Self Employed and Thinking of Starting a Family?

Business Plus Baby has always been about starting a business after you’ve become a mum. But what do you do if you’re already self-employed and are thinking of starting a family?

My own experience is that I was self-employed for six years, then employed for two years, then I had two babies close together, then I became self employed again (are you still with me?!)

So I know what it’s like to be self employed with and without babies, even though I cheated a little and had a permanent job when both my babies were born. I didn’t plan it this way, honest!

Here is my advice if you’re self employed or run a business and are wondering how on earth you’re going to deal with having a baby…

  • Learn about Maternity Allowance ASAP

You need to get clued up about this as soon as you can, preferably before you get pregnant. If your friends who have had children are in employment it’s easy to assume that maternity allowance works in the same way as maternity pay, but it doesn’t.

The good news is that there are two articles here at Business Plus Baby that tell you what you need to know: Protect Your Right to Maternity Allowance and Self Employment During Your Maternity Pay Period.

  • Don’t assume your pregnancy will be plain sailing

Within 2 weeks of conceiving I felt queasy and by week 10, I was on a drip in hospital because my morning sickness was so bad I couldn’t eat or drink! Up until that point in my life I’d been totally healthy so this came a quite a shock to me – I had no idea that the early stages of pregnancy could be so debilitating. Of course this was an extreme case and many pregnant women feel fine, but it’s best to cut yourself some slack just in case…

  • Assume you’ll feel more tired than usual so if you need to work long days or travel, allow some recovery time in your schedule.
  • Plan who would cover your workload if you did have to take a few weeks or months off work during your pregnancy – could you work in partnership with another self-employed person? Could your outsource?
  • I’d heard of so many pregnant women staying at work until the day before the baby was due that I naively assumed I could do this too. The truth is I was so knackered I couldn’t struggle on beyond 36 weeks. Luckily I was employed so it wasn’t a problem to start my maternity leave a few week earlier than I’d planned, but it could be trickier if you are your own boss. If your work is physical in any way you may need to leave even earlier.
  • Take care of yourself. Often, as self employed people, we do things that we wouldn’t be allowed to do in employment. Working for long hours hunched over a laptop in an inappropriate chair or lifting heavy boxes, for example.
  • Your priorities change completely after your baby is born. Plan for the unexpected.

This is a tough one, because you really can’t predict how your priorities will change after you have a baby. I fully intended to go back to my job full-time after my baby was born but I completely changed my mind once she arrived. And I’m certainly not alone.

  • Read through your childcare options (nursery, childminder, nanny…) before the birth so you have some facts to think about. But accept that your feelings may change after the baby arrives.
  • If you plan to go back to work full-time, have a ‘plan B’ that you can turn to if you change your mind and want to work part-time instead. If you intend to take 3 months off, how might you cope if you don’t feel ready to return until the baby is a year old?
  • You can’t claim childcare vouchers as a sole trader but you might be able to if your business is a limited company. As this can be quite a saving it’s worth talking to an accountant about whether it’s worth ‘going limited’ before your baby arrives.
  • Even if you work from home and your hours are pretty flexible, you will need at least some childcare if you’re going to work more than about 10 hours a week. You can’t really achieve very much with a baby or toddler underfoot and there are only so many hours you can work when they are asleep.

If you have any more tips or advice, please do leave me a comment!

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Creative Commons License photo credit: iampatsajak

I Started a Business With a Baby: Vanessa Blake of Dreamgenii

What do you do?

At dreamgenii® we sell a range of products that serve to make pregnancies, births and children more comfortable all over the world.  We focus on products that genuinely work to make parents’ and children’s lives easier, delivering products that are born out of genuine need – that genuinely work.

When did you establish your business?

2005

What made you start your own business?

“I was six months pregnant with my son and after weeks of tossing and turning at night I’d had enough.  I tried every pregnancy pillow on the market and none of them actually worked.  All of them woke me up in the night when I wanted to move and they usually ended up strewn on the floor by morning!”

“I bought a sewing machine and made a pillow myself, but it was pretty basic.  I showed it to my midwife at my antenatal class and everyone raved about it!  They suggested I should look into selling it to other women so I took it to a manufacturer and asked them to make up some proper samples.  I showed the samples to various midwives, healthcare organisations as well as many pregnant friends and volunteers.  The pillow was universally welcomed as a huge help for pregnant women, and we went on to launch it.  Five years later we now sell a range of award winning, unique products for parents and children that support their journey from pregnancy to parenthood.”

What challenges have you had to overcome?

So many challenges!  We faced significant financial challenges as we have never received any support from any bank.  Getting into retailers was tough to begin with – I had to demonstrate to them why pregnancy pillows were so important and that there was a real need for our product.  I also faced huge personal challenges with trying to balance becoming and being a parent (I now have two children) as well as setting up and running the business.  My husband and family’s support has been incredible.

What has been your biggest achievement?

There have been so many!  I think winning Practical Parenting’s Award for Pregnancy Product of the Year in 2007 was a fantastic milestone for us.  It gave us real validation that our product was of great quality, easy to use and valued by mums.  It was such an accolade as a pregnancy pillow had never won that award before.  We were so proud!  Also every time we receive a positive review or testimonial from a mum is a fantastic achievement.  You know we really are helping to make a difference to pregnant women around the world.

