Is self-employment or employment best? An increasing number of working mums are considering the possibility of setting up their own business as technology makes this easier and cheaper than before. But how do you know if the self-employed life is for you? Workingmums.co.uk looks at the pros and cons of both options.
Is self-employment or employment best? An increasing number of working mums are considering the possibility of setting up their own business as technology makes this easier and cheaper than before. But how do you know if the self-employed life is for you? We look at the pros and cons of both options.
The main advantages which attract working parents are the ability to work on something you are passionate about and which you can tailor around your life since no-one but you is setting your hours. You may have to work hard, at the very least at first, to establish your business, but you can work hard around your children, for instance, working late and taking a break for the bedtime hour, rather than being restricted by the traditional 9 to 5 office hours.
Another key advantage is the freedom and independence working for yourself gives you. You are no longer beholden to managers setting the rules and can develop your own ideas and may be able to be more innovative. Of course, this does not mean you have not got responsibilities. In fact, if you employ others your sense of responsibility may be greater than ever.
Self-employment also means that all the successes you may have and the challenges you overcome may be more personally fulfilling since you have been involved in every step of the process of achieving them.
Disadvantages include the fact that you will probably have to work harder than ever before to establish your business in the first place. Most business owners say they are on a steep learning curve to get to grips with all aspects of the business. You need to understand everything from marketing to finances. Although you can delegate some of these areas, you will need to understand them to some extent so that you can have an overview of how your business is developing. You will need to be interested in continuous learning and have a desire to stay ahead of the game through networking and researching what your competitors are doing.
Another potential disadvantage is that you may not be able to afford to take holidays or sick leave and you will not be entitled to statutory maternity pay [although you may get Maternity Allowance] or perks such as childcare vouchers.
Self-employment also offers the element of risk. Many businesses fail in their first year. One way round this is to start off by running a franchise. Franchises have a much higher rate of success and combine the freedoms of running your own business with a structure which is tried and tested.
The key advantages of working for someone else are perks such as sick pay, holiday pay and paid maternity leave. You are also more likely to be part of a team and to have more colleague support. Working for yourself can lead to feelings of isolation, but through networking effectively with others via local business groups or social networking you can break down some of this isolation.
Before the recession, job security was a major advantage of being employed. Whereas self-employment offered risk and challenge, employment was more secure and offered a structure for self-advancement. With Britain still teetering on the brink of recession, that sense of security has been somewhat eroded.
The disadvantages of employment for many working parents is that the work may not offer the degree of flexibility they think they need. For instance, most employers do not offer sufficient holidays to cover the school holidays, even if you are sharing these between two parents. There are constant feelings of guilt and stress if you have to take time off for sick children. Childcare costs are high and many parents cannot afford full-time childcare and have to make do with mix and match arrangements with relatives which can be subject to breakdown at any time, for instance, if a childminder or relative is sick.
You may also feel less motivated working for someone else than for yourself, particularly if your employer does not understand the kind of stresses you are facing as a working parent.
Employers are, however, changing and many recognise the issues parents face and are intent on keeping their expertise in the business. After all 80% of employees will at some point become parents. There is a good business case for employers to do what they can to ensure they are motivated in their jobs. If this means offering more flexibility and perks such as child vouchers then they are increasingly willing to do this.
The reality is that the decision over whether to work for someone or for yourself is a very personal one and boils down to your own circumstances and personality. You know best how you work best, what inspires and motivates you, although your priorities may have undergone a 360 degree volte face since you became a parent.