• Tackling return-to-work fears and doubts: how to stop your brain getting in your way

    Tackling return-to-work fears and doubts: how to stop your brain getting in your way

    Over the last decade, we have supported a large number of women considering returning to work after a long break. Many of the same worries & doubts loom large: What if … I can’t find a good flexible job / affordable childcare? My brain’s gone to mush I’m just being selfish. I feel guilty about wanting […]

  •  Find your way back to work through Strategic Volunteering

    Find your way back to work through Strategic Volunteering

    Volunteering is a common activity among former professionals who are on a career break, whether or not they wish to return to work at some point. Charities, PTAs and local campaigns are always in need of additional support and committed people: for women on a career break they can provide the companionship and sense of […]

  • Freelancing as a return-to-work option

    Freelancing as a return-to-work option

    There are a variety and range of possible routes you can take back to work after a career break. If you have always enjoyed your work, and are passionate about what you used to do, free lancing using your old skills, experience and network may just be the thing for you. Read more to find […]

  • How To Get Into Business As A New Mother

    How To Get Into Business As A New Mother

    It might sound crazy but being a mother is similar to being a businesswoman. Your business is your baby and you do everything in your power to nurture and take care of it (except a business doesn’t come with copious amounts of bodily fluid). Being a mother is scary, but so is starting up your […]

Tackling return-to-work fears and doubts: how to stop your brain getting in your way

Tackling return-to-work fears and doubts: how to stop your brain getting in your way

Over the last decade, we have supported a large number of women considering returning to work after a long break. Many of the same worries & doubts loom large:

  • What if … I can’t find a good flexible job / affordable childcare? My brain’s gone to mush
  • I’m just being selfish. I feel guilty about wanting to work …

However much we want to get back to work, these fears and doubts can stop us in our tracks. And we find ourselves in the same stuck place a year later wondering why we haven’t made any progress.

Recognise your Negativity Bias & Inner Critic

We’re smart women – we’re used to thinking our way out of a difficult situation. But in this case your mind may be your biggest problem rather than your problem-solver. Understanding a bit about our mental make-up explains why.

1. We have a ‘negativity bias’. As the neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says,our minds are like Velcro for the negative & Teflon for the positive. Negative thoughts stick in our brains while the positive ones just roll off.

There is a reason for this. Our brains evolved to keep us safe in the time of woolly mammoths. They’re primed to scan the environment for danger and to shout out all the risks. Better err on the side of caution than be someone’s lunch.

So when you’re thinking about making a major change like going back to work after a long break & maybe changing career direction, your mind left to its own devices may well tell you DON’T DO IT! Your thoughts will naturally focus on all the reasons why not and all the downsides.

2. Alongside the negativity, your ‘inner critic’ fires up as the self-critical soundtrack inside your head judges you harshly …

  • I’m being selfish for wanting to work
  • My children will suffer if I leave them
  • I won’t be good-enough if I can’t give 100%

The subtext of all of these – I’m a Bad Mother if I go back to work.

As we tend to believe our minds, we see these thoughts as facts and make our decisions as if they were the truth. So we stay put and don’t make a change. And we feel reassured for a while because the fears go away. But we’re still not happy and fulfilled …

Balance the negativity

The good news is that we can balance the negativity. Don’t try to get rid of your negative thoughts & Always Think Positive- you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Aim instead to create a more balanced view:

  1. Listen to your negative thoughts and inner critical voices. Write them down to get them out of your head & weigh them up
  2. Consider what evidence you have to support them and challenge yourself to find evidence against them
  3. Tune down the negative ‘Radio doom & gloom’ in your head by not paying it so much attention
  4. Create more helpful messages & tune these up by reminding yourself of them frequently
  5. I’ve lost all my work skills => I still have my old skills, they just need sharpening up
    I’m being selfish => my family will benefit if I’m happier and have more energy for them
  6. Remind yourself of your strengths and achievements. Write them down
  7. For every job option you consider write down why it could work as well as why not

Woman jump over canyonReduce your fears by taking steps forward

Fears are normal in any change. You really do have to Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway! (a great book by the way). Stop over-thinking & start taking action. Get practical and emotional support: even strong women need help to change!

Focus less on the speed of the change and more on keeping moving forward.

Feeling ready to take action? Check out posts on Mum & Career on ‘Why return to work?‘ , ‘Find your Passion‘ and ‘Find Flexible Jobs‘ with job-agencies and head-hunters specialising in women returners.

