Having a new baby or young family can be overwhelming, and starting a new business is all consuming. So why do so many mums do both? Despite developing flexible working legislation, many jobs still don’t offer sufficient flexibility, and some mums want the freedom of being their own boss to allow them to prioritise time with their family. Starting a business when you have baby or toddler can be a big challenge, but it is entirely possible too. Here are some pointers from Antonia Chitty of Family Friendly Working, to get you going:
- If you’re clear about your needs and skills it is going to be easier to find the right business for you. List your priorities such as earning money, or finding work that lets you stay home with your new baby. Write down your skills, and ask others what they think you’re good at.
- Look at your family budget. How much might you need to bring in each week or month? Think about the hours you can devote to working. Be realistic, as a new baby may not understand “mummy’s working”. Knowing the hours you can work and your target income can help you be clear about what you need to achieve. As a basic rule, after the first few weeks you’ll know your baby’s routine and when you can work. This will change as they grow and become more active, and remember you need downtime too.
- Pick your business idea. If you need a business that will generate an income quickly, start up a service. However small your start-up budget, don’t skimp on important things like business insurance. Product-based businesses can take a while to generate a profit. Remember to calculate how you can upscale your business over time.
- Party plan and direct sales opportunities often come with a small startup investment. Pick your opportunity carefully. Look for products that you know people in your area will buy – and ideally go for items that encourage repeat purchases rather than one-offs. Watch out for discounts on sign up fees as you may be able to start up for less at certain times of year. Think about childcare too: some types of direct selling may allow you to take your baby with you, while others could be done in the evening.
- If you have some time while on maternity leave and want to retrain, contact your local college. Find out about which courses are funded, as this may affect your choice. The college may also be able to help you find out how to get help with the cost of childcare. Check out schemes that allow you to earn while you learn. There are various initiatives to encourage adults into teaching, for example, that allow you to train while working.
- If you are starting a business, research the market first. This is the perfect activity to do when your baby is young, especially if you are on maternity leave as you can do it for a short time each day. Investigate whether people will buy your product or service. Is it unique enough to be appealing? This is really important and will save you from investing in launching a business then finding no-one will buy. A website can act as a basis for your market research. Use this site to host a survey to find out what people need and want and are willing to pay. Then, you’ll have a sound basis for the business you create.
- Do write a business plan but don’t think that this has to be a scary task. Unless you’re applying for finance, your plan can simply be a list of all the different areas you need to work on to get the business up and running. Get your aim, goals and unique selling points clear right from the beginning to save you effort in the long run. Your local Enterprise Agency may be able to offer advice.
- Register as self employed. You have 3 months to let the Inland Revenue know you have started a business, or you could end up with a £100 fine.
- Note down your start up costs. Create a cash flow forecast: at this stage you’ll have to guess at a lot of the figures. Remember to factor in funding for marketing your business. Consider whether you need staff or freelance support: be clear about your strong points and where you’ll need other people’s expertise.
- Keep good records. It is easier to note down every item of expenditure from the start than to have to deal with a pile of receipts when your tax return is due in. You can claim many of your business costs against tax too. The Inland Revenue can also send an advisor to your house, free of charge, to explain how to claim back your expenses against tax and what you can claim for.
- Work out how you will promote and market your business. Make a list of all your ideas and do something every day. Just fifteen minutes of promotion each day is enough to grow your business and can be fitted in during nap time, or with your baby in a sling.
- Make the most of every customer. From day one, have a newsletter programme and start a customer database so you can send them offers. It is easier to get existing customers to buy again than to find new ones.
- Watch out for your work-life balance. Business can easily take over. Have a finish time each day, put your work away, and make some time to relax and enjoy your new baby.
If you’re serious about starting a business, Antonia Chitty has lots more advice for you:
- Explorewww.familyfriendlyworking.co.uk for business ideas and events, and to get inspired by other parents with businesses
- Buy Start A Family Friendly Business: 129 Brilliant Business Ideas for Mumswhich Antonia has co-authored with Helen Lindop.
- Check out The Mumpreneur Guide: Start Your Own Successful Business. It’s specially designed for mums who want to start a family friendly business. It covers issues from business planning to childcare, business finances to setting aside time for you.