From the outside, many only see the freedom or glamour associated with being your own boss. An experience best compared to a rollercoaster, keeping on top of things during ups and downs can be hard enough when you’re well. Experience a medical emergency or illness? More than life or death, it also impacts livelihood.
Free at Last
I’ll never forget April 20, 2012. It was a Friday. I’d been miserable in a new job for two months (to the day!) and I knew that I needed to escape. After a long commute, it took only 20 minutes of sitting in that cubicle to write up my resignation letter, drop off my laptop and badge and hit the doors.
I knew the choice I was making wasn’t going to be easy. Both my parents owned their own businesses and I grew up seeing the sacrifice that came along. How they did it with a kid is beside me; I can barely keep an aloe plant alive. Earning money had never been a concern as I’d already been offered a freelance contract. I figured that insurance would be a bit more expensive, but not impossible. What I didn’t think about was the unexpected.
Expect the Unexpected
The unexpected that I had failed to think about wasn’t so much how I’d pay for getting sick. But was how I’d pay for having been sick. Sure insurance will help me cover going to the doctor, getting prescriptions or medical procedures. But what about the time and money lost from not being able to work? Most entrepreneurs or contingent workers think they are super heroes, often biting off more than they can chew. While they’re willing to work through sickness and health, they might not be able to.
Not everyone is on retainer. Hourly rates are a real thing. If you don’t work the hours; you don’t get the rate. Even retainers can be tricky if you are facing a long term illness. I mean, no one plans to get sick right? When you’re on a payroll, sick days are also paid days. When you’re the boss, you get more sick over the thought of lost income.
It was September of 2017 that I first learned my friend and fellow coworking industry contemporary, Matija Raos had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. The news alone was shocking. The realization I had beyond that rocked me to my core. Here was a vibrant, young 33 year old who had the world at his fingers. Successful and a leader in his industries and community, he had been the poster child for the freelancer life.
What hit me so hard was not the challenges he’d face through medical treatment. It was how he’d be able to get through the treatments when also struggling to cover the cost of living (besides medical treatment). That was the first time I felt fearful for being self-employed. A testament to the person Matija was, a global community raised over $50,000 USD in just days to help him with such expenses.
Turning a Memory into a Legacy
Sadly, we lost Matija this year. In memory of his tireless work advocating for freelancers and inspired by the campaign raised for him, The European Coworking Assembly has established an emergency relief fund in his name. This fund will provide stipends to those in medical need as requested by both individuals and coworking space operators on behalf of their member in need.
The first fundraiser for this fund has been inspired by the growing trend of purposeful travel. This year I met a couple backpacking while raising money for entrepreneurship training in third world countries. I also had the honor of joining my friend Ed Pizza in raising money for Give Kids the World by riding every Walt Disney World ride in one day. Yes, really.
You’re Doing What in India?
Before Matija’s passing I’d already committed to participate in the Rickshaw Challenge. For a decade now, teams have been participating in this rally, driving 1,000km over 10 days through India…all in a rickshaw. My friend Matthias from Coworking Bansko had convinced me by suggesting we stop at different coworking spaces along the way. I was sold.
Like it or not, death certainly has a way of waking you up or making you realize what’s truly important. That’s when I decided that I needed to find a way to make what was already going to be a fun adventure have some purpose as well.
Check out the master post where I’ll be documenting every day of this adventure…
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The post Help Freelancers and Independent Workers in Need was first published on Coworkaholic.