For many of us, the experience of pregnancy and early parenthood turns our thoughts to what we want for our own lives and for the lives of our children.
A survey of 2,319 British mothers by VoucherCodesPro in 2015 found that the majority planned to do something significant and even life-changing while on maternity leave. Eighteen percent pledged to take up a new hobby, 12% vowed to learn a new language and 9% planned to travel before and after the arrival of their newborn. One in six women also decided that they would use their maternity leave to enter the world of self-employment – a plan that 50% of those followed through to fruition.
Why might maternity leave be the perfect time to start your own business?
As we’ve touched on above, having a baby is a life-changing event that can dramatically shift your priorities. Some women feel that, with their family set to grow, they have to make big changes to their careers while they can. For others, self-employment is the only feasible way to earn while looking after a young family, especially when factoring in childcare costs.
You may have a job where the hours aren’t flexible or you’re expected to travel frequently, which won’t fit in with a young baby. You could be on the brink of redundancy or have reached a ceiling in your career that you won’t be able to break through if you need to work part-time for a couple of years. Any number of scenarios can affect parents of all backgrounds.
According to statistics from the Office of National Statistics Regional Trends, women are nearly five times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men. Tying into this, one-fifth of women choose self-employment so that they can combine their family commitments with work and more than 30% of women work from home so that they can be there for their families.
Creating a business that fits with your family
Having launched a business while on maternity leave myself, I know that I was motivated by the flexibility that self-employment offers. I could be at home with my children and work around their schedules. I wouldn’t be working just to pay the weekly nursery fees. And, as my daughters have grown, being self-employed has enabled me to be on call for emergencies, attend school events, and cover illness or the school holidays without having to get it signed off.
As I discussed in my recent blog, Out of the blue: The pressure to be the perfect parent, women are also often affected by perceptions within the workplace that they are less committed to their careers because they are pregnant or have young children. Self-employment can help you to break away from these preconceptions and direct your career on your own terms. It’s a way of ensuring that you keep moving forwards, personally and professionally, at a time when many women feel they have no choice but to put their career on the back burner.
A break from routine
Maternity leave often provides a larger amount of time away from your current job than at any other time in your life. It can let you hit pause on the usual demands on your time, especially in the weeks before your baby arrives, to take a deep breath and plan for the future. At any other time in your life, a break like this would have to be taken as unpaid leave.
Legally, you can launch your own business during maternity leave and still receive Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer, which can provide a financial safety net as you dip your toes in the water of self-employment.
Make the most of your maternity leave by setting realistic goals
Yes, there are challenges to starting your own business during maternity leave. Not having a fixed monthly salary can be daunting. It’s also important to recognise that every baby is different and that you may have less time than you realise to concentrate on launching a new business. There will be times when you’re bone-tired and when you need to practice self-care, even if it means your business taking a back seat. That’s OK – our children are only babies for a short while.
I always remind the ‘mumpreneurs’ in my circle to quit comparing themselves to other women, even if they have children of the same age. When you’re starting a business on maternity leave, you have to find what works for you and your family.
It is possible to launch a profitable business while you’re on maternity leave
My experience is that you can take almost any talent, professional experience or passion and turn it into a profitable business that fits in with your family life if you stay focused and realistic. And it is completely achievable while you’re on maternity leave.
If you are on maternity leave right now or have maternity leave coming up in the near future and you want to launch your own business, now is the time to plan, read as many books as you can about self-employment (a great way to pass the time when you’re feeding your little one or cuddling a sleeping baby), find out about local business networks and support, speak to your business bank manager, and generally pinpoint what your business could be, your brand and how you intend to make money.
The step-by-step guide to starting your own business whilst on maternity leave
Even before I set up The Unique Mumpreneur, I had begun thinking about how I could support women just like you who want to use their maternity leave to launch their own business. Having done it myself – and made a few mistakes in the process – and now running three successful businesses, I wanted to pass on the value of my experience.
Now my plans are coming together. I’m excited to be launching a new online programme called The step by step guide to starting your own business whilst on maternity leave. Although I love meeting people face-to-face, especially as part of my networking and mastermind groups, I know that online learning is a great option for women on maternity leave. It enables you to learn about and work on your business at any time of the day or night, which can be a godsend if you’ve got a little one who doesn’t want to sleep or you plan to use your child’s nap times to get your business off the ground.
The course comprises a series of video modules and workbooks covering topics such as:
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- Your idea
- Research your market and client avatar
- Sort the childcare
- Types of businesses
- Your business and the law
- And much, much more
I’ve structured the programme so that you can access the modules at your own pace, around your family commitments. Each module covers practical, actionable advice without any jargon. This stuff works because I have lived it. In fact, I’m still living the lessons I’ve learned and want to share with you.
Are you thinking about setting up a business while on maternity leave? Or is something you did when you were home with your new baby? I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and any questions you might have about my step by step guide to starting your own business whilst on maternity leave programme in the Comments below.