I’m a disabled copywriter and I talk about my disabilities in my marketing. In this post, I’m sharing the benefits of sharing your disability experience in your marketing as a disabled business owner, entrepreneur or freelancer.
But first, there’s a few things I want to explain.
Introduction and context that’ll help you get the most out of this post
I know people don’t always consider all the things that can get called a disability as disabilities. So just a reminder that when I talk about disability, I’m including all the things that could possibly refer to chronic illnesses, long-term health conditions, neurodiversity, mental illnesses, sensory impairments, physical disabilities and learning disabilities. And while I quite often just say disability, I know many people have more than one. I do too.
Similarly, while I use the term disabled business owner a lot, I know other people prefer the terms disabled entrepreneur or disabled freelancer. So yes, I’m talking to all of you.
This is the first in a series of posts about discussing your disability in your marketing. So while I’m kicking off with benefits, I’m conscious of and plan to address some of the concerns you may have around this.
Also, when I’m talking about including your disability in your marketing, I mean in a curated way. It might be a key part of your online platform, something that’s casually mentioned occasionally or something you discuss with clients when they’ve started working with you. How and when to discuss it and what you do and don’t share is another topic.
But you don’t owe people information about your disability. It’s completely up to you when and how you share that information.
Finally, a bit about me, in case you don’t know me. I’m a disabled copywriter specialising in working with disabled business owners and businesses who want to reach disabled audiences. I’ve been blind since birth and chronically ill with pain-based chronic illnesses since a few years ago. I have a lot of disabled friends and family. Prior to starting my business, I did a range of work that involved disability-related marketing, community engagement, media, education and advocacy.
And now, let’s get into the benefits of sharing your disability experience in your marketing.
Benefits of sharing your disability experience in your marketing
1. It allows you to be your full authentic self
For many of us being a disabled person has a big impact on our experiences, perspectives and skillset.
And that’s an important part of our experiences, just like any other identity such as being a business owner or being a woman. So talking about your disability in your marketing allows you to bring that experience to your work. For example, talking about my disabilities in my marketing enables me to write blog posts like this one.
If you’re not talking about your disability in your marketing you’re cutting out a lot of your experience and you can’t get too specific about certain things without sounding unusual.
I have done the whole not talking about my disability thing when I’ve been in situations online. And there are occasions when that’s useful. But I have genuinely mostly found that the costs of keeping it quiet outweigh the benefits.
And much of it comes back to authenticity.
It’s useful in marketing to be authentically yourself because it helps you find and connect with people who are a good character fit for you. This is why I encourage people to share a bit of something personal particularly on their about pages. Because when people work with small businesses, they’re looking for a personal connection. And that’s even more true about a service-based business where someone’s going to be working with you directly.
And our disabilities can have a big impact on the way we experience things so there may be stories and experiences involving our disabilities we can share that can help us connect with people who are a good character fit for us.
But also there can often be aspects of our disability experience that enable us to relate to other experiences. For example, as a chronically ill business owner, I have to plan for a level of unpredictability with my health. Similar unpredictability is something that business owners who are parents and carers deal with too. So that’s definitely been a bonding opportunity with other business owners who are parents and carers.
If you want to connect with people who will be a good character match for you, then being open about your disability to some extent may be useful.
2. You can attract customers who respect you and value your disability experience
By talking about your disability in your marketing, you’ll attract people who value you or at least don’t treat you inferiorly to how they treat other people because of your disability. And people who value the benefits that your disability experience brings.
One of my criteria for my ideal client, which is the type of client I want to work with, is the following.
People who know or are open to the idea that I as a disabled person can deliver a service that’s as good as or better than what a non-disabled person can deliver. I’m happy to answer questions about how I do certain things or how my access needs make my processes differ from that of non-disabled copywriters, so long as those questions are asked respectfully. But I want to work with people who won’t be consciously ableist and who will treat me with respect. And I don’t think that’s asking for much.
For me personally, there’s a strong correlation between people I’ve liked working with and people who know about my disability and are comfortable with it. And they haven’t always been people who knew lots about disability, they are sometimes just people who are open-minded enough to be comfortable with learning what they need to do to be inclusive and good at just treating me like a person.
3. You can share the direct benefits of your disability experience on your product or service
Yes, your experience as a disabled person will benefit your product or service.
