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Oct 11, 2022
How Upwork Enabled Me to Keep Working With a Disability

Several years ago, I became disabled. I was 32 years old at the time, and I struggled to understand why I was suddenly thrust into my situation. I had done everything right in my life, after all. I went to college and graduated top of my class. I had a very fulfilling career as a sales professional in an industry that I loved. I had everything going for me.

Then, it happened...

After struggling with substance abuse issues for years, I ended up in the hospital with depression. I learned that I had severe bipolar II disorder. I had been self-medicating for years when everything finally went off the rails. I tried returning to my job on the sales floor, but I was unable to perform my job anymore. I was eventually terminated for lack of attendance due to my multiple hospital stays and side effects of my medication - not to mention the daily struggle that I faced trying to manage my mental illness. 

I got completely sober a year later. I tried going back to work at another job that was not so demanding. It lasted 3 hours. I had a panic attack and left without telling them exactly why. My therapist, psychiatrists, and medical doctors all suggested that I go on disability for my own good. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I had to come face to face with the fact that I couldn't work anymore. 

This did not help my mental health at all. No one plans to have this type of news delivered to them in their early 30s. I was depressed, angry, and searching for answers. 

One day, my father messaged me and suggested that I try my hand at freelance writing. I had, after all, always enjoyed writing in some form. I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "Why not?"

The problem was that I had no idea how to get started. I did some research and found Upwork. I really wanted to succeed at it, so I immediately made a profile and jotted down my interests. Within a month, I had landed my first job. I was going to be writing a technical manual for an electronic diagnostic tool that I was familiar with. Electronics have always been a hobby for me, and I spent some time in my early 20s working in the industry. I was both excited and nervous. Could I meet the deadlines? Would I be able to complete it once I started? Would my lack of focus, concentration, and poor memory limit me?

As I found out, the answers were both yes and no. I had some major limitations that I had to work through. Luckily, the client was patient and worked with me through the entire project. I completed it in about two months. I had written 88 pages worth of material and meticulously checked it for accuracy. I had done it! I had completed a task that would have been impossible for me to do if I worked a "regular" job. 

And I got a paycheck for the first time in over a year.

I was addicted to success at that point. I could make my own schedule so I didn't have to worry about having a bad bipolar episode. I could take a break when I needed to. I could even choose what kind of work I wanted to do. Since then, I have still struggled with my mental illness, but I have managed to use Upwork as a form of redemption. I may be disabled, but I'm still able to earn extra money for my family. 

Upwork was a powerful tool that enabled me to use my talents as a writer to not only make money but to also empower myself. Here are some things that Upwork allowed me to do as a disabled worker:

  1. Work at my own pace - I no longer had to worry about anything other than a few deadlines. I could work at my own pace without overwhelming myself to the point of mental exhaustion.
  2. Set my own schedule - I could go to my doctor's appointments and therapy groups (I have a lot of them) without worrying about missing work.
  3. Sense of accomplishment - I no longer felt "useless". Before I discovered Upwork, I struggled with being disabled in my 30's. In fact, it made my mental illness worse at times because I no longer had a sense of purpose. Being able to write and use my talents on Upwork allowed me to inspire and empower myself once again.
  4. Extra income - The disability process is a long, nasty battle. At the time of this article, I am still waiting on a decision from the Social Security Administration over three years after my initial diagnosis. That meant I had to cash out every retirement account that I had just to live. With Upwork, you can make as little or as much as you want. Go at your own pace and earn that extra money!
  5. Work with my passions - I have always enjoyed motorcycles, cars, electronics, and a variety of other topics. Now, I get to write about them and get paid! This helped me stay focused during the writing process because I was literally learning about things that I already enjoyed. Instead of being forced into one particular field, I could explore a variety of different fields. I have written about everything from motorcycles to hunting/fishing to cars and everything in between. The possibilities are truly endless!

Even writing this blog is fulfilling to me because I can use my situation to make both clients and fellow freelancers aware of the possibilities that Upwork opens up for people with limitations like myself. I have a place where I can truly shine, and it has done wonders for my mental illness in the process. 

Although I still struggle with my illness daily, I am very fortunate that I have managed to find understanding and supportive clients that work with me and my disability. In return, they get my best possible work and dedication. I don't have to find "regular" work because it comes to me now that I have established myself as a Top Rated technical/content writer. 

If you are a disabled worker, I encourage you to use your talents on Upwork to earn extra income for yourself. Not only will you get a paycheck, but you'll get a sense of accomplishment with each job you complete. Plus, you can work at a pace that is comfortable to you and that fits your lifestyle and interests. You can't beat that!

I hope that Upwork continues to empower people like myself, and I encourage disabled freelancers to take full advantage of the opportunities presented here. Don't let your disability define you: take things into your own hands and strive for success. It is the best way to beat the odds and redefine yourself. 

Good luck, and happy job searching!