 

julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

White Van Women on the Rise - Is it a flexible job for mothers?

White Van Women on the Rise – Is it a flexible job for mothers?

The number of female tradespeople in the UK is on the rise, according to a new study into the make-up of the UK’s trades. It may well be a flexible, local job that you could consider. If you would, you wouldn’t be the only one, and it certainly pays well.

A study of 10,000 tradespeople by IronmongeryDirect shows that women now represent 5.7% of working tradespeople. There are now more women tradespeople in the UK than those who are migrants.

The emergence of the ‘White Van Women’ is thought to be a result of demand from female homeowners and single-mothers, who may feel more comfortable inviting a female tradesperson into their home than a male.

The market is meeting this demand as the UK moves out of the recession and the economy shows signs of growth, as female workers take the decision to set up their own businesses, both following redundancy and also as a result of believing they can provide a better customer service.

Wayne Lysaght-Mason, managing director at IronmongeryDirect, said: “It is interesting to see that women now represent a growing proportion of the sector. This influx of women is helpful for those who feel more comfortable or reassured having a lady working within their own home – particularly while the customer themselves and their children are present.”

“The emergence of White Van Women could be a major trend as the economy continues to grow, and will help to meet growing demand, for example in the housing sector. Certainly good tradespeople are highly prized, and it is a great career for women looking to grow their own businesses. ”

Working in the sector means you can work local, and have a good chance of being able to determine your own hours, although you may need to be on stand-by for instance for plumbing or electrical emergencies. Tradesmen tend to be relatively well-paid as well. It’s worth an option looking into if you are the sort of person who would enjoy helping people sort problems with their home.

Author: Ironmongery Direct

Crowdfunding - A New Concept to Finance your Business Start-up

Crowdfunding – A New Concept to Finance your Business Start-up

Crowdfunding is actually far from new, and it may well been the ideal solution for mumpreneurs. It’s been on the modern market for at least the past 5 years but it’s only in the last year that it’s really started to boom in the UK. And in doing so has changed the concept of finance for start-ups.

Gone are the days of persuading Bank Managers that your business idea is viable – despite their lack of knowledge in your market, and despite their bias against female entrepreneurs. Or taking out expensive loans to help get your fledgling company off the ground – only to spend years paying back hideous amounts of interest. This, my friends, is the future of finance, one that is built on mutual respect, pre-paid orders, and supportive communities that will champion your business to the masses. And what’s more, it’s the ideal solution for mumpreneurs looking to start up a new business, especially one that taps into the parent/child target market.

crowdfunding

What is crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is quite literally that. Raising funding from a crowd. So rather than looking for one big financial backer, projects will be backed by a large number of supporters, who will each give a portion of the finance required, so anything from £10 to £10k each for example.

But it’s not simply a donation based platform. There are two themes of the crowdfunding scene – rewards or equity. The rewards based theme sees project owners offer a tiered reward structure to their supporters, which may range from a shout out on social media through to receiving a product once it’s been manufactured. The equity based theme is a more traditional finance structure, where supporters effectively buy shares in the project. But generally for either theme, any project needs to reach its target funding for any money to be released.

Why would you choose crowdfunding

You don’t need to put the family home up as security against the finance. You do however need to have a business plan, and should you reach your target funding, ensure you deliver your rewards or shares as promised.

Supporters take part for a number of reasons. Simply because they ‘believe’ in the concept being proposed, that they’d like to see the product on the market, to support and buy into new innovation, or essentially purchase a ‘pre-order’.

For project owners the concept offers much more than mere finance. It allows them to test the market before they launch, ensure there’s a market out there for the taking, effectively sell their products as pre-orders before even going into the manufacturing stage, and essentially create and engage in the community which their business/proposal is going to appeal.

Some platforms also offer ‘match funding’ – where big organisations, corporate or governmental, match project funding if targets are met. Allowing them to pump finance into grass root projects that have already proven their value in the community.

Crowdfunding Platforms

The biggest name in the crowdfunding market is Kickstarter – which started life in America in 2009, and last year launched in the UK. It’s the market leader with regard to straightforward commerce. It has seen businesses funded on its platform go on to sell to Facebook for $2 billion. And a recent article in the Observer newspaper questions the direction it’s going in and its authenticity to the original game plan of simply ‘supporting creativity’.

In the UK Crowdfunder is leading the way with regard to a rewards based platform that puts ‘community’ at the heart of the all the projects it hosts. So each and every project, regardless of whether it’s for business or charity, needs to offer something back to the community in which it will exist.

