include burnout, physical health needs, mental health needs, caregiving responsibilities, and other confounding factors in your life that simply make it impossible for you to do that 40 hours.

    57:59
    And what you’re left with is, this is what your full time looks like. This is your AFT, not FT. And, by the way, for the people who can do the 40 hour, typical full time, and still go out with friends in the evenings and do stuff on the weekends and participate in a club and plan a family get together and they still have capacity left in their life. 40 hours for them still leaves capacity for doing other things. So your adjusted full time needs to be at a rate that leaves capacity for you to do other things. It needs to be so that you’re not maxed out when you’ve reached your AFT. You need to have capacity for having a life, for being able to engage with special interests, with friends, with family, with activities, with just resting, with whatever it is that makes you come alive. Because that will help you, that will make it possible for you to be able to continue working. You need to be able to have those things in your life.

    59:27
    So as an example, here’s what my AFT plan looks like. I coach a maximum of three sessions a day, maximum of 12 a week, and I never start before 10am because I don’t function very well before 10am. I’m up and usually working by about 9am. But not like I want to be able to talk to anyone and they probably wouldn’t want me. And I’ve experimented with this. I will do four sessions occasionally but when I do that more than a couple days in a row, I feel it. I can feel the effects. I’m drained. I start getting snippy. I can’t do more than that, and still have energy leftover. But three a day, 12 a week, I’m happy. I have capacity. I’m there and present and engaged for each one of those. And I can still function outside of that. Also, I stop for dinner every day. Some evenings, I have another session. And when I do, I take at least an hour for dinner. And then I do my session, and then I’m off for the night. And when I don’t have a session that evening, when I stop for dinner, I’m done for the night, and I’ve got the rest of the night off.

    1:00:45
    I take a midweek break. Currently I do Thursdays, I’ve done that for a couple of years. But I need a midweek day off from people, from responsibilities, from stuff. And I take off every Sunday and every other Saturday. That way some people still can do weekend sessions. And I take one four-day weekend a month, Thursday through Sunday. And every season, I take off a whole week and two weeks together in the spring. And that’s actually a lot of take time off compared to like standard modern work schedules. But I need that. If I don’t have that, I don’t work, I don’t function. I get snippy. I’m dragging. I don’t do well. That’s my adjusted full time hours. Figure out what works for you. But it’s healthy to work less. Many Autistics and many ADHDers need more rest for our nervous systems to be able to process the sensory information that we’re taking in, the social information we’re taking in, to be able to regulate, to really actually feel rested. And when I was recovering from burnout, my AFT was a lot less than this. I started working for the first year three hours a week, I kid you not, three hours a week, and I built up to about 10 hours a week the next year, and then 20 hours. And now it’s about 30 hours, give or take. But I never want to work much more than that. And when I do, when I push it a little bit more, I feel it. But this is what it takes for me to be able to do this for a long period.

    1:02:32
    So for you, what do you need? How much income do you need at a minimum? And there might be a separate number that is what’s your ideal, what you would like to bring in? And what combination of work of different types of job thingies, different types of income can make that work? And what are nontraditional ways to get your needs met? For example, your social needs. Do you want to work in an office or it could be a coworking space or virtual coworking or a body-doubling? For executive function support, it could be again virtual coworking or body doubling. Focus at will is an app that plays music that’s been modified slightly to engage the brain to keep focus. I’ve used that for about five years and I love it. I’m going to be getting into more specific tips. But like for executive functioning, do you need a regular schedule? Do you need predictable breaks at natural breakpoints? Etc etc. Okay, so let’s get into the details. Lots of different tips for Autistics, ADHDers, AuDHDers.

    1:03:52
    So not all of these are going to fit your style, your needs or your situations. I encourage you to try ones that sound intriguing. Keep the ones that work for you and discard the rest. Create systems and routines to support you to take a load off so that you don’t have to spend your executive functioning energy on planning every day, every single day. That’s just a lot. Also, don’t lock yourself so much into routines that you can’t change when you need to. Let them be adaptable. I love how Martha Beck describes being in constant creative response to the present moment.

    1:04:31
    Okay. So here’s a bunch of different tips. Let’s talk about building structures. Here’s how you build a structure. First, define what is the ultimate goal or the outcome that you’re trying to achieve? What issues do you repeatedly run into? And where is the underlying issue on that? Is it a type of a task? Is it a method that doesn’t work well with your brain? Is it about how you’re thinking about it? Is that a trauma response that’s coming up and preventing you from making progress in this? Each one of those is going to have a different type of response to it, a different way that you deal with it. Experiment with other ways to move towards that outcome. And it’s okay if it takes a lot of tries. You’re building new things. And it’s counter to what you’ve been taught. So of course, it won’t always be immediately apparent.

