Michelle McCann (@MammaMcCann on Twitter) of Brighton Mums, Social Media Mums and blog Mamma McCann (phew!) asked, during a Mumpreneur Hour last week, how others managed the decision to go self employed, embraced the fear and made the leap.
(If you’ve not checked out the Mumpreneur Hour, every weekday between 2pm and 3pm (UK time) Mumpreneur UK host a chat on Twitter. Just use the hashtag #mumpreneurhour to join in.)
So here’s my advice on how to manage the more emotional, less practical side of going self employed…
It’s OK to not have a brilliant business idea
If you read about going self-employed in magazines or even on the web, you’ll hear about how an intrepid entrepreneur had a flash of inspiration and decided to invent a product that the world had never seen before. So she wrote a business plan, got a bank loan, ditched the day job and voila! a business was born.
I’m sure this can happen, but it can leave you feeling a bit second-rate if your reason for making the leap is that you can’t get a job to fit around your kids or you’ve been made redundant. Although many self-employed people have an entrepreneurial streak, often it takes an event like having a baby or losing a job to push you into self employment.
It certainly did for me – twice! The first time I had the boss from hell, handed in my notice and suddenly I was freelance. (Note freelance, not unemployed!) The second time I had a baby and couldn’t face putting her in a nursery full time (full story on my about page).
So don’t worry about not feeling somehow properly qualified, just get stuck in.
Get your finances under control
If you’re starting out in self-employment, you’ll almost always have taken a drop in income.
Maybe not having a job is what has propelled you into self employment in the first place (see above!), perhaps you’ve had to give up your job to go self-employed or maybe you need to save up to buy some expensive equipment.
Ideally, it’s best to have some savings to fall back on but that’s not always possible (again, see above!). If not, you may need to do some serious budgeting to live within the income you do have. My favourite sources of info on this are Money Saving Expert and Baby Budgeting.
Financial worries can really drain you at a time when you need all the energy and creativity you can get, so it’s best to take any practical steps you possibly can to live within your means.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, at least at first
If you’re making the move from job to self employment, giving up a steady pay-cheque can be deeply unnerving. Even if you’ve been out of your career for a few years to have kids, you’ll still be used to the idea of being paid regularly for doing a certain amount of work. Other aspects of self employment that freak people out are setting your own prices, doing your own sales and marketing and dealing with customer complaints. Yikes!
It does get easier with time, but you should be prepared for some stress at first. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to deal with this stress. Read on…
Have a plan but be prepared to change it regularly
The lack of structure can be a killer when you’re self-employed. Not having to show up to work and answer to a boss can be both a good thing and a bad thing! With no employer to give your work a purpose or direction, you need to find a way to do this for yourself. Having a plan is essential if you’re going to avoid going round in circles or grinding to a halt, but be prepared to update your plan regularly. Sometimes daily!
Don’t be a loner
You need self-employed people around you, for several very good reasons.
First, employed people will struggle to understand you. If you have a bad day, you need someone to say “Yep, I know what you mean, that happpens to me too. It’ll be OK” rather than “Don’t worry, you can always go out and get a job”. I don’t have anything against employed people, by the way. It’s just that it’s a different way of thinking and you need at least a few people around you that think like you do.
Second, your perception of ‘normal’ comes from the people around you. If you’re the only self employed person you know, you’ll feel like a risk-taker who has recklessly leapt off the career ladder into a working wilderness. If you have a circle of self-employed people around you, you’ll (OK maybe eventually!) feel like it’s an alternative career choice that has loads more possibilities for interesting and rewarding work. After all, it’s working out for them so why shouldn’t it work for you?
Here’s my post on how picking up the phone helps me with self-doubt.
Being able to motivate yourself, to turn your hand to a number of different tasks and being able to take the initiative are all incredibly useful if you’re self employed. But if you know you are weak in any of those areas, you could partner up with someone who complements you. It could be a business partner, but it could also just be an ‘accountability partner’ who you get together with weekly and agree the tasks you’ll both get done that week.
You can hook up with other self employed people on Twitter (feel free to tweet me @HelenLindop), Facebook (here’s where you’ll find me http://www.facebook.com/businessplusbaby) or one of the many business mums networking groups.
Be a stress-buster
Have some quick and easy stress-busting techniques to hand for when it all gets too much. Dancing around the living room to some loud music, a brisk walk in the fresh air, a long bath and a good book are all easy and won’t make a dent in your budget.
That feeling of complete overwhelm can sometimes be paralysing, so remember to keep taking those steps forward one at a time and you’ll get there. I promise.
How do/did you deal with the emotional side of going self employed? Drop me a comment below.
PS If you’re still hoping to make the leap but don’t yet know what to do, check out my book Start a Family Friendly Business:129 Brilliant Business Ideas for Mums