Four reasons to start your contracting or freelancing career BEFORE starting a family

When planning a family one of the major considerations for women is how will it fit into your career plan, and when is the right time.

And if a career in freelancing or contracting has been on your mind, do you hold off starting out until you’ve had the baby, or take the leap before? With one in every eight self-employed women in the UK being mothers, there’s no denying it’s a lucrative and flexible working option for those with children.

In this blog Jenny Winslow from Intouch Accounting explores the top four reasons why you should consider a career change before becoming a mum, and why it could benefit you in the long run.

1) It’s easier to take the leap beforehand

There are three key reasons why it’s easier to make the leap to freelancing or contracting before you have children.

1) Experience

You’ll have built up your business prior to becoming a mum, so when you decide to return to work it’ll be far easier to jump back into it, versus having to learn it all from scratch, with the addition of having a whole new person to care for.

You also won’t have the hassle that comes with negotiating flexible working with your employer, and the ever so common possibility of having it turned down.

2) Clients

Having an established client base means you can inform them of your return to work when you’re ready, so they can let you know of any impending contracts. You’ll more than likely end up getting back into work with a familiar client, and they’ll know you’re back in business (without you having to find new clients). 

3) Confidence

Being a new mum is scary enough, let alone when you try and get back into the fold after potentially having a whole year off. Being self-employed means you can take it at your own pace, having as many (or few) clients as you like until you feel like you’re back up to full capacity. 

2) You’re likely to earn more – both before and after having children

A career in contracting or freelancing can offer a greater take home pay, allowing you to earn more before baby arrives, and once the baby is here. 

IPSE’s latest Confidence Index report exposed how freelancer quarterly earnings are still more than twice the level of equivalent employees, showing that despite the impending Brexit concerns over the UK workforce, there’s still scope to earn much more than you would if you stayed in permanent employment. Worth an investigation into your industry surely?

3) You design your personal life around your career – not the other way around

Dropping children off to childcare on your way to work, only to worry about doing it all again the other side of your day is a fresh hell all too many of us have experienced. And if you’re lucky enough to work for an employer who appreciates this balance and allows flexible working then you’re certainly in the minority, and as a result many senior level women have left employment. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commision found that 20% of mothers surveyed said they had experienced harassment or negative comments relating to flexible working requests from their employer.

And while 51% of mothers reporting having their flexible working request approved, they said they felt it resulted in negative consequences.

But what if there was a way to avoid this and make it work for you?

Freelancers and contractors set their own hours, meaning you’re able to sort childcare outside of the usual rush hours and get more from your day (rather than waste precious time sitting in traffic or queuing for the tube). You’re also able to decide the days you work, giving you as much precious time with your family as you’d like.

4) Maternity pay and help paying towards childcare – all is not lost!

Many believe that once you start your self-employed career, permanent employment luxuries such as maternity pay and childcare cost support goes out the window. But this simply isn’t the case.

If you contract or freelance through a Limited Company and your National Insurance (NI) payments are up to date, you’re eligible for maternity pay. This means you could get up to 90% of your average weekly earnings for six weeks, then up to £148.68 for 33 weeks thereafter. 

Tax-free childcare is a government scheme designed to provide self-employed families up to £500 every three months (£2,000 a year) per child, to put towards approved childcare. 

For both maternity pay and tax-free childcare it’s worth chatting to a specialist contractor accountant to ensure your circumstances will mean you’re eligible. 

Tempted? It’s time to explore your options

There’s no denying that starting out on your own takes guts and a lot of hard work, but once you’ve put in the effort and you’re established it’s time to start enjoying all the rewards that being self-employed offers. 

The Talented Ladies Club website has a whole host of resources dedicated to starting out, from how to write your ‘About Me’ profile to attract new clients, tips to making you look more professional, and how to create your dream home working space, there’s advice and support on everything you can possibly think of!

So what’s stopping you? Go explore what the world of freelancing and contracting could offer you.

Jenny Winslow works for Intouch Accounting, the expert contractor accountancy firm for Limited Company contractors.

Photo by CoWomen