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Hannah Martin from Talented Ladies Club gives some advice on how to start up your own business.
With the cost of living rising fast and pay rises dwindling far behind, it’s no surprise that so many people are choosing to start their own businesses, especially mums.
Life as an employed mum can be tough. If you’re lucky you’ve managed to negotiate flexible working, but for many women, your life is a delicate balancing act between childcare and your job. And one that often leaves you exhausted.
For many mums, starting their own business is a no-brainer. You can usually work during the hours that suit you (and your children) from home, doing something you enjoy and are good at, without needing to ask permission for time off. And after negotiating with a stubborn toddler over practically everything, handling the most difficult customer seems a breeze.
That said, you can’t ignore the fact that children DO come with restrictions. And if you are considering launching a new business, you’ll need to be clever in getting around them – and even turning them into positive opportunities.
To help you get started, Hannah Martin from Talented Ladies Club has a few suggestions on how you can make your business work when you’re a mum.
Work when you can
As much as you may asuume you can work when you like when you’re your own boss, you’ve still got to keep your customers happy if you want repeat business – and this means being on hand to respond to queries and fulfilling orders or delivering a service.
So it’s important to identify times you can work and make the most of them. The obvious restrictions are childcare – when can you reasonably steal a chunk of time to work on your business? If your baby or toddler is in childcare, or your child is at school then you’ve got a good structure to work around.
But even if you’re not lucky enough to have childcare organised, you can still work when your baby or toddler is napping, or find a local friend and suggest you swap childcare favours.
You can also take advantage of your natural biorhythms. If you’re a morning person, you can grab a couple of precious hours of work time by setting your alarm earlier and getting up when the house is quiet. If the thought of this fills you with dread, you may be better squeezing in some work time in the evenings, after the kids are in bed.
As a self-employed business owner you have no boss setting you deadlines and demanding you meet them. Just a customer expecting their order or service to be delivered on time – or you won’t get paid. So you need to be extremely self-disciplined (especially if, as a mum, your opportunities to work are limited).
This means setting times you can work, and sticking to them, even if a friend calls round for a coffee, or phones you for a chat. And don’t even think about ‘just checking Facebook. In fact, many business mums turn off their phones and issue themselves a complete internet ban when working, reducing any temptation to be led astray.
One way to make sure you meet your deadlines is to work back from them and decide what work needs to be completed when – then stick to your plan. If all else fails, realising that you need to start work NOW or you’ll miss the deadline can help.
Network when you can
As a businesswoman you need to get out and meet people to find new customers or useful contacts, but as a mum your opportunities to network are pretty limited. Or are they? In fact, as a mum you have unlimited opportunities to meet new people every week at baby and toddler groups. So make the most of them, and get out and meet as many mums (and dads) in your area as possible.
You’ll be surprised at the wealth of talent that’s often gathered at baby and toddler groups. And once you’ve got beyond the initial chat, it’s a good chance to find out what your new acquaintance does for a living – and explain what you do. They may know someone who needs your products or services, or at least bear you in mind for the future.
If your children are past the toddler group stage, there are still plenty of opportunities to strike up chats with other parents who may be useful or have contacts that can help. So try to venture out beyond your close friends at kids’ parties and at the school gates (you could even join your school’s PTA) and turn having children into a great networking opportunity.
Reach out on social media
Professional networking opportunities aren’t completely out of the picture just because you have a young child either. Even if it’s tough to physically get out of the house child-free, you can reach the whole world through social media.
Twitter in particular is a fantastic way to showcase your offering and connect with potential new customers. Keep an eye on any local networking hours, or relevant national business hours, and start joining them regularly. Be generous in helping others and you’ll soon find that people are keen to help spread the word about you too.
It’s also worth looking out for professional LinkedIn groups you can join. You may not find customers directly through them, but you can share advice and support with other small business owners, and maybe pick up some useful tips.
Make sure you’re visible online
You may have the best business in the world, but if no one knows about you then you won’t get much work. So ensure you have a good online presence. Get a website – even a simple one will do and tell everyone about your talents.
Even if you can’t afford (or know how to build) a website, a Facebook page costs nothing but can be a great place to let people know what you do and showcase some of your latest projects.
And don’t forget your LinkedIn profile. Ensure it’s up to date, get some great testimonials on it and make sure that it clearly lets potential new customers or useful contacts know what you do.
Turn your restrictions into opportunities
While being a mum may restrict you in some ways in business, it also offers opportunities. Not least the motivation to really tackle work when you get the chance (you have even less time to indulge in procrastination when you know your baby is going to wake up in 45 minutes).
So if you’re frustrated with your full time or flexible job and looking for a way to balance your ambitions and experience with your family, maybe it’s time to give working for yourself a go? At the very least, your boss is going to be more child-friendly!
*Hannah Martin is co-founder and editorial director of Talented Ladies Club – a magazine-style website with daily inspiration and advice for working, freelance and business mums.