    1:05:26
    That’s the general idea. Here’s the specifics. Here are tips for hyperfocus. If hyperfocus is something that you need and love and want in your life, schedule long blocks of time occasionally, doesn’t have to be all of it. But schedule work projects, put it literally on your calendar, I am doing this project, during this large block of time, it could be once a week, it could be twice a month, it could be just on a random occasion when you feel like you have the capacity for that. Arrange ways to be alone enough, or to feel alone enough. You may or may not be able to actually be alone, but alone enough or have the feeling of it. There could be reasons for other people to be out of the house, activities, they’re working, or for you to leave, you might go somewhere else in work. Or you might be able to create that feeling of being alone, with noise cancelling headphones or a white noise machine. By the way, there’s white noise recordings, but there’s also white noise machines that actually generate it physically in the machine. Those generally work better on the senses, at least for some people. Some people can really feel a difference between those. They’re a little bit more expensive, but but they have a different feel. Anyway. What I’m trying to say is that if you’ve tried the White Noise Recordings and didn’t like them, you might have a different experience with machines.

    1:07:15
    Okay. And also during hyperfocus periods, take care of your body. Build in natural breaks. We’re gonna get into this more but your body needs to be able to have the nutrients, the energy input for it to be able to continue working for you. But I would encourage natural breaks, they’re better than artificial timers. I’ve never really found the whole Pomodoro like five minutes, 20 minutes. These don’t really work for me because I’m usually in the middle of something and my brain needs to be able to finish that thing. What I found better is breaking tasks down into smaller chunks so that when I get to the end of one chunk, then I can take a break and it feels like I’m not like trying to tear myself away from something and I want to pull my skin off.

    1:08:18
    Also a way to build in a natural break, if you want to set a particular time, like you’ve only got an hour or whatever, I heard someone suggest making it so that you only have an hour of battery left on your computer or your device and the charger is somewhere inconvenient like an hour away. So that you got to finish the thing in an hour. That helps sometimes to focus my mind so that I just narrow into, this is a thing that I need to get done, and I don’t get distracted as much. Or someone is expecting you for dinner or for a particular appointment, and so you have a natural time limit to, I need to finish it before x happens.

    1:09:13
    Okay. So working with distractions, they are inevitable, they will happen. I encourage natural distraction blockers such as noise cancelling headphones, that focus at will music that I mentioned, I think it’s just focusatwill.com, a t for the at. Some people like body doubling. There are some services online where you can sign up for it and they’ll match you with either a person or several people in a group and you leave your camera on and you work on your thing and they work on their thing and there’s just like there’s someone else around. And I personally detest that and absolutely cannot do it but some people swear by it. They love it. So depending on what works for you, you can try that. See if you like it. And I encourage creating a workspace that’s a sensory haven, that feels good to you, like the colors are good, the textures are good, there’s no annoying ticking clock or whatever it is that bothers you, get it out of that space. That you can close it off and people don’t walk in and interrupt you. Put a sign on the door. Train the people in your household that when this sign is up, that is not time for distractions, they need to fend for themselves. Another way you can have an actual distraction blocker is create a separate user account or user profile on your computer that does not have your access to your bookmarks, or your other programs or anything else like it. It’s a stripped down version of like this is the user profile. With no frills added, it’s just got your word processor or your Adobe program or whatever it is that you absolutely need to create your thing. And that’s it. So you can’t just easily get to your bookmarks.

    1:11:21
    And also, I would encourage you to work on detaching focus and distractibility from self-worth. You can use those negative thoughts questions that I offered earlier and modify them for this. Focus is a useful thing. It is practical, sometimes it’s useful, but it has nothing to do with your personal worth. It has nothing to do with your value as a person, whether you can focus a little, a lot, none at all, extensively. None of that has anything to do with who you are, or your value as a human being. It’s just something that’s useful occasionally. There’s lots of negative messaging in our society around not being able to focus. It’s not useful for me to just say, well let that go. It doesn’t work like that. But you can work through those negative messaging. You can work at detaching yourself from that.

    1:12:41
    Okay, so tips for administrative tasks. If you are, especially if you’re running your own business, or trying to do some sort of passive income scheme or whatever, or even honestly working for someone else, if it’s administrative type jobs, they’re just routine tasks that have to happen over and over and over. I encourage you to build repeatable systems that will take care of some of that for you, or will streamline it or will make it easier, or will make it, what can automate some of it. The apps that I mentioned here, I use most of these. Some of them I don’t use myself, but I’ve looked at and I kind of liked but they just didn’t meet my particular needs. But Basecamp is great for project management. Workflowy is like a bullet point type style of journaling, of keeping notes. You can even do longform notetaking with that. Amazing Marvin is a to do list slash reminder type tool. ConvertKit is an email program for mass emailing. Less Annoying CRM, it’s a CRM that, as the tin says, it is less annoying than a lot of the others that I found, but that can just keep track of people that you have to work with in your business. And I’d encourage you to automate as much as possible. I use Acuity Scheduling for scheduling all of my appointments. And that way I don’t have to deal with the back and forth of,does this time work for you? Does this time work for you? Does this time work for you? I hate that. I just set it up and I can set it to know what my schedule is, what times I’m okay with, and people can book during the times that I’m okay with. And they can check their schedule against mine. And we’re good, and it also takes care of the payment processing for me. And I don’t have to track people down for invoices and payments later on, it’s done.

