Being an Autistic Small Business Owner
Being a small business owner is hard, but when you add autism to it, it gets far more complicated. This is at least partially because one of the vital jobs of a small business owner is to network and schmooze with other, local small businesses and the local community. As someone on the spectrum, I struggle with what the “correct” way to handle personal interactions is. I also find that I’ve gotten backlash for doing something that follows the laws and is simply factual.
So, for those on the spectrum who are also interested in running your own business, make sure to look into the business practices you need to follow, but also be prepared for a lot of social interaction. Know that, sometimes, you will do everything you think is right and that others will react poorly to it (up to and including harassing messages from other local businesses).
If you have the money, hiring someone else to do your social media can be super helpful. Social media is vital to modern small businesses, but it requires knowing the minds of your current and future customers. You have to get into their mindset and appeal to them specifically. I know I found this very difficult and the posts that I thought were so great received very little interaction.
Along those lines, I found that having others read over posts/reviews before I post them and to talk through decisions (such as calling the police) before doing it helped a lot. Also, if you are not sure if what you are going to do is going to help or hurt (or be neutral), then put it aside and wait a day before going back to the decision.
Even with all of that, I have received less-than-pleasant backlash. So, unfortunately, be prepared for other business owners to not understand your choices and decisions.
Now, with all of that said, being on the spectrum can be a boon for owning your own business. Our way of studying everything and making sure everything follows the “rules” for small businesses can be very helpful. Some of the rules I found that are essential:
Be professional and calm, especially when posting publicly, no matter how you really feel
Make and keep to a business budget
Separate your business and personal finances
If you’re going to hire anyone else, try to make sure you have at least one person who can act as a “translator” to NT employees, if necessary
And, even though it may cause problems, I found that it was easiest and the least stressful when I was true to myself. Even when others reacted poorly, by being my (professional) self, I was able to handle what came at me and continue on. I knew that I had done what was “right,” even if it was not received appropriately and, for me, that made it so I could continue on.