For example, if you sell assistive technology for people who have the same disability as you, your experience is beneficial. It means you can curate a range of products you’ve tested yourself and know people with your disability would actually find useful. This would give customers a shortcut to products that someone with their disability has actually tried and likes. So it’s an advantage over the competition and something you can market.
Another example is if you teach disability inclusion, your lived experience can be valuable in educating people about disability. Because you can share your personal experiences of what being a disabled person is actually like for you.
Those are just a couple of benefits of many I could list. And by sharing your disability in your marketing, you can market those benefits to make you stand out from the competition to the right people.
4. You can share the indirect benefits of your lived disability experience on your product or service
As well as the direct experience it provides, there are other ways your lived disability experience improves the way you deliver your products and services.
For example, a lot of disabled people are creative and adaptable because we’ve had to dream up ways to make things accessible to ourselves. You may be good at transferring those skills to situations like solving customer problems or delivering aspects of your products or services creatively. And that’s beneficial to your customers.
The above is just one of many examples you can market as a benefit of working with you, if you include your disability in your marketing.
5. You can exclude customers who are very uncomfortable with or discriminatory towards disabled people
One of the concerns you may understandably have about discussing your disability in your marketing is that it will lose you customers. And honestly, it probably will.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you’re communicating confidently about your disability in a way that presents it as having a neutral or positive impact on your products or services, you’re setting yourself up to have relationships with people who are, at least, open to or indifferent about working with disabled people.
And you’re shutting out people who would become difficult or rude if they found out you were disabled.
When marketing, you can’t please everyone and you cannot hope to work with everyone. That’s why marketers talk so much about your ideal customer, ideal client or target market, which is the kind of customer you want to work with.
So, broadly speaking, you have a choice between 2 groups:
Group 1: People who are open to, indifferent about or enthusiastic about working with disabled people. These are potentially people who will value your disability experience and expertise as an asset and/or people who will work with you on disability related projects.
Group 2: People who are not comfortable around disabled people and would be discriminatory towards you if they knew you were disabled. People who have unconscious biases would be included in this group.
For me, my strong preference for working with group 1 means losing group 2 is worth it. On occasions when I have a bit of self-doubt and wonder if I should be talking about my disabilities so openly, this is the argument that always convinces me I’m on the right track.
Now, of course, unconscious biases are a concern. You’ll lose people who will make the decision not to buy from you for some reason that they’ve rationalised in their heads that’s unrelated but is actually at least in part because of your disability. Many of those people could be perfectly reasonable people to work with.
But potentially losing them is the price of all the benefits I’ve just discussed. And it’s a price only you can decide if you’re willing to pay.
However, it doesn’t have to be a straight yes or no decision. Choosing when you tell people about your disability can be important. If you’re happy not talking about your disability in the marketing you do to get customers, you could tell customers when they have already started working with you, such as in a how I work document, an email or on the phone. That way, you’re minimising the risk of losing customers due to unconscious biases, but still getting a relationship where you can be open about your experiences with people you work with or be honest about why you do things a certain way.
Conclusion: Should you share your disability experience in your marketing?
Honestly, that’s your call.
There are certainly loads of benefits to discussing your disability in your marketing, which I’ve discussed above. But there are also reasons you may not want to and potential obstacles to the benefits, which I’m planning to discuss in another blog post.
But I hope these points have helped you have a think about what’s right for you.
We often feel and get the impression from society that our disabilities are things we need to hide. And that can be a lot to work through.
I have done public facing stuff online where I’ve not talked about my disabilities and there’s always been a reason I felt that was the right choice. And in hindsight, if I could go back and talk about my disabilities more in those spaces, I would. But that’s my experience.
So I do encourage you to try and step away from what you feel society is telling you you should do. And instead think about what you’d prefer and what would make sense for you in your current business.
This is the kind of thing I can help you think about as a disabled business owner if you work with me. You don’t necessarily have to get me to write copy, we can just have a strategy session to discuss how and when you talk about your disability in your marketing.
If you want help figuring out what content marketing is right for you, this is something I could help you with in a strategy session. Please contact me for more information.
I also talked about this subject in more depth on a Facebook live for the Connected Spoonies Facebook group. Connected Spoonies is a Facebook group for chronically ill business owners. If you’re a chronically ill business owner, you can join the group by finding it on Facebook and answering the membership questions.
Got thoughts or questions about this? Any reasons to talk about your disability in your marketing you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram.