Dreading going back to work? Want to make your own rules (and money?). Maybe it’s time to take the route of a start-up mum
So many people dream about working for themselves – but when you become a mum, the idea of being able to work more flexibly becomes almost irresistible. Just imagine setting your own hours so you can be with your kids more. Not having to commute. Line managing yourself. Which is why nearly half of you in our recent Back to Work Survey admitted you’d consider setting up your own business.
And lots of mothers are acting on this urge, with around 300,000 (and rising) established businesses in the UK run by inspiring ladies we’re calling start-up mums. Next time it could be YOU! It’s just about getting to grips with what to do with your great business idea.
1. Work out hours
Figure out the amount of time you can devote to your business and devise a schedule. ‘Think about childcare too – while one mum can fit her work around the children’s naps or in the evenings; another might find it easier to put her baby into nursery – or with Grandma – on particular days,’ says award winning entrepreneur, author of Start A Family Friendly Business: 129 Brilliant Business Ideas for Mums and journalist Antonia Chitty.
2. Do your research
Will the people you want to target buy your product or service? Is it unique enough to be appealing? Look at your competition and work out how your business could be different or better.
3. Attend business training workshops
The HMRC runs free seminars if you’re a small business owner/self employed so make the most of those. ‘Your local Enterprise Group, which offers impartial support and training, to businesses might also offer some a free start-up course,’ says Antonia.
4. Create a business plan
This should set out aims and objectives, and the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Pop into a local Enterprise Agency or Group for advice.
5. Register as self-employed
Once you start trading (selling your goods/services), you must register as self-employed with the HMRC immediately. ‘If you leave it too late you’ll be fined,’ Antonia warns.
6. Have a marketing plan
Work out how you’ll promote and market your business. ‘Add a margin to your product or service price which will go towards promotion,’ says Antonia. ‘Also have a planning session where you investigate advertising, marketing, PR and events.’ Note on a wall calendar what activities you’ll do each month to promote the business, and spend 15 minutes each day doing them.
7. Promote online
Start a Twitter account in the name of your business, create a blog and a Facebook fan page. To make things easier, use Twitterfeed or Friendfeed to link your different networking sites together.
8. Target customers
From day one, start a customer database so you can send out regular newsletter and exclusive subscriber offers. ‘It is easier to get existing customers to buy again than to find new ones,’ says Antonia.
9. Keep on top of your admin
Yes, we know it’s not the most exciting of jobs, but it’s best to keep a spreadsheet detailing every item of expenditure and revenue from the start than wade through a teetering pile of receipts when your tax return is due. ‘You can claim many of your business costs against tax, too, such as any equipment you use,’ says Antonia.
10. Get support
Allow in your business plan for help: you could find a bookkeeper, or get someone to help with PR, marketing, packing and post office runs or admin. ‘Mental and emotional support is crucial, too,’ says Antonia.
‘So get in touch with other start-up mums via networking meetings or online and you’ll eventually build up a nice group of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.’ Check out our Working Mums Club updates on Facebook and Twitter.
11. Trade with other parents
For instance, your friend might be a great web designer so she designs your business website and in return you use your amazing cooking skills to cater her daughter’s first birthday party. Ask around and see what you can trade…
12. Don’t underprice yourself
Do your maths and price costs of your materials/time and work out an hourly rate. ‘Lots of people underprice their goods/services because they lack confidence or don’t want to price themselves out of the market,’ says Antonia. But your time is the most precious commodity – don’t forget that.
13. Remember the three P’s:
Plan: Always have one. Then if you only have an hour while your baby is asleep, you’ll know what you’ve got to do and won’t waste your time.
Persist: Starting a business is harder than you think. It’ll take longer, more promotion…well, more everything than you think.
Promote: You have to push aside your inhibitions and insecurities and go for it! ‘You can have the best idea in the world but if you can’t promote it, it won’t work,’ says Antonia. ‘If this involves talking about your business in front of people you’ve got to do it.’
It’s daunting at first but remember nobody will laugh at you, and lots of people will be interested in what you have to say.
Did you start up a business during your Maternity Leave? Let us know below!