Business Plus Baby: Ten things you need to know if youâ€™re starting a business and have a baby
Helen Lindop of www.businessplusbaby.com
Note Throughout this e-book Iâ€™ve referred to business mums, but the advice could equally apply to business dads or anyone who is starting a business as a primary carer of young children. Women are usually the primary carers of their children, which is why this book is written with mums in mind. When I talk about the limitations that having children can have on your working life, I've assumed that you've chosen to run a business as a means of spending more time with your children and want to do so with minimal childcare. With the appropriate support and childcare, working mums should have exactly the same career opportunities as everyone else.
Content ÂŠ Helen Lindop (businessplusbaby.com) 2011 Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Helen Lindop (businessplusbaby.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Version 3, June 2011
Contents “Start a business as a mum to a baby? I must be crazy!” ............................ 2 1. Don’t worry if your head is spinning .......................................................... 3 2. Don’t rush into the first business opportunity you find .............................. 4 3. Don’t burn your bridges just yet ................................................................ 5 4. Get some support ...................................................................................... 6 5. Be realistic about how long it will take to earn an income ........................ 7 6. Decide what you want from the business ................................................. 8 7. Think about childcare ................................................................................ 9 8. Love your work ........................................................................................ 10 9. Time management– it's a different world now!........................................ 11 10. Get the Mumpreneur Mindset ............................................................... 12 And finally... ................................................................................................. 13 About Helen ................................................................................................. 13 Would you like another e-book?.................................................................. 14
“Start a business as a mum to a baby? I must be crazy!” Yet this is becoming a popular choice for many women - and they are successful, too.
Maybe you had every intention of going back to your full-time job after having your baby. But as the end of your maternity leave gets closer, you find you're not willing to leave your baby in childcare five days a week.
If you have already gone back to work after your maternity leave ended, you’re probably exhausted and feeling guilty; both for not spending time with your child and for not giving as much attention to work as you would like. And on top of all that, you’re spending a huge chunk of your salary on childcare.
Perhaps your second child has just arrived and childcare costs are so high there’s simply no point in going back to work.
Maybe you intended to be a stay-at-home-mum but you need something more.
(I’ve done all three - you can read my story in ‘new mum returns to work – how it was for me' Part 1 and Part 2.) Surely there has to be a better way? I wouldn’t want you to think that starting a business as a mum is always an act of desperation. Solving the problem of earning an income while spending time with your children is the starting point for many mums, but it’s a positive choice too. Many of us have been to university and then had ten-year careers before our babies arrive, so starting a business gives us the mental stimulation that we seek when caring for small children. Nor would I want you to think that mums are running little hobby businesses for fun. We may work part-time hours, but we take our businesses as seriously as any other business owner. Running a business around small children is definitely not an easy option, but then neither is a nine-to-five job with a nursery run at each end of the day. So, you want an income and you don’t want to give up work but you refuse to compromise on the time you want to spend with your small children. You have an idea that becoming your own boss could be the answer. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
1. Don’t worry if your head is spinning
If you feel a bit of a wimp because you don't want to leave your baby and return to your full-time career, relax. You’re not alone. It’s not surprising that so many of us feel this way. Considering most of us spend twenty-four hours a day with our babies when on maternity leave and have had more than our fair share of hormones right from the day we got pregnant, there’s no wonder it’s hard to leave them. If this is your second (or third or more) baby, your head isn’t going to be spinning as much, but it’s still a busy, tiring time. The new baby will have an impact on your family finances which will affect your work choices, especially if childcare for two children swallows virtually all of your salary. As if having a baby isn’t enough of a life-changing experience, you’re now contemplating a big career change too. You’re bound to experience a little stress as you adjust to all the changes.