However the market is huge and diverse, with platforms serving niche audiences, which means crowdfunding sites dedicated to anything from music and film through to green energy and tech. There’s even a platform aimed squarely at mumpreneurs – Mums Mean Business.

For more information about platforms available and codes of practice visit the UK Crowdfunding Association.

Author: Chinny Ogbuagu is a Content Marketer at Pitney Bowes Ltd. She creates content to help and advise small companies on how to build their brands, business and reach. She’s also a keen social commentator. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

 Find your way back to work through Strategic Volunteering

Find your way back to work through Strategic Volunteering

Volunteering is a common activity among former professionals who are on a career break, whether or not they wish to return to work at some point. Charities, PTAs and local campaigns are always in need of additional support and committed people: for women on a career break they can provide the companionship and sense of purpose that they previously found in their career, as well as essential flexibility.
It is very easy to fill your time with voluntary roles, especially once your children are in school and you can quickly feel very busy, productive and valued.  If you are thinking of returning to work at some stage, though, it is worth thinking about volunteering that can help you with your return either through developing your existing skills or acquiring new ones and, additionally, building your network. This is what we mean by strategic volunteering – work that does more than just make you feel that you are giving something back.

We have worked with many women for whom strategic volunteering was their launch-pad back to work. In some cases this was a deliberate approach and in others, there was a more organic development with the woman discovering a new interest or uncovering a previously hidden talent. You will find more details about some of these examples in our success stories.

These returners planned their volunteering deliberately as a route back to work:
Sue* was a volunteer Games Maker Selection interviewer, with me, for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. She’d previously had a career in HR and used the opportunity of our weekly shift to connect with the London 2012 HR team to find out about other permanent roles in the organisation. Three months into our volunteering she was employed there.

Amy* a former City lawyer volunteered in the legal department of a national charity, advising on contractual matters which was her expertise. After some months she negotiated a move to the trusts and legacy team where she built the knowledge and expertise that enabled her to apply for employment in her target area of private client practice.

In our success stories you can read about Caroline Boyd who joined the Parent Gym as a volunteer trainer/facilitator following a 4 year break from a career in marketing. She loved this new type of work so much that after a year she successfully applied for a permanent training role with the Mind Gym, the commercial arm.

Lynda* a former radio producer used a series of volunteer roles as stepping stones to a new career, starting from the school PTA where she ran a portfolio of increasingly successful fundraising and social events for a number of years. Having regained her professional confidence she volunteered as the campaign manager for a London mayoral candidate, using her journalistic instincts to develop an effective PR campaign from a standing start. Armed with this experience and many new contacts, Lynda was employed by a new political party to manage its PR activity.

julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Freelancing as a return-to-work option

Freelancing as a return-to-work option

There are a variety and range of possible routes you can take back to work after a career break. If you have always enjoyed your work, and are passionate about what you used to do, free lancing using your old skills, experience and network may just be the thing for you. Read more to find what free lancing is and how to get started.

What is freelancing?

The essence of freelancing is that you offer your skills to companies or individuals on a project-by-project basis.  As an independent contractor, rather than an employee, you can control where, when and how you work. Freelancing therefore gives you more flexibility than any part-time working request is likely to do and more freedom than owning your own business. It can be a perfect set-up for parents wanting to fit in work around school hours.

If this all sounds too good to be true, the downside is that there is much less security than in more structured employment: most freelancers have peaks and troughs in their work. You’ll also need to be self-motivated and comfortable with using your sales skills, particularly when you’re getting started and targeting your first clients. Once you have some client referrals and start to build a reputation you will find it much easier as word of mouth is likely to become a key source of business.

How do I get started?

Before you get started with looking for freelance work, there are some important questions to ask yourself about how and where you are going to work and what kind of work will you do.  If you don’t get these clear, you might find yourself taking on work that you don’t really want to do because of the content, hours or location, but you only discover this once you’ve started the project.  Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are the specific skills I want to offer my clients? What is my niche? Think of yourself as a brand: what are my Unique Selling Points?
  • What are my non-negotiable requirements on working hours and locations? How does my ideal working week look?

The key to success as a freelancer is to understand and believe in the skills and experience that you offer and your ability to provide value to your clients.

How do I find clients?

According to Lyndsey Miles, founder of Freelance Parents, there are 7 ways of gaining clients:

  • Approach your former boss or work colleagues (a very common way for returners to dip a toe in the water)
  • Referrals from your network
  • Freelance job sites
  • Low-cost advertising
  • Offering a free trial
  • Cold calling
  • Using social media as a marketing and networking tool

You might find some of these methods easier than others and they each have their benefits and drawbacks, but they do can work, as the stories on Lyndsey’s website show.

