My journey so far
Although I started my private practice almost 2 years ago, I transitioned into full-time self-employment mid-July this year. As this year comes to a close and as I reflect on the past 5.5 months of full-time self-employment, I wanted to share what I have learned as an autistic business owner.
A lot of autistic people ask me what types of jobs are “ideal” for autistic people. The reality is that autistic people are a highly diverse group of people and there is no one employment or job category that fits autistic people better on the whole. I could never speak for the autistic community as a whole. What I can say, however, is that self-employment has offered me a level of freedom and satisfaction I could never acquire while working for others.
Moving from employee to business owner
My autistic brain is constantly active. Self-employment has been the single best way to give my brain something to chew on constantly while also sustaining me as well as (hopefully) helping others. There is no barrier between me and the people I wish to serve, I can post anything at any time and do not have to attend boring/pointless meetings. I get to attend trainings that seem interesting (looking at you, autism and psychadelics training in January).
Although I am critical of attempts to view autism through the ableist lens of being a “superpower”, I do believe that my gifts and abilities were stifled by working for others and following agendas that I didn’t resonate with. I wasted many good years of my life simply collecting a paycheck and being frustrated with the inefficient structures under which I worked.
That being said, being an AuDHD (autistic-ADHD) business owner is not easy, I don’t have anyone to stop me if I impulsively make business decisions (thanks, ADHD) and it is hard to predict how much work I can handle at any given time due to the reality of being a multiply neurodivergent person. I’ve also had to be creative with how I market since in-person marketing is not for me.
What I’ve learned about marketing
My main marketing strategy has been to be as authentic as possible while managing RSD and my avoidant attachment style so that I don’t abandon my business the second I feel rejected. Since my business is literally based on helping people move toward health, authenticity, and what an unmasked autistic-friendly life could be like, I try to embody this as a professional. I want to unmask my business, my professional persona… I want to be the change I wish to see in the world (as corny as it sounds).
How I’ve managed finances
Since I started my business, I have worked to overcome my impostor syndrome and resistance to charge higher fees. Despite my specialty and the value of what I provide, it has been really challenging to raise my fees. I’ve landed on a fee I feel comfortable with that allows me to work less (20 clinical hours per week) and extend scholarships and other support to people who need to access the services I provide but cannot afford to pay the full fee.
Making my business sustainable for the long-term
The main reason I chose social work was due to my wish to dedicate my career to helping others. This has not changed and I hope to do this type of work for the rest of my life. This means that this business and the work I do needs to be sustainable. My brain craves novelty and growth so my plan is to continue to expand and grow my services to have enough variation to keep me engaged and inspired. I make sure to give myself at least 4 weeks off per year as well as limited working hours 20-25 (I currently work more than this but I technically don’t have to. I dedicate a lot of time to social media and I actually enjoy posting on social media a lot, it’s kind of cathartic).
My wishes for the future
My hope is to continue to grow My Autistic Therapist to run more support groups, expand the membership community, and potentially employ therapists since I am chronically full as the sole therapist/coach on staff… I also want to take on a more teaching/training role and help guide the next generation of autistic therapists to create their own practices and businesses that work for them. If my business keeps generating the revenue it does, I have a dream of opening up an autistic retreat center with equine therapy and goat yoga.