2. Don’t rush into the first business opportunity you find The first business opportunity you’ll find may well be direct selling or a party plan. This is because people who are already direct selling or running party plans earn commission if they recruit you to their team. You may be tempted by a franchise early on, too. Like direct selling and party plans, someone will be making money from selling you a business. You will need to go out and find most business opportunities whereas a franchise may find you! If you’ve got a baby you’ll be short on time, energy and usually money too. The chances are you have no experience of working for yourself and that’s daunting, even more so at this time in your life. It’s tempting to go for a business that’s ready-made, where someone else has ironed out the bumps for you. Although you need to be on your guard for dodgy direct selling schemes and franchises, there are many entirely honest businesses out there. I’m not saying that you should avoid franchises, party plans and direct selling. What I am saying is that they don’t work for everyone. Just because the business has worked for someone else, it doesn’t mean that it will match your skills, motivation or geographical area. Nobody can take away that new business learning curve completely. Even with the best support in the world, you’ll have a lot to learn if your business is to be a success. The risk is that you shell out a lot of money - up to a few hundred pounds for direct selling and a few thousand or more for a franchise- and then find your heart isn’t in it. Or you may feel restricted by the rules of the franchisor and want to do it your own way. There is a lot of business support out there, much of it free. Did you know you can get free training on starting and running a business from Business Link? Or that you can create your own website (even if you know nothing about web design) with a shopping cart for £20 for the first year? You will find you can turn talents you already have to something completely new in your business, so don’t let a lack of confidence rush you into the first opportunity you find. Franchises, direct selling and party plans do work well for some people. But they aren’t an easy option or a fast way to make money. Before you sign up, do your research – do you love the product or service? Is the franchise good value for money? How much training and support is provided? How many sales will you need to make to earn back the start-up fee? Don’t take your recruiter’s word for it, work it out for yourself. 4
3. Don’t burn your bridges just yet If you’re still on maternity leave, don’t hand in your notice just yet. As a parent you’re entitled to request flexible working from your employer, who has to take your request seriously (See Directgov for more). Keeping your job on a part time basis will give you a steady income, albeit a reduced one, while you work on your business. And you can hand in your notice at any time if you change your mind. Plus, if you find that part time employment suits you right now and you want to delay the business for a couple of years, then you can take your time. If you’ve already handed in your notice, if your flexible working request was refused or you lost your job while on maternity leave, don’t panic. The upside of not being in employment, scary though that might be, is that you’ll have more attention to give to your new business.
4. Get some support Running a home-based business can be a lonely life, as can being a mum. Add the two together and you can see how connecting with other people is essential for your sanity as well as your success! The good news is that it's easier than ever to get to know other business mums online. Feel free to look me up on Twitter (if you follow me I'll follow you!) or Facebook. You can also try forums for business mums such as Mumsclub or the working for yourself forums at Netmums. Maybe you fancy getting to know small business owners who aren't necessarily parents? You could try Everywoman or UK Business Labs. Online networking is great, but it's good to get out and meet people face-to-face too. Networking groups for business mums are being set up all over the country right now and they are a fantastic source of support. For other face-to-face opportunities, have a look around local papers and websites for chambers of commerce, enterprise agencies and university schools of business. Many offer networking groups, workshops and training that are low cost or even free. Being a parent of young children can be tough, even if you're not running a business. You can build up your new parent support system by getting to know other new parents.â€“ try toddler groups or your local Sure Start centres. If you're lucky enough to have family nearby, ask them for help. A supportive partner is a real bonus, although not essential.
5. Be realistic about how long it will take to earn an income Be prepared to take longer than you expect to bring in an income. Businesses usually take longer than you think to be profitable, with young children in the picture it could take even longer. Some businesses will bring in the cash faster than others. If you have a skill that you can turn to freelance work, you might be earning within a couple of months – although this will depend on your marketing efforts. If you’re developing a new product, the process of design, manufacture and then marketing is likely to take a year or more. Put together a budget and see if your family can cope without you earning for a while. You may have done this before your baby was born, but priorities change and it’s amazing how much you can cut down if you really don’t want to go back to your old job. If you can live for a few months or a year without your salary, you’ll have breathing space to set up a business. If you’re a few hundred pounds a month short of making ends meet, you can then focus on building a business that will bring in that sum of money for the first few years and then grow your business as your children grow.
6. Decide what you want from the business Most businesses have one aim – to make money. As a parent, you’ll have two aims – to make money and to have time to spend with your children. So when planning your business, make sure you design it so that it fits you and your family. Questions to ask yourself are:
How many hours a week do I have to spend on my business and when? o Evenings, weekends, nap times, school hours?
How much money do I need to earn per month?
How far am I prepared to travel from home? o Does my business need access to a car? Do I have access to a car during business hours?
What systems can I put in place to cover the hours I'm not working? o A telephone answering service? Communicating mainly by email? Will this be acceptable to my clients?
What childcare is acceptable to me and for how many hours a week? o Are a couple of afternoons a week OK? Or do I want to do it with no childcare at all? What can I afford?
How much rest time do I need? o If you look after a toddler all day, then work every evening and all weekend you'll be exhausted pretty quickly. If you never have any family time with your partner, your relationship will suffer. o If you’re being woken up in the night by your baby don’t forget to allow some time off in the day to rest.
7. Think about childcare The whole point of you starting a business as a mum is to spend more time with your children. But getting anything useful done with small children around is tricky! A few mums work when supervising their young children, but most find it virtually impossible. And most feel they aren't giving either their business or their children the attention they deserve if they try to do both at the same time. You can start your business by working while your baby is asleep – many of us do - but be realistic about how much work time this will give you or you’ll be kicking yourself with frustration. If you’re used to getting things done in a working environment, achieving anything with a young child around is very slow by comparison, but definitely worth the effort. If you're really struggling to get anything done, a few hours childcare each week could be a good option for both of you. As a business mum, you have more flexibility than employees when it comes to childcare – take a look at my post on childcare tips for more.