What if I don’t enjoy selling?

Another option for freelancers is tying in with one or more larger organisations who take on skilled and experienced professionals for freelance projects. This may be particularly appealing if business development is not your strong suit! Look for businesses in your sector which take on ‘consultants’ or ‘associates’. An increasing number of ‘virtual’ professional services businesses are resourced largely by independent freelancers, for example:

Freelancing can either be a long-term option, a stop-gap while your children are young or a way to ease back into work. I started out in my new career as a freelancer and was able to create a working life that fitted with my family and kept me stimulated and engaged.

 
julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

How To Get Into Business As A New Mother

How To Get Into Business As A New Mother

It might sound crazy but being a mother is similar to being a businesswoman. Your business is your baby and you do everything in your power to nurture and take care of it (except a business doesn’t come with copious amounts of bodily fluid). Being a mother is scary, but so is starting up your very first business, which is why you need to plan and plan again before you take that all important leap. It’s made even more scary for women who try to do both simultaneously, running a business whilst changing nappies. But rest assure it can be done, it just takes a lot of commitment and faith in yourself.

business-new-motherSo, let’s look at those entrepreneurial mothers that want to venture into the business world. It’s not going to be easy, even for those who have previously had children it can be a very difficult process. People without children can struggle to get their business off the ground, which makes it so much more impressive when a new mother can. You need to remember that no matter what, your baby or babies come first. It sounds pretty standard but it can be very easily to slip into the business mindset and forget who you are, even just for a second.

You can get help from almost every corner, you can start making your business plans whilst your bump is growing. 9 months is plenty of time to make all your business plans, make sure you’ve done all the research you need to take your business to the next level. You can use helpful websites and forums for women in business to not only read articles but to also talk to other working mothers making a name for themselves. Sites such as this one (Mum & Career), Prowess, Net Mums etc are all great for any female entrepreneur.

There are also plenty of apps you can use to help keep track of your business plans or make notes. ColourNote on Google Play is a nifty little tool that allows you to write memos, lists and also includes a helpful calendar. This means that you can keep up to date with your plans, using your phone to make quick notes to add into a bigger overall business plan later on. You can also find apps to help build your business plan from the ground up such as Business Plan Premier and StratPad for the iPad. You can also use an online business plan builder such as the critically acclaimed Enloop, which helps to generate financial data about your business.

But what if you don’t have the funds to start the business? If you’re unable to start because of a lack of funds, then you should perhaps invest in a short term business loan. I’m not talking about horrible loan sharks and those who care solely about the money side of things, I’m talking about lenders who want to help small businesses grow. Merchant Money, for example, have specific low start business loans aimed towards women who are new to business. You don’t need in depth business plans and you don’t need to go to dozens of meetings, all you need is a great business idea and a passion for what you do.

So you’ve sorted your business plan and got the funds to begin your journey, but who is going to look after your child/children when you need to go to meetings etc? Well of course you could get help from friends and family members, but they won’t always be free. This is where helpful websites such as Sitters.co.uk and Childcare.co.uk come in. They list local babysitters to you that are trusted and approved, so you can be sure that your child is in safe hands.

So there you have it, a beginners guide to being a new mother and a new businesswoman! Now you can go into the world and show ‘em what you’re made of.

Author Bio: Jade Waddy is an experience writer with an NOCN in journalism. She writes on all manner of subjects but specialises in the business sector. She has previously written articles for Prowess and for Merchant Money.

The Mummy VA Myth

The Mummy VA Myth

As a busy mother myself, I can assure you that being a virtual assistant (VA) is a great job to have alongside family commitments, such as the school run and odd daily chores. However, with almost half of married women doing more than 13 hours of household chores each week1, it’s no surprise that sometimes home-based businesses suffer.

Stereotypically, when people imagine a VA, they often picture a stay-at-home mum, trying to work whilst looking after teething babies or crying toddlers. This picture gets painted time and again when people talk about VAs. Whilst I agree on the female aspect, with 99% of VAs being women2, I would instinctively challenge the rest of this generalisation.

SVA Annual Survey

Instincts aside, I set out to factually reveal just how much of an impact being a mum has on home-based VA businesses. I decided to address this topic head-on through annual surveys from the Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA).

