It doesn’t pay to be sick.

When you have a chronic illness, generating income can be difficult. For some, it’s impossible. Living with constant pain and constant fatigue is stressful enough; not being able to pay the bills shouldn’t be an added issue — but it usually is. Because in addition to all of your usual stuff — mortgage, insurance, car payments, utilities, etc. — you’re also burdened with ever-increasing medical bills.

What an utter absence of anything resembling a blessing!

How do you live with a chronic invisible illness and make income? How do you provide for your family if your quality of life prevents you from working?

This has been a huge struggle for me since I was diagnosed with Lupus four years ago. Working is made so much harder by pain, fatigue, and brainfog, along with regular stomach problems, frequent colds and sinus infections (Lupus compromises your immune system), and countless other “little things” that add up to a whopping big mountain standing between me and the ability to pay the bills.

For many of us, office work is out of the question. There are several days a month when I’m completely unable to function — and I never know when one of those days is going to strike. How can I be counted on to work regular 9-to-5 hours in that situation? No employer in the world is going to be terribly understanding when you don’t show up to work.

There’s also retail, which typically requires standing on your feet all day and interacting with customers in a pleasant way. The standing part is not possible for me and most other chronic illness patients; and I can’t speak for you, but when I’m having a bad day physically, it’s just not possible to fake warmth and pleasantness. And you don’t even want to be around me when I’m on Prednisone!

So… Short of attempting the nightmare that is the application for disability (a loaded topic for another day), what can you do?

Personally, I’m always looking and praying for that One Big Idea. The thing that will turn our situation around. Something I can do, right now, that will make an immediate and profound impact on my family’s crushed-under-debt finances. And there are options and possibilities. You have to be careful, though. There are tons of opportunities out there, but too many of them will pay you far less than you’re worth.

Here are some of my favorites, all of which can be done exclusively from home. The best part: there’s no entry fee for any of them.


YouTube is not what it used to be. Sure, you can still upload any video you want, but it’s a serious business now. There’s big money to be made on YouTube if you can attract a large enough following. There are tons of vloggers and video creators who make their entire living on YouTube — and many of them are rolling in it.

Pros: Just look at the trending videos to see that anyone can create a video that millions of people will watch.

Cons: Consistent posting of videos is required if you intend to be successful, as is good equipment like a quality camera and powerful editing software.


Whatever you’re good at, someone out there will pay for it. Fiverr lets you charge five bucks a pop for performing simple tasks.

Pros: Fiverr is a brilliant idea, and its system couldn’t be simpler.

Cons: You’ll need a truly unique skill or idea to stand out from the crowd.


Crafty? If you can create handmade goods — decor, clothes, accessories, etc. — Etsy is the best place to sell your stuff.

Pros: A huge customer base comes already built in.

Cons: Like most everything else on this list, the challenge will be attracting customers within a very crowded market.


People are always interested in learning new skills to broaden their horizons or create their own businesses. Skillshare is a for-pay website where anyone can create an educational course about pretty much anything. Courses consist primarily of instructional videos, but often there will be downloadable documents and templates, as well. You get paid based on how many people take your course.

Pros: It’s such a simple, smart business model, it’s hard to believe no one thought of it before. Skillshare’s system and user portal are silky smooth, easy to use, and beautiful to look at.

Cons: As with YouTube, the hard part is making quality video content. You’ll need top of the line recording and editing equipment to make your course worthwhile.

Write an eBook (or Blog)

Everybody knows that blogs are a big deal online. You’re reading one right now. Monetizing them can be challenging, but it is doable. An easier way of creating income for writers is instructional ebooks. You write it, publish it on Amazon, Nook, iBooks, etc., and you’re good to go. As I said before, whatever it is that you’re good at, there are people in the world who will pay to learn from you how to do it.

(Did you know that many great ebooks started out as blog content?)

Pros: If you’re a writer, creating an ebook won’t be much of a challenge. It will probably even be fun! It’s a once-and-done project, too, though you’ll want to put some time and effort into promotion.

Cons: Amazon and Barnes & Noble have online systems for self-publishing, and both of them are criminally clunky and unreliable. It’s as if they were built by people who utterly despise ebooks, writers, and words.

Create T-Shirts

The specialty t-shirt market is booming. There are dozens of websites where you can find unique tees these days, many of them populated with designs created by talented artists. You don’t have to be a gifted artisan to create a successful t-shirt, though. Zazzle, Cafe Press, and others make it easy to create a delightful t-shirt design. Most of these places let you put your words or images on other kinds of products, too.

Pros: Inventory and shipping are not your responsibility. They’re handled entirely by the website.

Cons: The website takes a not-small percentage of your profits.

Sell Your Photos

Right now, somebody somewhere needs a photo you already have. Take your most artsy or beautiful photos and turn them into cash by uploading them to smartphone apps like Snapwire, Agora, Foap, and others. They’ll make your image available to publishers, who pay a royalty fee to use it. Anyone can sell their pics, and they’re treated like any other product: you get paid based on how many people pay to use your photo.

Pros: With just about every app I’ve tried, it couldn’t be easier to upload and post your photos. Look on your own camera or phone and chances are, you’ve already got at least a handful of pictures that are unique, beautiful, and potentially valuable.

Cons: People looking for stock photos, like print magazines or big-name websites, tend to need very specific niche imagery. Matching what you have to what they need can be a serious challenge. Don’t expect to make big bucks at this unless you’re a pro.

Create an App

I know that unless you’re a programmer, the very thought of this seems like an impossible task. But hear me out.

Apple has made a priority of teaching programming to anyone who wants to learn. To that end, they’ve created this amazing iPad app called Swift Playgrounds (“Swift” is Apple’s app language) that subversively teaches you the principles of coding in the form of a fun, clever, user-friendly video game. It’s a free download, and literally anyone can pick up programming skills by using it.

Pros: Finally, learning how to make apps is accessible to anyone. You don’t have to have a degree in computer programming. You just need an idea.

Cons: You have to have an iPad. Swift Playgrounds is not an overnight investment; expect to spend weeks if not more learning the fundamentals of Swift. Fortunately, the game is so cute and fun to play, you won’t mind.

Do Small Tasks

Head over to Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online system where anyone can sign up to perform quick, easy tasks like proofreading a product listing or giving an honest opinion. You’ll get paid for each one you complete, and if you’re efficient, you can easily accomplish dozens in a single day. Also see: Field Agent, Easyshift, Gigbucks, Task Army, and more.

Pros: No prerequisite skills required. If you have a computer with an Internet connection or a smartphone, you can perform any of these tasks.

Cons: The majority of available tasks pay very small amounts of money. Some pay more, some pay as little as a penny. So you’ll need to accomplish hundreds of well-paying tasks to see any significant income.