There's a growing number of women starting their own businesses after having a baby. The reasons are pretty clear - many of us don't realise until we meet this new little person in our lives that often our goals & priorities can undergo a massive shift.
It may be that the thought of going back to a full-time job and spending 30-40 hours a week away from your child fills you with utter dread, or maybe you've had a realisation that you're in a career that you just don't enjoy.
Whatever path lead you here, the idea of being your own boss, easily taking time off for school plays and not spending a vast proportion of your wage on childcare can seem like the obvious option.
Starting a business on maternity leave however, is a slightly different beast. It isn't straightforward or the 'easy option', but there are ways you can do it and make it work for you and your life.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the questions you might have about balancing a startup and a baby...as well as some essential tips to set you up for success from the get-go.
Can I start a business with a baby?
Before you go any further, bear in mind that you have just had a baby. Our culture is all about 'getting back to normal' (whatever the hell normal is), and pushing on in an extremely masculine way. Birthing and nurturing new life does not readily fit in with this, unless we can find our balance.
Be honest with yourself. Starting a business does require a lot of work, and although the internet would have you believe otherwise, in the main it takes time before you will start to see the results you're looking for.
We often bring a sense of urgency to the decision, for example if struggling to cope on a lower income during maternity leave, or if you have a partner, the belief that the business needs to bring in xx amount within xx months (because you maybe feel you have to prove yourself and your decision to start a business).
Again, these are quite masculine-oriented parameters - absolutely set goals for yourself but also bear in mind the massive brain changes that occur in a mother in the weeks, months and even years after she gives birth.
Your brain is primed for learning during postpartum so it's a great time to study, learn more about yourself and what you can offer to others in a business capacity, and plan.
Maternity leave can be the time to start a business, but be prepared for a more gradual start.
Be prepared to make plans and goals, but for them to change along the way and there to be times when your business and your children feel like oil and water. Check your expectations are in line with where you're at in your life right now.
Building your village
Building your 'village' of support is also essential if you want to start a business on or after maternity leave. Assess what help is available to you in terms of childcare, running the household etc.
If you have a high level of low-cost or free support (eg. relatives looking after children, partner to help with chores/groceries) then you're more likely to be able to invest more time in your business in the early days.
If you have little support, then you need to consider whether you're happy taking small steps to get ready to start a business, or whether you invest in your business from the get-go by outsourcing (eg. paid childcare, a cleaner, nanny).
Is now the right time to start a business?
It’s important to mention here that you need to assess your own individual situation in regards to actually starting a business whilst on maternity leave - in the UK Statutory Maternity Pay is not affected by self-employed work, but if you were already self-employed before and on Maternity Allowance for example, you only have the 10 Keeping in Touch days available to work.
Also, if you are employed check your contract for whether you can actually carry out self-employed work whilst still employed by them. There’s more information on the DWP site and contact Citizens Advice if you need clarification on your own situation.
A good exercise to do to figure out if it’s the right time to start a business is to get really clear on your priorities. Do you want to look after your child/ren full time, or with some degree of childcare? Is the business you have in mind likely to require meetings, travelling etc? Will you need to work on evenings/weekends?
One reason many women cite for starting a business on their maternity leave (other than they didn’t like the job they were in) is that they simply can’t afford to go back to work. This is often a scenario which helps you make a desicion if you were already umming and aahing over ‘making the jump’, but there are other options too:
- Doing a part-time job with self-employment on the side (if employment contracts allow)
- Using the concept of the ‘good enough’ job, which is a job that doesn’t take up too much time, pays well..but perhaps just doesn't fill you with passion! However, the ‘good enough’ job is meant to be used as a means to fund your passions and hobbies outside of working.
What else can hold you back from starting a business?
If you’ve already considered the practical side of starting a business, you’ve got a viable business idea and a plan for how you’re going to make a start, what else would hold you back?
This can be one of the biggest blocks to business at any stage of the journey, and it’s something we all benefit from really paying attention to and working on throughout the journey.
Whether it’s blocks around time, money, overwhelm or the dreaded Imposter Syndrome, this is something we take a deeper dive into within the Multipassionate Mamas Collective. There are lots of different tools to help you with getting into the mindset of success such as guided meditations, affirmations, visualisations, gratitude lists...the trick is to find the ones that work for you and don’t feel like a drag to do!
Making a start
If you decide that starting a business is right for you at this time, then there’s a few areas you can look at to begin your journey.
Start getting your support network in place - this covers both working and personal life, so you need to work out whereabouts you need help and then ask for it! This might look like a cleaner, childcare, a VA or an accountant.
Start building community - Not only is this important, but it’s pretty damn essential if you want to do online business, or you’ll be promoting your products/services to crickets. This is an area you can focus on and build a solid foundation whilst you’re on maternity leave, then by the time you’re ready to take on clients, you’ve already got a community of people who are not only aware of you, but also interested in what you have to offer them.
Testing ideas and taking imperfect action - Don’t wait until you’ve got it all figured out...that day will most likely never come! Again, the key is balance. Once you have a business plan, goals, started working on your mindset and have good foundations to set you up for success; it’s time to start taking action. Mistakes are inevitable, but don’t let perfectionism hold you back - even imperfect action creates forward momentum and gets you moving along your business journey.
If you’re on maternity leave or it’s come to an end, you’re ready to break through the overwhelm of too many ideas/passions/interests, and you’re serious about starting and growing a sustainable business, then why not join the Multipassionate Mamas Collective?
Our 6-week online course brings you together with an awesome group of women for support and accountability, as well as 5 modules packed with info to get you off to a solid start.