    1:15:05
    Zapier or Webhooks are a great way to get different programs to work together so that when someone signs up for the workshop, you automatically get my emails for my newsletter. And they all work together. Buffer and Fedica are both ways to schedule out social media posts in advance, so that you don’t have to do it all in real timem all the time. And that task switching and minutia, it lowers the executive function load. On having appointment reminders, I set a reminder for every appointment that I have five minutes before. That way I have enough time that I can make myself a cup of tea, and go to the bathroom, and shift my thoughts to Okay, I’m going to do something else now. But not enough time that I get distracted doing some other task and then lose track and I’m late.

    1:16:06
    So those are the things that that I use. You can also use marketplace seller platforms. So if you’re selling Adobe paint brushes, or if you’re selling music, or you’re selling a PDF, or you’re selling a course or whatnot, if you use one of those marketplace seller platforms that you can sell through Gumroad, or Payhip or Spring, or things like that, they can take care of the payments, the taxes. A lot of the administrative stuff is just taken care of for you. You pay them a small cut to do it. But you don’t have to deal with all of the administrative stuff. You can also find someone to outsource some tasks to, either for pay or for trade. Someone who can work for you for just a few hours a week or month and build that cost into your prices. There are a lot of people in the disability community who would love just a few hours of work to get some money, but not enough to jeopardize their support. And to have something to do and to feel good about themselves and it eases up their burden a little bit. And then it’s a win-win. Everyone gets what they want. Or you can trade services, like your service for theirs. They can do some things for you and you do some stuff for them. I do that with a few things. I have a couple of people who I trade with for like video editing, and then I don’t have to do that.

    1:17:45
    Okay, so tips for organization. Build systems to keep your thinking and planning and administration useful and ideally simple, as simple as possible. I encourage you to find methods that complement your processing style. So if you need to talk things out, you can use Otter.ai. It’s a automatic transcription software. Or use an mp3 recorder to record yourself, or a voice app to take notes. And if you need to write out your full thoughts, you can journal or use Workflowy or Scrivener or a notes app. Any kind of writing app that works for you just to write out your thoughts. Do you think in lists, use a bullet journal, or a to do list? Amazing Marvin is one. Things is another to-do List program that I really like. It’s a little more pricey, but I like how it works. Or do you need visuals? Use mind-mapping. There are mindmapping softwares like Prezi, Lucid Chart. Basecamp is a project management thing but it has a lot of visual elements to it. It organizes things into sections for you. So find what type of organization works for you. You don’t have to just do the default that everyone else says, here’s how you’re supposed to organize things.

    1:19:14
    Okay, personal care tips as you’re working. I encourage you to create systems for easy food and water access because your body needs to have its needs met in order for your brain to be able to think and create the things that you’re doing. Or if you’re doing physical labor, your body needs to have its needs met in order for you to have the energy and capacity to continue doing the things that you’re doing. In my household, dinner leftovers get put into individual containers that I can grab for lunch and then I just have to heat it up and it’s really easy. I don’t have to think about what’s for lunch. I just grab one of the containers, and so I don’t have to think about it. And I have a tea system. I have a bunch of tea things all in one place, and a pitcher of water next to my desk at all times, and a couple of cups. So I’ve always got water, and food, and I have various snacks over here that are just in easy reach. So that I can always have that. Doesn’t always mean that I will think about it. But the more I do it, the more likely I am to think about it. And that does get easier over time.

    1:20:37
    Another way you can take care of yourself is customizing your background colors and fonts in your computer or devices to be easier on your eyes or brain. The default white point for most devices is actually quite bright. I’ve heard it compared to staring at a light bulb. If you ever watch someone else in low light situations, like they’re staring at their phone and you see this glare coming out them, that’s what you’re getting. When there’s more ambient light, you just don’t notice it as much but it’s still happening. You’re basically staring at a light bulb. But that’s not easy on the brain. So turning down the white point, you can find that in accessibility settings on a lot of devices, you can even shift it to a different color.

    1:21:29
    A few months ago, I got an E Ink monitor for my computer. I don’t use it for all things. But I use it when I’m doing long periods of hyperfocus work. And it calms my brain and my eyes instantly, it reduces a lot of eyestrain. And I love that. And I get less distracted when my brain feels calmer. You can also allow yourself to work at different times of the day or night, especially if you’re able to work asynchronously. If you work better at 3am, why not? You can also allow your business to grow slowly so that your nervous system has time to get used to all of the new stuff that you’re encountering. For example, someone just asked, how do you set boundaries when your clients insist that you do things a way that doesn’t work for your processing style. Working through, and that’s actually a whole other big thing I don’t have time to get into, but it is an example of working through that at a personal level of being okay with your processing style. And being genuinely okay with that, and working through the people-pleasing needs so that you can set boundaries, and do it in a way that is firm, but not rude. It’s just like, you know what, that style works really well for you. But it doesn’t really work for me. I’m going to do it this way, because you’re actually going to get the thing that you want that way. And you don’t have to say it in a way that’s rude. Like that is perfectly fine, but it’s firm. But as you’re working for yourself or for someone else, if you’re trying to make work work for you better, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of those internal messaging and processing through that takes time. But if you’re doing this slowly, your nervous system has time to catch up and it’ll really be able to absorb all of that.

