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Taking the plunge into self-employment

Lots of people dream of self-employment but most will never actually take that step. I’ve known I wanted to work for myself since I was a student and did a business degree at university but it wasn’t until I had my children that I finally took the plunge. I think the reason that I, and many other mothers, took the plunge after having children are that the factors both pushing me and pulling me towards self-employment increased and the barriers to it became lower.

Factors pushing towards Self-employment

There are a number of factors that push people towards self-employment. Redundancy is an obvious one but for me, while I did take voluntary redundancy, it wasn’t offered until I’d already decided to start my business and was well on the road to doing so (logo designed, website launched, venues booked). The main factor pushing me towards it was something along the lines of work life balance, a factor for many, but it wasn’t just having time with my children, it was also about the time I spent away from them being more rewarding. With small children, work can be the only “me time” you get and I wanted to enjoy it. For many people the cost of childcare for inflexible working hours pushes them towards self employment. As does being unable to find work that fits in around family life, or indeed any work at all.

Factors pulling you towards self-employment

There are also factors that pull you towards self-employment. These are the more positive things that you hope to get from it. For many people it’s about following a passion. You have an idea you just know is brilliant. You have a hobby that you want to spend all of your time on. That’s what drives them to start. While I was passionate when I started, my passion was for running a business itself rather than a specific business idea. That’s why it took me a while to find what was right for me.

Despite that I’ve loved being my own boss from day one. I love the independence and ability to make my own decisions without answering to anyone. For me and many others that is a huge pull factor. The other big pull for some is money. We may not always like to admit it but that is what running a business is all aboout. It can be the earning potential of being self employed that really motivates you.

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What stops us?

So with all these factors pushing and pulling us towards self-employment, what stops us taking the leap? For me the number one reason was fear, specifically fear of failing in such a public way. When I was still employed I spent years trying to get promoted and failed many times but it never stopped me trying. I developed great resilience from the experience and it helped me overcome that fear when it came to starting my own business.

Ultimately my first business did fail and I learnt that, actually, it’s really not so bad. I had fun, learnt lots and applied it all to my next business. There are also other types of fear that stop people, finances are always a big issue. What if you lose money? Can’t pay your bills? Can’t put food on the table? There is also the fear of letting down those around you, your partner, your parents and of course, your children.

Self belief

Much of the fear we experience comes from our own lack of confidence. It takes great self belief to invest time and money in your own success. Even more so if you are giving up a steady job with a good salary in a profession that contributes to your sense of identity. I was a librarian, I loved being a librarian. I loved telling people I was a librarian, I’d spent years studying to be able to do it, it was hard to let go of that. Often mothers will have already stepped away from their careers, if only for maternity leave. This can make the loss a little easier to handle.

the practicalities

Practical issues can stop us too. Money rears its head again, if the idea we have needs money, how do we find it? We all need some support, this might be childcare from family, support from a business network. It might just be moral support from a partner or friend. You may also need knowledge, of running a business in general, specific things like getting prototypes made, technical knowledge or just knowing the right people. Finally, and most importantly, you need an idea. I have a little book full of every wacky business idea I’ve ever thought of over the years. Choosing an idea that I could realistically implement was the really challenging bit. I still believe that a milkshake shop would be really successful in my town however the start up costs would be more than I could afford and the working hours not at all family friendly.

What’s Stopping you?

If you’re one of those people who dream of being self employed think about how all this applies to you. Even if you conclude now isn’t the time to take the leap, at least you will know if there are genuine reasons to hold fire or if it’s just the fear that stops you. If that’s the case you can start thinking of ways to overcome it.

Ready to take the plunge but struggling to find the right business? “Business for Mums” can help you find the right idea.

Want to read about Mums who have taken the leap? Check out our stories.

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