Do I REALLY have to go back to work? How to give self-employment a fair shot! Part 1

Between creating the shows, marketing, meetings and my daughter, I don’t usually have time to write blogs, but I wrote this recently for an event I was giving a talk at. Unfortunately, due to the snow, I wasn’t able to do it – so instead I thought it would make a great blog, perfect for anyone considering becoming self-employed over maternity leave! Over the weekend I will then be following this up with a super case study blog from Sophie at The Night Feed, who set up her business last year during her maternity leave. Sophie is a great example to get inspired from!

I became self-employed straight after University and it was one of the best decision I’ve ever made! I have learnt SO much over the years and so here are a few things I thought you should know if you’re thinking about taking the plunge into the World of self-employment! 

When you set up everything is up in the air – you have no security and the only way to bring in money is to somehow MAKE money. YOU. YOURSELF. NO-ONE ELSE. You are the creator of your own destiny. Such a cliché but if there’s ever a time you can REALLY use it then it’s now!

So I started out after University selling vintage stock and running events in the vintage World, and this was my main focus all the way until the end of 2016. I was then desperate to bring to Norfolk a quality, fun, interactive and aesthetically professional and inspiring event for my new love … Mums, Dads, babies and toddlers! I’d been to a few events around and I’d also been to the big show at Olympia and the difference was incredible!

But why! Why is Norfolk often so behind – it shouldn’t be as we have so much talent and so many creatives!

So The Parent and Baby Show was born! My branding, imagery, colours, website are all key to the show, as essentially we’re not a baby blue, baby pink, fairy princess and tractors kind of show! We encompass all things different and fun and innovative………..(we have over 16 workshops and talks, not to mention all the other activities and features) – which can be found here.

So my first key golden nugget for anyone thinking of going self-employed is that if you are to succeed then you must have an idea. If you don’t have a set idea and a clear vision then it’s going to be really difficult. Your mind is already tired and totally baby consumed, so add into the mix being newly self-employed, the worries this can bring and the fact you’ve actually got to start working earlier than when many of your new mummy friends go back to work, It’s not the perfect recipe for success – BUT done well and done correctly could be incredibly empowering, rewarding and the start of a totally new life!

Here are my pros and cons of becoming self-employed over maternity leave. There’s no right or wrong answer here, if you were to decide to go for it then it boils down to individual preferences and what you, as a family choose to put first. One mums perfection is another mums nightmare!

As a positive kinds girl I’ll start with the Pros…

  1. You can do what you want, when you want! – It’s true you can! You can tailor your work around your life suddenly AND be there with your children to watch them grow and never miss their milestones.
  2. When you’re tired you can work in your PJS (!!!) which is pretty darn good for a new/tired mum … no need to get up after 2 hrs sleep with a baby going through separation anxiety all night, get changed, drop them off at nursery and get to work, all before 830am.
  3. You can work ANYWHERE – outside, in a café, on the beach, up a mountain.
  4. You don’t have to plan holiday days – you can go on last minute trips away, or camping during the week when everywhere is a little quieter and more affordable.
  5. You have control and you don’t have to seek approval for anything – this is very empowering and means you get work done much quicker than working for a company.

The Cons…

  1. It can be lonely – you’re not constantly surrounded by work colleagues and there’s no office party or work drinks to look forward to.
  2. You have no security anymore.
  3. Setting up is costly – you need websites, business cards or flyers, a small marketing budget possibly, technology to work from – do you need photoshop or a laptop which isn’t going to crash every 2 minutes?
  4. You will disagree with people over time, you may come up against different personalities and you have to deal with how to cope with these. And you have to do this on your own – you don’t have a business or colleagues backing you and you do end up taking things much more personally than what you ever would have done.

So in a nutshell that hopefully gives you a bit more of an insight into the kind of questions you need to ask yourself before you take the plunge.

Next I thought I’d cover general tips and advice for starting a new business during maternity leave, and I guess – anytime in life:

  1. Know what you want to do – have a clear plan and vision, write a business plan if you’re seeking out investment. If you don’t need investment I actually wouldn’t bother with a business plan as people get hung up on these much too much! Instead, write out: Your initial idea, it’s name, ideas for it’s branding, website thoughts, colours, fonts – Pinterest wil help you with all of this. Find a designer and a web developer or just use online resources such as canva and any online website tool. But whatever you do – get this sorted first as you don’t want to start approaching clients, or going to events with no name or brand or somewhere you can direct people to. If you’re really just testing the waters don’t worry with a website initially – just use social media!
  2. Only start getting out into the public when you’re confident in your ability to sell yourself and your service or product. BUT do push yourself as you will never get this confidence until you start meeting people and spreading the word! Businesses often thrive when customers can meet the face behind the business – so don’t hide, get networking and contact everyone and anyone!
  3. You will have to do a lot for free to start with! If you’re offering a service then find somewhere you can go and offer tasters – for example if you’re offering massages – go to events and do taster massages, go into businesses and offer your services for free … the more people you meet the better! There will then come a time when you’re confident enough to start charging and making a living from your work!
  4. Be approachable and friendly – this is so key! People love people … and if you’re not lovable then people won’t invest in you. Chances are, your business idea is already being done by somebody in the area – so you’ve got to give people a reason to choose YOU! And that doesn’t necessarily always have to be because you’re cheaper, or more flexible … it can also be because people get on with you the best and enjoy you helping them!
  5. Accounts – so many people find these hard to keep on top of, especially when business picks up … initially create a spreadsheet of what you’re spending and what’s coming in, then as things grow you can develop this to help keep track!
  6. A good point for social media – don’t cover your accounts too thinly … if you don’t have time for every account then focus on fewer accounts and do them well!
  7. Depending on what business you’re running you will need insurance, PLI Insurance, hygiene certificates … there’s lots here you need to consider and people will always ask you for it, so make sure you have this covered!
  8. Lastly, don’t try and run before you can walk … Rome wasn’t build in a day so don’t expect too much from yourself! Use your time over maternity leave when you’re bringing in money still to develop your idea and get everything into place!

That’s about it for now … look out for Part 2 over the weekend from Sophie!