    1:23:38
    Okay, here’s another tip for consistency, or the lack thereof. I give myself permission to be less productive some days and for that to be inconsistent and unpredictable. When I just started coaching, I only had a few appointments, a very few clients and I could at least manage those appointments. Even if I wasn’t having a great day, I had one appointment that day, I could at least get dressed and do that. And then afterwards, I was off the hook for the rest of the day. And that improved over time, and as I was able to work more, my capacity increased and my consistency also increased. But still there are days that are just, this is a pain day. This is not going to work for me. Or this is a day where my focus is not here. I don’t know where it went, but it’s not here. And I take advantage of those bursts of focus and of energy and of time, and of pain-reduced periods. But I don’t tie that to my self-worth any more than I tie my low productivity times to my self-worth. Neither of them says anything about who I am or my worth as a person. And the more I believe that, which took a while, the easier everything became. And I genuinely believe that it freed up a lot of energy, that I was able to use to actually do more work and be more consistent. But honestly, I’m never going to be probably completely consistent. I’m not aiming for that either. That’s the machine. I’m not a machine, I’m a human. I can’t do that. And that’s okay.

    1:25:37
    So here’s tips around task initiation. And I recognize that we are at the time that I said that it was going to be, but as usual, I have tried to cram way too much into this and do not have time. So I will stick around till the end. If you can’t make it, that’s totally okay. There will be a recording, you can watch the rest later. I do rhank you very much for showing up. Okay, so we’re almost at the end of the ADHD tips and then there’s just a little bit on self employment. And that’s it. Okay, probably about 10 to 15 minutes.

    1:26:15
    So task initiation. I get started doing things by mentally agreeing only to do the very first step or two of the thing that needs to be done. Like opening a file, giving it a title and saving it. Or gathering the materials for a project that I’m going to be working on. If I want to do more than that, great. Sometimes just getting over that starting point is all I need to be like, Okay, I can do more. But if I don’t, then fine. I’ve succeeded because all I agreed to do was that first step, and I did that thing. So I get that wave of, Yay, I did the thing that I was supposed to do. And the advantage to that is that when I come back to it, the first step’s already been done. So it’s easier to switch into the mode of doing the thing. It helps to overcome that inertia the next time around because there’s less of it, because this project has already been started.

    1:27:18
    Alright. My other thing is, when I am breaking, when I’m stopping a task, I will generally stop, not in the middle of something because then I want to tear my eyes out. But I will stop in between things where I know what the next step is going to be. I don’t have to do the next step, but I know what it’s going to be so that my brain is already starting to think about it in the background, as I’m not working on it. But when I want to come back to the project, it’s very easy to start up because I know what I have to do. I don’t have to think of like, okay, so where was I? What was I going to do? What was going to go next? I don’t remember. And, it’s just easier to switch into that mode of working on it when I know what the next step is. And I might write down a note for myself of what the next step is. So I don’t have to hold it in my head and again, use up executive functioning capacity for that.

    1:28:30
    Okay, so let’s talk about task switching. I suggest lumping similar types of tasks together, and then doing them in groups or on certain days. Like doing finances for the business once a month, or personal finances once a month. Or you could answer emails every other day, or at certain times, like three times a day, morning, afternoon and evening, rather than kind of being on call for checking email constantly throughout the day. And then that’s like someone wanting something from you at any particular time. I will admit that I fall into that quite a bit. But I try not to, often unsuccessfully. Anyway. The emailing part. But you could also just meet with clients on certain days of the week. And then you have those days for clients, and then you have days for administrative stuff. And so it’s not as big of a switch in between types of things. You can also group content creation tasks, like making social media posts, and schedule them out so that you don’t have to be constantly churning out new things. You spend a few hours just going, okay, here’s all of the things that I want to say making all the posts and scheduling them out. There are services like I mentioned Buffer and Fedica are content schedulers. Those just ones that I liked. There’s a lot of them. And then in your normal course of your day, it will post the social media stuff. It’s genuinely your content, the things that you wanted to say. But you don’t have to think about it in real time all the time, so that you’re not constantly switching into the mode of thinking about that and thinking about other stuff.

    1:30:25
    Also, I highly suggest, and this might not be appealing to a lot of Autistics, but when you’re switching tasks, add in a little bit of a body break into that. If you move around a little bit, it does help clear the mind so that you can think about the new thing. And this could be something as simple as getting up to go to the bathroom, getting a sip of water, or just moving around, stimming a little bit. I like stim breaks, I like to move round. And yeah, just get my body moving, it gets blood moving. If you sit for about 20 minutes, blood pools, it drains out of your brain and pools in your butt. And it makes it harder to get up and move. But it’s also more important because you want the brain blood back in your brain so that you can think more clearly.

