Around 1000 people per month search Google for jobs for blind people. With this in mind, we are delighted to be able to share a truly inspirational home working story from a US-based freelancer with some fantastic writing credentials, who also happens to be registered blind.
My home working experiences began when my first career ended. I was a social worker in a small rural town, but was born with a visual impairment, RP, that caused me to be legally blind at age 40. RP took my best vision, and my driver’s license, which brought my beloved social work career to a screeching halt.
Until then, I was a child/adult protection social worker, a hospice social worker, and a mental health social worker. It had been the fulfilment of what I believed I was meant to do, and I’d earned two degrees for it.
When I had to retire, I felt a little lost and uncertain. What would I do now? I couldn’t see as well, and I wasn’t allowed to drive. I had a 14-year-old son to rear by myself. His father had died a few years earlier in a car accident. Besides a disability payment, how would I earn extra income? What would I do now to find fulfillment? Without a driver’s license, was there any way I could find work to do from home?
Jobs for blind people – based on long-term passions
The answer came through the hobbies I’d practised while growing up. Even though I’d had poor vision from birth, with my first pair of glasses at the age of two, I was always into reading, drawing, and taking pictures with a camera. There is a family photo of me with a camera strung around my neck.
Little did I know at that young age that those interests would turn into a second career in the arts.
During those first few weeks of retirement, it was first God, and then the arts, that I turned to. Could I turn my hobby of writing into a career? I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but I had a computer and knew I had to give it a try.
From the computer in my living room, I began to query magazines and websites online, using the same query letter over and over: “Dear So-and-So, I’m a new writer who lives in Kentucky, and I’m wondering if you’d be interested in considering my article for possible publication.”
That was the extent of my query, back then. I wrote about the familiar subjects of my social work career—family issues, social problems, self-improvement ideas. My first published article was “10 Tips for Summertime Sitters”, which was published in a Sunday School magazine for $25.
I was elated, and I had my answer: Yes, I could have a second career as a freelance writer, and I’ve been one since 2002.
Earnings as a freelance writer
The pay for someone home working, especially writers, can vary so much, because each publication is different, and has a different budget. That Sunday School magazine compensated $25, but I’ve received a wide range of pay from various publishers over the years. Some $50 per piece, some $100, others $250, and on up to $500. The most I’ve been paid for an article was $1500. When you work from home, you appreciate each amount. I needed the $25 paychecks as much as the $250 paychecks.
Keeping records for tax purpose is important when you’re a freelancer. The checks can add up, and then there are PayPal costs to factor.
I treated my writing job as seriously as I had my social work job. Always enjoying a routine, I started in the morning at my computer with a cup of coffee or tea, and queried or wrote all day, sometimes into the night. But with freelancing comes flexibility of schedule, so if you need to run an errand, cook a meal, or fetch the mail, you can make time to do this.
Flash forward to 2013. More vision loss meant that I couldn’t sketch any longer, and I was trying to find a way to let it go, which was painful. Art had always been a big part of my life. I’d taken 4 years of art classes in high school, and another 2-3 years of art classes in college. When it came to electives, it was art that I chose.
When I mentioned online that I’d have to give art up for good, an acquaintance of mine suggested finger painting, as it was something I could do intuitively.
I didn’t believe it could work. The intuitive part, yes, but the artistic part? I’d been a portraitist with a Sharpie, not a painter of any sort. It wasn’t something I’d really done.
But like writing, I decided to give it a try. To my amazement, people told me that my finger paintings were pretty and that I should try to sell them somehow. There were a few art shows and street sales, but it was difficult to arrange transportation for all of the events I wanted to attend.
As a writer, I knew that publications purchased artwork as well as written work. So, armed with that thought, I began to query publications about my artwork—mostly literary and art publications, and this is how my career as a professional artist began from home.
I did what worked best for me. Transportation didn’t work out for me, but I could definitely sell my artwork from my home computer.
Near the end of 2013, I’d completed all of the finger paintings that I cared to, and had a collection that I could call my own.
Moving into photography
I was still writing, but my thoughts turned to photography as well, thanks to an online Ansel Adams documentary. I would continue to lose vision, so if I were ever going to be any sort of fine art photographer at all, I had to do it now, while I had some vision left. It was a dream so secret, so precious, I hadn’t even allowed myself to think it as a legally blind person.
Growing up, I’d always wanted to take meaningful nature photographs like Ansel Adams. His black and white images were breathtaking to me. But my weak vision had prevented me from practising photography properly—in a darkroom, with chemicals. I couldn’t see in a darkroom. I couldn’t even read the settings on a camera. So I buried the dream and settled for family snapshots with a disposable camera.
But in 2013 I heard how easy it was to use a point-and-shoot camera, and I had a 47-inch monitor that made viewing images a little easier. Could I do it? What would people say?
I ordered my first professional camera in the fall of 2013–afraid to try it out, but did so with the encouragement of my son.
Once I realised that it truly was point-and-shoot, requiring little vision on my part, I gathered courage and took hundreds of photos, then relied on my former art education and own sense of style to choose which pictures I would keep for my collection.
As with writing, and then finger painting, I began to find work at home as a photographer, which began with an online portfolio, and then queries to art and photography publications.
No Ansel Adams, but this secret dream of mine became a reality.
I’ve grown to realise that my visual impairment has a lot to do with the kind of work and art that I do, and the way that I do it. Without RP, I’m not sure I would have or could have been a professional writer, artist, photographer, or work-at-home freelancer.
We thank Tammy for sharing her incredible story with us, and hope that at least some of the many people who search for jobs for blind people find this case study and are as inspired by it as we are. If you have a similar story to share, please let us know in the comments.
Tammy Ruggles is a legally blind freelance writer, photographer, and artist. She began working at home at her computer in 2002 on a part-time basis, and is still writing today. Her first paperback book, Peace, was published by Clear Light books in 2005, and she has many Kindle books to choose from at Amazon.