Is being a virtual assistant a good choice for a work at home mum? The answer might surprise you…

Mother_And_Baby_With_LaptopThis is a guest post from Caroline Wylie of the Society of Virtual Assistants.

In Emma Jones’ book “Working 5-9″ being a VA is the very first job she recommends for people wanting to earn money at home in the evenings. As a mum myself, it is a great job to run alongside your family commitments such as the school run or bunging on a load of washing. But with almost half of married women doing 13 hours + of household chores each week, it’s no surprise that our businesses sometimes suffer from working from home… (Source: Institute for Public Policy Research 2012).

I wanted to know just how much an impact being a mum had on home businesses – the results are a pretty interesting read. The Virtual Assistant industry tends to be typically female dominated with a stereotypical VA being a mum with young children juggling childcare alongside running her business – that’s the picture that gets painted time and again when people talk about VAs.

But when you look at the numbers, is The Mummy VA a reality or is it a Mummy Myth?

Each year we take a snapshot of the VA industry in the UK Virtual Assistant Survey – a survey of real VAs which looks at everything from how much they earn to what marketing methods work best.

One of the issues we researched was to do with working mums. Firstly, are VAs typically mums? Secondly, are they working without childcare in place juggling their commitments? And lastly, does it affect your income?

We’ve now asked these questions three years in a row – and the results are fairly consistent:

  • Just 35% of VAs are mums with young children.
  • The percentage of WAHMs who have no childcare in place is 1.5% of the industry – which has fallen in the last 2 years from 4%.

So “The Mummy Myth” (as I call it) is just pure fantasy – it’s actually comparable to the amount of men working in this female dominated industry at just 1%. The drop in VAs without childcare in place would also suggest that it’s not sustainable to run a VA business without childcare – these VAs have clearly either left the industry or put some childcare in place.

What we also wanted to know is: Are these mums earning less?

We looked at the rates mums charge compared to the non-mums – the mums without childcare were earning over 24% less than the average VA rate.

You could argue that the hours available to work are hampering their earning potential – that is, until you look at what other VAs working the same amount of hours earn, and the mums without childcare are still earning 20% less than those working similar part-time hours.

Fact: If you want to earn a living from being a VA – you need childcare in place.

But it’s hard when you’ve perhaps voluntarily opted out of the traditional workforce in order to look after children. You have to be able to justify the increased cost of childcare vs your (hopefully!) increased income. This research would suggest you can charge more if you have more consistent working hours in place.

The full UK Virtual Assistant Survey can be purchased at £25 from: societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/va-products/

Comments

  1. Interesting reading. I recently heard being a teacher isn’t as great as it is made out to be either. You do have the school holidays, but teachers do not work 9-5, they often have longer hours, so you do need childcare. Part-time working is possible, but you will most likely not be a class teacher, and therefor earn less. It all comes down to the 3 C’s: Control, Compensation and Content. At least one of these have to give. Either you have a lot of control over your hours, but don’t get compensated well, and may well have a boring job. Or you have a very exciting job (great content), but you are flying across the world and clients have control over you hours, but you do get compensated well too. This research confirms that. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The good thing about being your own boss is you can use an ‘alternate’ strategy: 2 years of hard work (+ childcare) then slow down for 2 years (and get less good VA jobs) and so on. That way you can still feel you are there when you need to be. What works for you?

    • Yes, I used to be a teacher (long before I had kids) and the hours you need to put in to do the job well are long. The hours may be more flexible than many other jobs but I’m pretty sure teachers work the same number of hours, if not more. In fact I’ve met teachers who have left the job when their kids got to school age because they’d had enough. My personal opinion about jobs in general are that they are designed for women without children and men, especially now that a professional level job means you’re expected to work way more than 9-5. I know that sounds bleak, but I don’t see much evidence of truly flexible working and most women still seem to carry the bulk of the childcare and housework. Yes, you can be your own boss but the risk is that women often get stuck in low paid SELF employment too. To me, the answer is to get support, get experience and get training if you choose the self-employed route. Be determined, but cut yourself some slack when you need to because you’re not superwoman. Have big dreams but realise it’ll take lots of small steps to get there. As for me, I’m still in transition as my youngest only started school a few months ago so I’m still working it out!

  2. Interesting stuff. I’m in a different field but for me I only had enough time to start pushing my business forward when I started paying for some childcare. It’s a difficult balance to achieve…

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