    1:31:25
    Okay. Here’s another tip on task pacing. Break down large projects mentally into smaller projects and tasks, so that you don’t have to do the entire thing at once. If that’s too much for the time that you have, or the capacity that you have, or the mental space that you have, dividing projects at natural places. I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the years about taking breaks at just regimented time schedules. That never has worked for me. But I can break larger projects into smaller pieces. So that it doesn’t feel like I have to do the whole thing at once. I can do a small part of it, or a few small parts of it. Oh, here’s the tip that I wanted to add in. So when you stop for the day, or for a break, leave off when you know what the next step is, but not necessarily in the middle of something. And then it’s easier to start again when you know what’s coming next.

    1:32:39
    Okay, last tip for ADHD stuff is interest. I got this question a lot from people registering for this. Basically, it was like. my interest shifts every once in a while, I can’t maintain it. How do I actually run a business if I keep getting bored and wanting to switch to something else completely? I think that was like the most common question I got. So if you stop caring about something that, once you figured it out, once you kind of like mentally get your head around it, try creating a reproducible product during your process of figuring it out that when you’re done figuring it out, you can just cap off the project, finish it up. And then you can have that as evergreen income that you can sell over and over and over and people can just buy it, and then you can move on to a different project. So that’s one way to do it. I also talked earlier about coming up with something that has enough depth and enough facets in it that will keep you engaged, so that you can keep having new pieces of interest. And that will hold your interest in the larger project or in the larger field that you’re working in. But this time, you’re exploring about this topic, or this topic or this topic. And you know what? If you have a serial career, that’s okay. Just working on one thing for a while and then moving on to something completely different. That’s okay. It is more work to start over each time. But can you deal with that? Each time you start over, you’ve also learned quite a bit about how it works to run a business, to do a type of work, to work with people. So you are learning a fair amount that is reproducible. It’s not completely starting over from scratch. You might be starting over from scratch in some ways, like you’re working in a completely different industry and therefore you don’t have the contacts, people don’t know you, you don’t have the base of that. But you aren’t starting over from scratch in the sense that you know how to build those up a lot more quickly and easily each time. And that might maintain your interest for a while.

    1:35:12
    Okay, so last section of this is some tips on self employment, if that’s something that you want. So a few pros and cons to self employment. Pros are you can do things your own way more or less. Yes, as someone pointed out, sometimes you want clients who want you to do things in a different way than you want. You can negotiate that to some extent. But to a large extent, you can do things your own way, you can set your own hours, to a fair extent. If you have appointments or need to meet with clients at particular times, there’s certain amount of I need to show up at a time that is agreeable to the other person. But around that, a lot of the other things that you need to do, you can do at whatever works for you. So there’s more flexibility, and also what you do, what type of work you’re doing. And there’s no one telling you that you can’t try something, or that you can’t do it in a different way. That’s one of the most common complaints that I hear about employers is like, they won’t let me try it this way. They won’t let me do it in the way that works for me. You don’t have that when you’re self-employed, unless it’s in your own head. But you can work on that. The cons of self employment are, it does genuinely involve more tasks, you have to do more types of things. And when you can’t do them, you have to find someone else who can. And you’re on the hook to make sure that all of the things work and that they get done. So there’s more responsibility there.

    1:36:53
    But I do want to point out that business is not the same thing as capitalism. Businesses have been around a long time, long before capitalism was even a faint glimmer in the eyes of either Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Business does not need to be exploitative. It does not need to be repressive. It does not need to be extractive. You can work in your own business towards working for economic justice for all parties, so that you and your dependents get what you need. And your clients get something that’s valuable to them, and everyone wins. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing bad about that. And that is not the same thing as the types of business or capitalism that we have all been so deeply injured by. Yeah, someone says community wealth building. I love that. Yes, it’s cool. It can be collaborative. It can be cooperative. When everyone gets something that’s valuable to them, that’s great. That’s the goal.

    1:38:13
    Okay, so let’s talk about some practicalities. One of the other most common questions that I got was about, my employer pays my health care. How do I do that if I’m not working for someone else? Well, there are some options for healthcare. These options are going to be more US-centered because that’s what I know. There’s the government health care marketplace provides a lot of subsidies for people who are a lower income. And if you’re just starting your own business, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be qualifying for a lot of those subsidies. And it can bring down your healthcare to a very affordable rate, sometimes even free. There’s also State Medicaid that can pay for your health care, even if you don’t qualify for disability or anything else, it can pay for at least health care. The freelancers union is a large conglomerate of freelancers who have gotten together and have used the pooling power to create collective bargaining agreements with healthcare insurance companies, so that you can get some of the benefits of having a large corporation bargaining but for individuals who are working for themselves. There are also healthcare co-ops. Galileo was an example of one that worked with the freelancers union, which is why I know them. There’s a number of other ones. Some of them are associated with different industries. There’s ones that are religious affiliations, some that will take anyone. But those are often low cost ways to get at least some, if not a majority of your healthcare needs met. Sometimes there are restrictions, they don’t cover everything. But they can take care of a lot. Look into the specific ones if that’s of interest to you, just look at the fine details. There’s also health savings accounts. Lively is one that worked with the freelancers union.