8. Love your work Finding work that you care about, enjoy and have a passion for may seem like a luxury right now, but it's important. There will be times when work is a hard slog, when you have to keep working late at night and times when you'll need to work when you'd rather be with your family. Unless you have a passion for your business, you won't be able to keep going. Passion alone isn't enough; you will need the right skills and a group of clients who want to buy what you are selling. But passion will give you the motivation to get through the tough times and repay you with a sense of satisfaction, pride and excitement in the good times. Don't just look at what you can do, look at what you want to do. If you were passionate about your business idea but you've lost that loving feeling, it doesn't have to mean it's time to give up. Are you simply tired and need a break? Maybe you need more support? (See page 6 for more on getting support).
9. Time management– it's a different world now! Time management as a business mum is completely different from what you will have known before. You'll be working around a small child's schedule - and a small child is a very demanding boss! (You may have noticed that although this is a book about starting a business with a baby, I've talked about working around small children. It’s amazing how fast babies turn into toddlers – by the time you're past the crazy first few months of a baby's life and can start to function again, there are only a few months left of babyhood. So it’s best to plan ahead if you can.) Unless you're using a lot of childcare, you'll need to be able to work productively an hour here and an hour there. You'll need to be able to keep your focus despite many distractions including poorly children, Facebook, daytime TV, tidying your house that has been trashed by your toddler (again), feeling shattered after being woken up in the night and friends asking you out for a coffee. Some distractions you can switch off or set aside, others will need you to drop your work and sort them out. You'll need to be able to switch from 'mum mode' to 'work mode' in seconds so you can pick up your work where you last left it. On the plus side there are a many time-draining activities that you will no longer have, such as meetings, office gossip, making tea for everyone in the office and travelling in rush-hour traffic. Being short of time can actually have its advantages. I’m more decisive than I was as a child-free self-employed person because I don’t have time to waste. I no longer spend time getting my website absolutely right, now I aim for completion rather than perfection. I’m more focused than I have ever been because I’m working to build a better life for my family. The trick is to make every hour you are working is super-productive – if you do this, you can get twice as much done in that hour as you did in your old job. And you’ll be surprised how all those hours add up.
10. Get the Mumpreneur Mindset Business mums tend to work in a different way from other business owners. I call this the ‘mumpreneur mindset’ and it has three key parts – focus, delegate and collaborate.
Focus To work around young children you’re going to need focus. You’ll need to be clear about what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to get there. There will many distractions along the way, so you’ll need to know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. When you face setbacks, you’ll need to be able to pick yourself up and move on.
Delegate Do you have tasks that you hate or are just not very good at? Why waste time struggling, why not delegate to another business mum? Within the business mum community you’ll find virtual assistants, bookkeepers and accountants, web designers, PR experts and many more. You don’t need to be making lots of money to outsource tasks. You can pay a teenage neighbour to help you pack boxes and take them to the post office from day one, for example.
Collaborate Chronic lack of time is something all business mums experience. By working together, business mums can achieve far more, and faster, than they ever could alone. When talking (online or off) with other business mums, think about how you could help one another. You could start with something simple like swapping website links or blog posts. You could work with a partner who has similar skills or completely different ones. Both could allow you to take on projects that you couldn’t manage alone, either due to a lack of time or expertise. Also, if you work with someone with similar skills, you’re working with your competitor instead of against her.
And finally... Please don't forget to enjoy your baby - she won’t be a baby for long. People have said that to me after a rough night and I’ve nodded and smiled sweetly through gritted teeth. But looking back, they were right. I’d like to wish you all the success in the world. You’re starting out on a journey that might be tough, but will shine a light on talents you never knew you had. It will develop you in a way that simply wasn’t possible in your old job. There’s a fabulous community of warm, energetic and creative business mums out there just waiting for you to join in. What are you waiting for?
About Helen I started businessplusbaby.com in 2009 when I couldn’t find the information I needed to get started as a business mum. Just over a year later my book Start a Family Friendly Business: 129 Brilliant Business Idea for Mums was published, co-written with Antonia Chitty of Family Friendly Working. In May 2011 I launched my e-course Earn What You Deserve as a Mumpreneur. Before that I’d been a trainer – both employed and freelance. I trained on a wide range of subjects from Microsoft Office to mentoring skills. I worked with clients from food manufacturers and IT services companies to community organisations and NHS staff, both face-to-face and online. During this time I also completed my life/business coach training with Coach U.
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