Each year, the SVA takes a snapshot of the VA industry and presents findings through its UK Virtual Assistant Survey. This survey of real VAs looks at everything from how much they earn to what marketing methods work best. The results are always an interesting read…

It was time to find out once and for all whether the Mummy VA is a reality or a “Mummy Myth” (as I call it!).

One of the core topics researched through the SVA is to do with working mums. Firstly, are VAs typically mums? Secondly, are they working without childcare in place, juggling their commitments? And finally, does this affect income?

 

The Mummy Myth

We’ve now asked these questions three years in a row through surveys and the results are fairly consistent:

* Just 35% of VAs are mums with young children (under 12)

* The percentage of WAHMs (work at home mum) who have no childcare in place is 1.5% of the industry – which has fallen in the last 2 years from 3-4%

So there you have the “Mummy Myth”. This stereotype is fantasy. The number of WAHMs without childcare in place is actually comparable to the amount of men working in this female-dominated industry at just 1%. The drop in VAs without childcare in place would suggest that it’s not sustainable to run a successful VA business without childcare – these VAs have clearly either left the industry or decided to put childcare in place.

Do mothers with young children earn less?

This led me to wonder whether mothers with young children earned less.

Our most recent SVA survey (v5) looked at the rates mums charge compared to the non-mums. The mums without childcare were earning over 24% less than the average VA rate.

You could argue that the hours available to work are hampering their earning potential – that is, until you look at what other VAs working the same amount of hours earn, and the mums without childcare are still earning 20% less than those working similar part-time hours.

Fact: If you want to earn a living from being a VA with young children, childcare is essential for success.

Understandably, it’s hard when you’ve perhaps voluntarily opted out of the traditional workforce in order to look after children. You have to be able to justify the increased cost of childcare versus your (hopefully!) increased income. The SVA research would suggest you can charge more if you have more consistent working hours in place.

If you have any questions about juggling your VA business with home life responsibilities or would like to find out more about the SVA, please visit www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk or email info@societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk.

1 Source: Institute for Public Policy Research 2012

2 Source: UK Virtual Assistant Survey v5

caroline-wylieAuthor: Caroline has been a Virtual Assistant (VA) since 2004 in her business, Virtually Sorted. Virtual assistance in the UK was a fledgling industry in 2004, so she worked with a collection of VAs to educate the business community about virtual working which grew rapidly into the Society of Virtual Assistants in 2006. In her role as founder of SVA, she has previously judged the VA of the Year Awards, runs the UK VA Survey each year and is the UK representative of the world’s first virtual assistant certification programme, VAcertified.

 

Working Mothers need to ban Selfish

Working Mothers need to ban Selfish

Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign has sent a strong message to young girls. It illustrates how powerful words can be in labelling ourselves and shaping our thoughts and feelings. Personally, I’d like to ban the overuse of a word that both holds back mothers from enjoying their work-family lives and can even get in the way of a successful return to work. Mothers, let’s Ban Selfish!

How often before having children did we label doing something positive just for ourselves – playing a sport, learning a language, reading a book – as ‘selfish’? Never, that I can remember. In fact, we usually felt quite pleased with ourselves that we weren’t just slumping in front of the TV but were staying healthy or continuing learning new skills outside of work.

But I’ve noticed that a strange transformation comes over many women when children arrive. Suddenly doing something for ourselves starts to make us feel bad, rather than good … it becomes ‘selfish’.
In the last few months, I’ve heard mothers describe all of these as ‘selfish’:

  • Going for a run on a Saturday morning / a yoga class on a Thursday evening
  • Signing up for a Monday evening cookery class
  • Re-reading Jane Austen on a Sunday morning
  • Going to an evening work event to make new contacts
  • Catching up on reading work journals for an hour on a Saturday

Taken further, some women describe their desire to return to paid work as ‘selfish’, usually if they don’t financially need to work but are feeling unfulfilled at home. It can be seen as a personal failing: “Why can’t I just be happy looking after my kids?”

By using the term ‘selfish’, we’re telling ourselves that we are lacking consideration for others and prioritising our interests above everyone else’s.  In fact the opposite is true. We see these choices as selfish because we’re putting our needs at the bottom of the pile. Driven by caring for others, we can end up becoming martyrs to our family.

Taking time for ourselves alongside the needs of your family is not selfish. It’s a healthy and positive attitude that is likely to improve your family life as you will be happier and more energised. Who wants a bored, frustrated and ‘selfless’ mother?

Are you ready to Ban Selfish?

julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.