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Workingmums.co.uk gives some ideas on how to find a new flexible job or start a business in 2014.
What do you want for 2014? This is the time of year when people start thinking about new beginnings, whether that involves starting a new job, finding a job or starting a business. If you are thinking of changing your work this year to get a greater work life balance or to give yourself a new challenge, Workingmums.co.uk has some tips.
If you’re looking for a new job, but need one that is suitably flexible, where do you begin? The good news is that this April the Government is extending the right to request flexible working to all employees. This will not only mean that other employees will no longer be able to resent parents for having the right, but it could mean organisations need to have a wholesale rethink on their work culture.
Some of the most progressive employers already offer the right to request flexible working to all employees and several advertise openly that their jobs can be worked flexibly so if you are looking then research those who do so in your field and ask around through your social or other networks. Organisations like Workingmums.co.uk run award schemes that identify good practice. Check the websites of the firms you want to work for – look at their HR policy and check out issues like their attitudes to flexible working. Those that have good policies on flexible working are usually keen to advertise it and to list what they offer. Look out for companies that offer a range of different types of flexible working, from flexi-time and compressed hours to working from home and job shares. Be aware, though, that good policies on paper can be very different from good policies in practice so if you know people who already work at the organisation ask their opinion.
When you go for interviews, don’t be shy about asking about the company’s flexible work policies and how many staff work flexibly. It is probably a good idea to be upfront if flexibility is crucial to your decision to take the job, but don’t make it your opening question. You need to show that you are interested in the job itself. You may need to make a good business case for why you should do it on a flexible basis so be prepared and be realistic and don’t ask for a degree of flexibility which clearly will not work for the kind of job you are applying for.
If you have not agreed a flexible work pattern when you join as part of your contract of employment, it is advisable to go through a formal procedure for agreeing flexibility – which can be done six months after starting – so that your work pattern is written down and becomes part of your contract after you have worked it for more than a year. You can refer to this if the company subsequently seeks to change your hours which they would have to do in consultation with you or risk being in breach of contract.
And remember that you still have to have childcare covered for flexible options such as working from home.
Start a business
If, on the other hand, you fancy going it alone in 2014 and starting up your own business what is the best way to go about it? One way of reducing the risk is to start your business up on the side of your regular job so you can build it up gradually or you could jump right in.
In any event, you need to research your market well once you have decided on an idea for what you will do, for instance, through conducting online surveys through SurveyMonkey. Test your products – you can sell your products through sales platforms such as etsy.com.
You don’t have to come up with an original idea, which can be a stumbling block for many. You could look at franchise opportunities, which have the added benefit of being based on tried and tested business models, or at businesses such as direct selling or network marketing. Be realistic about your earning potential and research this thoroughly by talking to others who have done it.
Once you have a good idea of what your target market is, you can draw up a detailed business plan, scoping out an idea of what your potential earnings could be and how you will grow the business over the first 24 months. This will give you a blueprint which you can review at regular intervals.
Calculate how much money you will need to get your business off the ground, including everything from marketing, branding and technology. Learn about using social media to promote your business. Setting up your own website is very easy these days, through sites like wordpress.com, and organisations like Start Up Britain give advice on all aspects of starting a business. Think about where you will get funding to cover your costs, whether it is from your savings, friends and family, crowdsourcing, the bank or the Government.
Work out where your weaknesses are. You will need to have a general understanding of all aspects of the business, but it may save you money in the long term to invest in experts in areas such as PR and accountancy by farming these out to freelances.
Be prepared to work hard, particularly in the early days as you build your business up. Be realistic. Talk to other business owners. There are hundreds of business networks around so research one that suits you. It can help provide you with support and ideas. Find a mentor who can give you advice and encourage you through those moments when your confidence ebbs – the Government runs a business mentoring scheme, for instance.
Workingmums.co.uk has a huge number of profiles of women who have started businesses in a wide range of areas which can give you some ideas on the challenges they have faced and how they have worked their business around their families. To keep up to date about business developments and ideas, check the Workingmums.co.uk Business Zone regularly.