Saying no: What disabled entrepreneurship looks like to me

Scribbling in bed surrounded by hard drives, devices, notebooks, chocolate, and Albi my purple dragon (pictured for reference), is what work looks like for me.

When the pandemic hit and we all started working from home, work became far more accessible to me as a chronic illness patient. My energy, mobility, and diet are limited. Getting dressed, commuting, eating food from Celiac-unsafe kitchens in my pre-pandemic work life were all tolls on my productivity. But in March 2020, that all changed when my energy-sapping daily office routine disintegrated.

It may not seem like the most strenuous thing to put on pants, stick in contacts lenses, and shimmy into work, but when your head needs you to lie down randomly throughout the day, when your belly insists you work horizontally in very loose pants, when your body temperature condemns you to commandeer the air conditioning, when your guts demand the toilet and demand it for a while, working from home and doing away with office-related faffing suddenly makes doing your job a million times easier.

I started my design business at a time when I was too weak to get out of bed, but Covid life had made bed-based businesses possible. No one was meeting anyone. Everything was online. It was no longer weird for me to request virtual meetings or turn down coffee chats. I sold my art on Society6, flaunted my wares on Instagram, garnered clients on Facebook, and sealed deals on WhatsApp. With full control over what the world saw of me through my online presence, I felt liberated and able to dictate my actions without fear of people thinking I was lazy, unprofessional, or just too disabled to invest in as a contractor, partner, or employee.

As I’m recovering and inching bit by bit outside of my bedroom, I’m feeling the creeping pressure to look busy again, especially when I tell people “no.” When I turn down a meet-up, an underpaying commission, or a partnership, I feel like I have to prove that I really am too sick, too out-of-pocket, or too booked-up.

Obviously, I can technically say “yes” and “no” to whatever I want. Obviously, duh. Technically, ugh. But I think women, artists, entrepreneurs, and the dreaded intersectional nightmare of women artist entrepreneurs deal with so much backlash that it starts to feel like we can’t say “no”, or if we do, we better have a damn