    1:40:23
    So the rest of this is not just USA stuff. But accounting software. Wave is a free accounting software that I’ve used for several years and it genuinely is free. They charge for their payroll services and a couple of other add-on services, but their basic accounting is forever free. And so you can just keep track of your expenses that way. There are employee leasing options so they’ll take care of payroll for you. They can also put you on it so that you are kind of an employee of your own business so that you can get a W2 which might be useful for getting a mortgage or other kind of statement of income for loans or whatnot. Again, that’s going to be a US thing. Legal Shield is an example of a legal cooperative, sort of like a legal insurance. But there are a few other companies out there that do that as well. That’s one that I know. There’s a link there to a guide on different aspects of freelancing from the Freelancers union. They have a lot of good information. But you can also look for your industry’s professional organizations, to see if they have collective bargaining agreements that have taken care of some of these health care things. Employee leasing, legal services, various other services that apply to your industry.

    1:42:09
    Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about marketing. A lot of people hate this, absolutely hate this. A lot of the marketing that we have been subjected to has been sleazy, has been manipulative, has been adversarial, has felt really, really bad. And occasionally even been traumatizing. But marketing doesn’t have to be that way. At its essence, it’s basically saying, I have this thing, do you want this thing? Or is the thing that you want the same thing that I have? Great. It’s basically just when you have something to sell, letting people know that it exists. And if they want that, then great, you can work together in a non-exploitative, cooperative way, and create economic justice for all.

    1:43:06
    Okay, so here’s a thought experiment and this is credit to Mark Walsh of Embodiment Unlimited. He describes. If you were out one day, and you were really hungry for a sandwich, and I had an extra sandwich. And I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to be pushy. I didn’t want to like Sell My Thingies because sales feels bad. Would you actually like that? Would you appreciate me not telling you that I have an extra sandwich when you want a sandwich? Or would you prefer that I let you know that I have it and let you decide if that’s what you want? Maybe you don’t like that kind of sandwich. Maybe you want a different bread? Maybe that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. You’ve been really, really wanting this kind of sandwich for a long time. And I’ve got it and would you like me to let you know that that exists? And that’s really all marketing has to be. It doesn’t have to be any more difficult, or it doesn’t have to be any worse than that. It’s just letting people know that you have a thing. And if they want it, great. Here’s how they can sign up, or here’s how they can get it, or here’s how they can work with you. But if they don’t want it, totally fine. But this is how I can have conversations with clients who are with people who are thinking about working with me and I can genuinely be detached from that urgency, from that desperation of No, I don’t need a sale. Because what I’m really wanting is to find out, are we going to be good together? And if not, I can genuinely honestly just wish you well and say great, I hope you find what you’re looking for and might even be able to suggest someone or something else that would be better fit. But this goes back to that mental shift that I mentioned at the very beginning where when I don’t feel that desperation of, I need to make money right now, otherwise my survival is at stake, then I come across very differently because I genuinely feel very differently.

    1:45:19
    And that’s how I was able to recently announce that I’m not raising my coaching prices right now. My business expenses are going up, a lot of people are raising their prices, but I’m not because I know that I can be okay. I’m going to do other things like sell ebooks. Okay, so here’s some people that I’ve resonated with in terms of learning marketing, that’s ethical, authentic marketing. Tad Hargrave, highly recommend, cannot recommend more. His business is called Marketing For Hippies, and he’s really about this respectful ethical marketing, decolonizing marketing. He is a white guy, but he’s done a lot of decolonization work in himself. Also Rebecca Tracy, her business is The Uncaged Life. If you’re starting a new service type business, she’s got lots of good information. Caroline Leon, also a good business coach around marketing and getting the word out. Bradley Morris has some great stuff about marketing without social media, and actually all of these people have free stuff. George Kao on if you want to do social media. Kelly Diels works on feminist businesses practices, and Michelle Warner on how to do networking. And these all have lots of good free resources out there, as well as paid resources.

