According to recent research, three in five mums are considering starting a business from home. But what’s it really like trying to balance a new start-up with your family?
A survey conducted by Direct Line earlier this year revealed that 65% of mums with children under the ages of 10 were considering starting a business from home in the next three years.
20% of the women questioned believed that by running their own home business they’d have more time to spend with their children, and 14% longed for the flexibility of being their own boss.
But is running your own home business as a mum all it’s cracked up to be? And, if you’re thinking of starting one, what lessons can you learn now to help you make a better go of it?
Five lessons we’ve learned building our business
Alex Bagguley started Heppy London, an online store for mums, babies, kids and gifts, with her friend Natalie Cunningham. Here she reveals the five most important lessons they’ve learned so far.
1) Work-life balance is a journey
I often read on blogs and in magazines about the hot topic of work-life balance. But ultimately, as we have discovered, it is not something that you can nail and cross off your to do list.
For example, what might work for you now, may spell disaster in a few months’ time – and as a work at home mum I’m all too aware of this. My son goes to a playgroup three mornings a week, so I work during his two hour nap each day and then I work in the evenings as standard practice.
But that’s now. In time, my son’s routine may change and I will have to look then at when I can fit my work into our new set-up.
A lot of media coverage alludes to working mums who have got their work life balance in total check, and that’s great for them. However the reality of starting your own business is a harsh one. Sometimes I know that the balance is not there and it’s about being honest with yourself, admitting it and then changing things up to restore some order!
2) The ability to adapt is crucial
The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry. And the same can equally be said of businesses started by mums! Sometimes, as much as you may try to think of every eventuality, things just don’t go according to plan – and then it’s how you react that’s important.
In the early days of launching a business, things will probably go wrong at some point. For example, quite early on in starting Heppy London we were let down by a supplier. Initially this seemed like a major problem, but it forced us to return to square one and actually resulted in us choosing another line of products which are so much better. We now have a strong relationship with this new supplier, who we know and trust.
So when things go wrong now, we try to take a step back to gain some perspective, and then make decisions which forge a new way forward.
3) Be your own cheerleader
As cheesy as this may sound, you have to be your own cheerleader at the start, because nobody else is going to do it for you. In the early stages of Heppy London, we were confident of our brand and our products, but we didn’t anticipate just how much personal drive would be required.
We are now acutely aware of how important it is that we as individuals spread positivity about the business and its milestones. This requires energy and a genuine passion for what you are doing – but is essential.
And it’s definitely paid off for us, opening up great contacts and support. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and not one to be underestimated in a world obsessed with social media.
4) You have to put yourself out there on social media
While I can use Facebook with confidence, Twitter and Instagram have presented us with an ongoing learning curve.
When we started, we planned carefully branded (and mightily contrived) ways of churning out our message via social media. But then we discovered that as a business, especially in our sector, people want the exact opposite – they want to know who you are, your background and the story of how your business came to fruition.
So we have had to get over our aversion of official photographs and be ballsy enough to put ourselves out there, asking people to like us on Facebook, retweet us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram.
At first it felt a bit like being the new girl in the school canteen – desperate for attention and friends. But as we have got used to it we actually enjoy this more honest and accurate approach. That said, there is most definitely the need to use social media carefully to create a balance. A pet hate of both of ours is constant spamming through Facebook feeds and emails, and this is something we could never bring ourselves to do!
5) Building a business takes patience
By the time you actually launch your own business, you will have spent so many hours and weeks and months working on it – time that no one sees (or appreciates).
Our business took around nine months to get off the ground and be fully operational. During that period of time we would speak daily about the bigger picture – where we ultimately want to be – which is massively exciting.
But as impatient as we were to unveil our business to the world and actually start running it, we knew we had to wait and get it right first. We wanted to create a strong brand that would be known and trusted by customers, and this obviously takes time and patience.
So if you’re starting your own business, don’t be tempted to launch it too soon. As frustrating as it is to work away behind the scenes without anyone knowing (especially when you see other businesses in your sector out there attracting new customers every day) it’s important to lay the right groundwork.
Then, when you are finally ready to launch, you’ll have a business that is much more likely to reach the goals you are aiming for.
Start your own business with confidence
It’s not easy starting your own business – but with a great idea, the right planning and lots of passion and hard work it can be done. And as a mum there are plenty of great reasons why you should give your own start-up a go.
Alex Bagguley co-owns and runs Heppy London, a rapidly growing online store for mums, babies, kids and great gifts.Alex Bagguley