What do you love about working for yourself?

Being in control of my own destiny!  As well as being able to put our children first.  We never lose sight of why we set up the business in the first place and that everything we do is for our family.  We try not to sacrifice family life for the business – but to make the business fit around our family.  Even if it does mean some late nights working from home sometimes once the children are in bed!  We also try and make sure we have fun.  We are a small team and all enjoy working together.

Is there anything you would go back and do differently if you could?

Be more prepared for success!  We had no idea how quickly sales for the pillow would take off.  We had to learn new skills very quickly and scale up our operations to be able to supply customers like Mothercare.

Finally if there is one thing that you could tell other Mums who want to start their own business; what would it be?

I think to have the courage of your convictions, and to stick with it.  Trying to get something off the ground can be stressful, and I could never have done it without the support of my husband Stephen and all of our family.  I firmly believe if you can get through those first few months it’s well worth the effort!

Self-Employment During Your Maternity Pay Period

Many mums get their inspiration to become self-employed whilst on maternity leave, and a large number will go on to have more children, after they have set up their business. But are you aware of the rules regarding self-employment during a maternity pay period? In follow-up to her previous article “Self-employed? Protect your right to maternity allowance” Frances Weir (left) from bigbooklittlebookcardboardbox – a green affordable children’s bookcase, designed to encourage an early love of reading – today looks at earning from self-employment during your maternity pay period. Continue reading “Self-Employment During Your Maternity Pay Period”

Ten Ways to Stretch Your Maternity Pay

It’s not easy starting a business when you’re on maternity leave, so here are a few tips to make your money go further.

  1. You are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment while you’re pregnant and a year after the baby is born. Don’t forget to book in a dental check up before your child is a year old (easily done when you’re busy with a baby!).
  2. Shop around for home and contents insurance and car insurance. If you can’t find time to do that, phone your insurance company when your renewal letter arrives and ask them if they can give you a better deal.
  3. Shop around for gas and electricity too. Often the best deal is the web tariff, so you don’t even need to pick up the phone.
  4. Have you got baby equipment that seemed a good idea before the little one was born, but has hardly been used? How about that heavy travel system that fills your entire car boot and that travel cot that turned out to be too small? You can sell these now and spend the money on kit for your older baby such as a play pen, garden toys, a bigger travel cot and a baby bouncer. You can buy and sell at Netmums.com, eBay, car boot sales and notice boards at some Sure Start centres.
  5. Look up new recipes using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal ingredients are usually cheaper than ones that have been grown overseas, they are better for the environment (less travel) and you could support local farmers too.
  6. Try planning your meals for the week before you go shopping. This saves you having to throw away food that has gone out of date because you bought too much. It also saves you from popping to the supermarket mid-week when you run out of food. That means you won’t be tempted to spend £20 more than you expected! Meal planning sounds a pain, but with a bit of practice it’s hardly any effort at all.
  7. Check to see if your mortgage company will let you take a payment holiday for a few months.
  8. Sell your maternity clothes on eBay.
  9. If you have credit cards and or accounts with home shopping companies, make sure you pay them on time. I never used to miss a payment, but I was a bit disorganised after my babies were born and I missed the payment deadline by a couple of times. Once you’ve added up the interest and late payment fee, it can be surprisingly expensive. Check to see if your credit card company will take a minimum payment by direct debit – at least you won’t have to pay the fee then.
  10. Check out www.babybudgeting.co.uk for loads more ideas for saving money when you have a baby.

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Savings? What Savings? Or How We Survived Maternity Leave Twice

maternity leave savingTwo years ago I started my first maternity leave utterly convinced that I’d be back at my desk six months later. I couldn’t afford to take any longer than that off work, or so I thought. Here’s what really happened – I’m still laughing about how naive I was back then!

A month into my maternity leave, the day after my daughter was born, I realised I couldn’t go back to work in five months time. So Mr L and I agreed I’d take a total of nine months off, mostly because that’s when my maternity pay ran out.

Then I realised I couldn’t face working full time and went back to work two days per week. Somehow our budget still just about worked out.

Then I found out I was pregnant again. Big shock. Our finances got tighter, but we coped. After four and half months back at work, I was on maternity leave again.

A month ago I passed the nine-month mark on my second maternity leave, meaning my maternity pay has run out again. Now we’re in the gap between my maternity pay ending and my new business bringing in an income. This is when we start to spend our savings in a big way.

I can feel my stomach clenching at the thought of it.

I’ve always been fairly sensible with money. True, there were times I could have been better, but I’ve always had a bit of cash tucked away in an online savings account for a rainy day. So I’m uncomfortable about spending it all now.

I’m also uncomfortable about being (temporarily) without an income and not contributing into a pension for a few years. At a time in my life where I’ve just picked up a lot more responsibility, I’m not being very responsible with my finances.

But maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I keep reminding myself that we are in exceptional circumstances. Life will get easier and I will find the time and energy to earn an income again soon. And if I can plan a business while having two babies fifteen months apart, then I can do anything!

In a way, this is the rainy day we were saving for.

Having babies has booted me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. The gap in my income isn’t a failure; it’s me being out of my financial comfort zone.  If you’d told me two years ago about the battering our finances were about to receive, I’d have told you there’s no way we could have coped, but we have.

I’m actually quite proud of us.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

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