    1:47:11
    Okay, a word about “competition”. And I put that in quotes intentionally because I don’t think it has to be a competition. So if you see a gap in the market, and then find someone else already doing that thing, my old self would be like, Oh, well, so much for that idea, I need to find something else, because someone else is doing that. And I got really bummed out a number of times, because I felt like I couldn’t do something if someone else was doing it. But I don’t think that anymore. There’s a lot of room in the market, in any market, in every market for lots of players, because you’re going to have a different take on it than someone else will. You’re gonna have a different style, a different point of view, a different approach, a different feel to it. And you’ll find customers who like your style and your approach and your background and your personality, and what you have to say, and there’ll be enough people that will have a fit with you, that you’ll be able to make a living, and there’ll be enough people that will have a fit with that other person and that other person and that other person, which is great for all of us. And there’s so many people out there that need so many things, especially in service type industries, that there’s enough for all of us, it’s totally fine. This is why I don’t feel a sense of competition or dread when other people come to me and say, I want to be an autism coach too, how do I do that? I’m like, great, we need more of us. I don’t feel like I’m creating my own competition by giving people advice on it. I feel like I’m just helping more Autistics out there to find better ways to be in the world. Because there’s so many of us, there’s no way that I can help everyone. And it would be completely arrogant for me to think that I’m the be all and end all of everything. Absolutely not. There’s a lot of people who know stuff better than I do, or in different ways than I do or who have different backgrounds, different experiences. And there’s people who match that better than they match me. And there’s people who see my videos and they see my content and they’re like, you are exactly it. I’ve been looking for exactly this. You’re the only one that I want to work with. But my point is that there’s going to be enough of that for everyone, so that everyone gets exactly who they want to work with. So I don’t really think that there is a competition issue. Go out there. Put your stuff into the world. Let someone find you and be like you are exactly the person I’ve been looking for. You’re it.

    1:49:54
    Okay. All right. Last few tips. Pricing. So how much do you charge? This is a whole thing. I could do a whole workshop just on this. There is no way to charge what you’re worth. That is a common piece of advice that I hear in the business world. Charge what you’re worth, raise your prices, you’re worth it. Your worth is priceless, you can’t charge that, no one can pay that. But also on the flip side, if you charge too little, you have to work more in order to make what you need. And also charging too little devalues your whole industry. A year devaluing what other people are charging by charging too little. And yet, as I say that, it’s okay in the beginning of starting your work to charge less early on, as you’re learning and raise your prices over time. Because in the beginning, you’re genuinely not creating as much value for your clients, which is not to say that you’re not creating value; you are, you better be, otherwise it’s not a fair deal between the two of you. But as you get more experience, and as you do more in that industry, and as you work with more clients, and as you get better at this, your value is going to increase and what you give to what you bring to your clients is going to be better, and it’s going to be worth more money for them. So you can raise your prices over time. So charging a little bit early on is fine. But if you do that consistently, you’re devaluing the whole industry. But that early place can be a way for you to gain experience and self confidence. And for you to learn from your clients as much as they’re learning from you. And over time, you can raise your prices a little bit, a little bit, a little bit more, until you’re at a point where you feel like this is reasonable. It’s enough.

    1:51:58
    Like ideally, what you would want is enough to cover your business expenses, plus whatever personal expenses that you’ve decided to include, which may or may not be your entire family’s income. Hopefully, it doesn’t have to be, at least not from the start. But I don’t know your situation it might be. So what are all of the things that you need to be able to pay for, divided by the time or the units of product that you have available. That’s kind of how you create a fair price. There’s a lot more to it than that, like as a detailed thing, but that’s the general idea. And just a note, if you’ve been living in poverty for a long time, your sense of what is expensive to other people might be miscalibrated. I know it was for me. When I started coaching, I charged a lot less than I do now, about half what I do now. And it felt like I was charging an exorbitant rate. $65 an hour at the time to me when I was still in poverty, but like just starting to come out of. I could work again and so there was hope that I would be out of it eventually. It felt like I was charging a ridiculous sum. And I’ve slowly raised that up to currently it’s $128 per session. And I’m happy with that. I’m going to stick with that for a while. But I had to work through my own money issues of realizing that, for me, that was a lot of money. But for some people, it was nothing. And figure out like what is a value for my clients? What can most of them actually manage? What’s reasonable, what covers my expenses? What can I live off of? And without being like where’s that sweet spot of it’s enough nut I can actually say the words without choking on them.

    1:54:15
    Okay, so last self employment tip is on taxes. We are almost done with us. Taxes. Okay. The big sigh is because I’ve just spent the last couple of months trying to figure out the whole taxation issue, because I intend to start selling ebooks and PDFs and whatnot that are actually taxable in ways that my previous services weren’t, and selling them internationally. And trying to figure out what the taxation is for all the different parts of the world and it’s just been a nightmare honestly. So my biggest suggestion is to simplify your digital and international products by using companies that are a merchant of record, and who will take care of the taxes for you. Gumroad, Payhip and Spring will all do that. Not all online marketplaces do, I believe Etsy does. Amazon does, eBay, there’s like the big ones. But if you’re selling your own digital or physical products, Gumroad, Payhip and Spring are ones that I found that do. But look very carefully to make sure that they are a merchant of record for the EU, and the UK to collect and remit sales tax for them.

