It might sometimes seem like a man’s world, but there are more women than ever starting and running enterprises, from one-woman shows to growing companies employing dozens.
Whether you’re already back at work but looking for a new challenge or you’re returning to work after having a family, self-employment can be a great way to bring money in without disrupting time with your children. Read on for some useful starting points and resources.
Any business idea needs to fill an existing gap, whether it’s the result of a lightbulb moment, a problem that needs solving or just the knowledge of a particular skill that’s lacking in your area.
- What do you want to do? Think about any existing experience you might build on and look at friends you admire – are they doing jobs in fields you think could be inspiring?
- What are you good at? Are there life skills or talents you have that could form the basis of a business? Working for yourself you’re going to have to be a multi-tasker, so choose something you feel confident you can pull off.
- Play to your skills If you know what passions and skills you have but don’t know what to do with them, you could consider:
franchising, where you make or sell products on behalf of a bigger company; or
being a rep, which could either mean home-based sales of products made by a bigger company or being the person who goes to meetings on their behalf, in your region.
- Could you be a blogger? The rise of the mummy blogger has been one of the phenomena of the internet age. You need to have good writing and visual skills, but honesty, passion and first-hand knowledge are more important than a poetic literary style! Many family-related industries love working with bloggers as a way of sampling and reviewing their products, and you can define your blog how you like – talking about one subject like food, health or raising kids. Visit BritMums, a wonderful, honest and supportive resource for women wondering how to make blogging pay.
Working to your own schedule sounds like a dream, but there are plenty of challenges if you want to make it a long-term reality, from money to time-management. Here are some things to think about.
- How does it fit with life right now? If you’re going to have to do this job in school hours or when the kids are in bed, how realistic is it that you’ll have time to make your project a success? Tailor your goals accordingly.
- What’s the cash flow like?] Some jobs, like making clothes or selling children’s books, can require upfront funds. To make a hobby into a business, money has to come in as smoothly as it goes out. Plus money must be ring-fenced for monthly household expenses like food, mortgage and tax payments.
- Where will you work? Whether it’s upscaling old furniture or freelance accounting, you need somewhere to leave your work in progress. If you’re working on the kitchen table, tidy-up time every day will eat into your working hours.
Advice and resources
Happily, there are lots of brilliant sources of information so you can do your research before you start your own business. First, why not read about other mums’ experiences in our returning to work: real mums’ stories article?
- Government advice Visit Women In Enterprise for some excellent official advice about starting a business, tailored to women.
- Financial advice You’ll find your high-street bank has a dedicated representative who can give free guidance so you can arrange your affairs properly. Shop around though – some banks have better offers for start-ups.
- Advice from other women If you want to exchange ideas and find answers to common start-up questions with women who have gone through the same things as you, go online. There are good, free resources such as www.womenlikeus.org.uk.
Getting the skills
Experience and training can really boost your confidence and help your project be a success. Many local councils offer free or cheap training in basics like computing skills and book-keeping. Training courses don’t need to be expensive either, and some apprenticeships might even allow you to earn while you learn. The National Careers Service has lots of brilliant information on this. And you can’t beat actual work experience for finding out if a project is right for you – volunteer with local companies or organisations working in your field.