Disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to starting your own business

Just four days until our event in London for disabled people who are thinking about setting up their own business, as well as entrepreneurs who have already taken the plunge. Book your free space today! Paul Carter who is speaking at the event explains why disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to starting your own business.

Paul CarterI founded my own media production company Little Man Media two years ago and haven’t looked back.

Leaving full-time employment was one of the best things I ever did, and now I want to show to other people – not just those with disabilities – that being your own boss needn’t be a pipedream, and is something that can change your life for the better.

Flexibility is far and away the biggest benefit of being your own boss. As a disabled person, the ability to be in control of your own time and your own commitments is really, really helpful and can often make the difference between a bad day and a good one.

One of the things I’m often asked is whether or not I’ve encountered any discrimination, prejudice or negative attitudes due to the fact that I’m disabled. For the most part the answer is no. Although there was one memorable occasion when applying for Access to Work funding (the government scheme that helps cover some disability-related costs in employment) when the assessor asked me how I could possibly operate a camera without hands, and that I should consider giving up and trying something “more suited to my condition.”

Such instances aside, I’ve not found that having a disability has been any form of hindrance or barrier, certainly not at least in terms of attracting new business, if anything it has helped open doors. A lot of my work has centred around equality issues and social justice, and being able to bring some lived experience or show that I have an understanding of or connection to my subject is something that people often find appealing.

There are considerable physical and societal barriers to getting disabled people into work so becoming your own boss might be the best option. But it’s not right for everyone and we certainly need more and better awareness among employers that disabled people aren’t going to cost loads of money or have a negative impact on the business – I think there’s still a long way to go there to change attitudes.

An often unaddressed issue is that disabled people’s conditions sometimes fluctuate, and a greater willingness to embrace flexible working would open so many more doors for disabled people, particularly those with mental health problems.

Nobody should be under the impression that running your own business is easy, it isn’t! You never truly switch off from the stresses and strains, and can’t leave work behind at 5pm when you shut down your computer and leave the office. I often find myself thinking about work last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Some people may find that thought unbearable or think it unhealthy, but if you truly love what you do and are passionate about your business, then it becomes an extension of yourself, and you’ll do whatever it takes to make it a success.

Having self-belief and being certain that you’re doing the right thing is absolutely critical, because there will undoubtedly be points where it looks and feels like everything is going against you, and you need to be able to pick yourself up and keep on going. But you need a bit of single-mindedness and the courage of your convictions, because running your own business is the best thing in the world. When you love what you do, it isn’t work. I get to spend my time meeting incredible people, telling amazing stories. Making films has allowed me to meet people who’ve spent time in foreign prisons, Paralympians, politicians, pop stars, and everyone in between. I’ve the best job in the world, and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

Paul is speaking at a free event for disabled entrepreneurs and disabled people who are thinking of starting their own business in London on 13 February, organised by Natwest, Scope and Livability.