    1:55:44
    I am not a tax attorney, and I’m going to give the annoying. Like, disclaimer that this is not legal advice, please consult a tax attorney, etc, etc. I’ve seen that so many times, I’m sick of it. But I’m not a tax attorney. And I don’t know if what I’ve figured out is actually accurate, or if it’s just my interpretation. So what I think is the case, at least at the current time, is that if you sell even one downloadable product in the EU, or the UK, you’re subject to that taxes, even if you do not have a business in any of those places. So like for me who lives in the US, if I sell one downloadable product in any of those countries, I’m on the hook for taxes, which is why I’m going to be signing up with these marketplace sellers because I don’t want to deal with that. It’s very, very expensive and confusing. You’ll probably be on the hook for whatever your local taxes are, wherever you happen to be. But check into for selling in other countries.

    1:57:01
    Okay, also, you must register to collect sales taxes before starting to collect them. That is a legal thing. If you do not. If you just collect sales taxes before you’ve registered, that’s illegal. So just look into the laws for your areas. But bottom line, my biggest tip is just use one of the marketplace sellers. Services, as opposed to products, are a different tax category. And those are not always taxable in all areas. So you might be off the hook for selling services, such as consulting or coaching or done-for-you website stuff or things like that. But just look into whatever your particular situation is. That Legal Shield that I mentioned might be a way for you to get some of those questions answered without you having to do all of the research yourself.

    1:57:57
    Okay, so last question. I got this several times. Will my business idea work? And several people added what their business idea was. You don’t actually need to have everyone like your idea in order for it to be a business idea that works. You might only need a few people who are willing to actually pay you for it. If you’re selling high priced items or higher priced services, you might even be able to get away with just five or 10 or 20 people being willing to pay you that. If it’s a lower priced item or service, you might need more people than that, but it still doesn’t have to be everyone. It might be enough for a side income, for a supplementary income, for a part time income, or something that could build up to a full time income. And what I would highly suggest is, if at all possible, try to avoid putting the pressure on your new venture to sustain your entire family right from the outset. That’s a lot of pressure and you’re gonna more likely feel that desperation energy of, I have to make this work. And that’s gonna get in the way of you actually doing your business in a way that you like, in a way that you want.

    1:59:11
    So can you mentally give yourself the freedom to start small and build up? It might be like cutting back your regular job hours just a little bit so that you can have some hours to work on your business, and then slowly change that ratio until you’re more ready to give up the job and do the whole business. Or it might be that you never really want it to support you entirely. You just want some a little bit of extra or you need a little bit more and you can have something supplementary. Okay, so, a few last thoughts. We are almost done. So, running a business is not easy, but it’s okay. It’s not easy, you can make it work. And I’ve heard a lot of people say that running a business is a major personal development experience. And that’s definitely been true for me. I’ve had to work through a lot of my old shit, my ableism, my self worth issues, my social anxieties, my unhealthy productivity mindsets, and very cultural, deep white supremacist, colonized messaging. And I’m still working on all that, to be honest. I still find new ways that it’s affecting me. But it’s been so worth it because I have a lot more freedom of choice, a lot more freedom of what I want to do, and my ability to work through that stuff has increased. And my ability to make changes for the better has only gotten better over time.

    2:00:53
    Okay, so here’s my last thought. Something that I learned on my own self discovery journey is not doing things that don’t need to be done is the best use of my time. Basically, don’t clutter up your life with things that you don’t really need to do. If there’s any way that you can not do it, don’t. That will free up a lot of your capacity. If you can get out of stuff that is just draining you, get out of it, then you have space in your life for doing things that you actually want to do, the things that you care about, the things that will make your life more the way you want it to be.

    2:01:42
    Okay, so that’s what I have for you today. I’m going to pop the feedback form into the chat. I would very much appreciate some feedback on this. And I’m going to run a poll in just a moment for topics for the next workshop. Here’s some ways that you can contact me. You can take a screenshot of this. It’ll be on the recording later and also, there’ll be an ebook. Alright, so poll, where’s the poll? Okay, so if you would like another workshop from me, you can pick which topic you’d like. I believe you can select multiple options. And that will give me some good information as to what people want, what to do next.

    2:02:47
    Alright, thank you so much for showing up for this, for being part of the people who are wanting to make things better in the world, for neurodivergent people, for Autistics, for the neurotypicals, because our working through our own stuff and coming more into our power is going to make waves. It’s going to push back, but that’s something that needs to happen.

    2:03:27
    Yes, you can click all of the topics.

    2:03:35
    I know I wasn’t able to get to everyone’s question. But I hope that this has provided you with a lot of useful info, that you found at least something in here that was helpful. And the recording will be available as well as the transcript and the PDF, probably within about two days ish, maybe three at the most.

    2:04:04
    And I really look forward to hearing all of your new ventures and finding what other people are putting out into the world. Okay, last chance on the workshop poll.

    2:04:33
    All right.

    2:04:44
    Okay, that’s what I’ve got for you today. Thank you very much. Take care.

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    Heather Cook

    Heather Cook

    Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an Autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other Autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, just about every -ology, and Star Trek!

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