Tag: "working from home"

Returning to work after a second child – how different can it be?

Returning to work after a second child – how different can it be?

I rather excitedly returned to work earlier this month having had almost a year off following the birth of my second son. Returning to work the second time around offered an entirely new experience, why had no one warned me about this? Why did they just warn me about how different my second child would be, and how they would have hugely distinctive personalities, habits and traits from the first one? Unfortunately for me the new experience wasn’t positive either.

I was returning to work again as a freelancer for an organisation I used to be an employee at, and which I had been working for years. The major shift in the way I worked had been after my first child when I decided to resign my permanent job and go freelance so I could more easily juggle the demands of motherhood and career. That was a hugely nerve wracking time but turned out to be the best decision I could have made. At least, returning to the same arrangement the second time around wouldn’t be such a shock or upheaval, I thought to myself.

The night before did bring some of the usual anxieties: how do I help get not one but two children dressed, breakfasted and off to nursery, and myself ready and out the house in time for my train? (really, hats off to you working women with more than two sprogs); will I still fit in my work attire having lost none of the pregnancy fat I promised I would; mmm, oh yes, and can I still do my job?

Yet it was none of these that in the end put a dampener on my spirits. When I walked in the door and strode over to the work area I usually shared with five lively and (unwittingly) amusing salespeople, I found a lone computer sitting on a deserted desk with a mountainous stack of unwanted paper on one side and a huge empty space where people should have been on the other. It was MY computer sitting there in isolation shoved next to what, frankly, looked like preparations for a bonfire. My old colleagues had been ‘rehomed’ leaving my desk to rack and ruin and become a mere dumping ground.

Worse though, where were the friendly, familiar, smiley faces I assumed would be there to greet me? I looked around me to ask someone what was going on and bar a smattering of old timers I realised, with a pang of fear, I hardly knew anyone. So many people were new. My old boss had gone, old colleagues moved to a different floor, departments restructured and moved around, and an entire magazine which I used to work on and dedicated most of my career to had been TUPED off to a different company altogether. Hardly a soul welcomed me back, not because they were being rude but because they just didn’t know me, even though I am now one of the longest serving workers. Gosh so much had changed – spurred on, no doubt, by the spectral economic downturn – and I was in unfamiliar territory.

I had been already made aware, of course, of the major changes such as my boss leaving (something the organisation, to be fair, wasn’t obliged to do given I am a freelancer). However reading about it on email is not like feeling it in real life. Also just think, colleagues aren’t necessarily aware that the gradual changes they experience over the course of just under a year can add up to something representing quite a dramatic transformation to someone who has been absent all that time. They are just busy getting on with it all.

And realistically some change must be expected. Which successful businesses do you know of simply stand still? After all, the organisation had gone through some key changes while I was off with my first child. I coped with that just fine.

Yet this time was different, the pace of change felt far more accelerated. As I said, I guess it’s just a sign of the times. The organisation has been brilliant at supporting me but really not much can prepare you for feeling like everything is suddenly unfamiliar.

As a result, I actually felt lonely but rather weirdly, also a bit stupid, out of place, like a spare part. And feeling like that on top of the insecurity you can experience after such a long spell out of work can be a recipe for disaster if you are trying to get your career back on track. It can be tricky to explain how pressurised it can feel returning to work after maternity leave to those that haven’t done it. Many women suffer a crisis of confidence just because they have been absent so long and worry about their job performance. Then there’s the added stress of worrying how your little one is coping without you and hoping to god they are not sitting in the corner just crying. Your emotional state is about as stable as a straw mountain but the façade you have to give is cool, calm, collected, adding to the pressure.

Going back to a workplace that you then feel has changed beyond recognition can make it tempting to bid a hasty retreat to your desk, speak and interact with no-one and just bury your head in your work. That’s certainly what I wanted to do.

However, on the journey home that evening I had the chance to analyse the day, re-assess the situation and thought I should draw on all the great coaching I had been lucky enough to receive as an employee. I realised fading into the background is not a strategy that was going to get me back on the career ladder. So I devised a personal strategy with a few goals and aims. I thought I should share them, so here goes:

1. Accept change

It happens every day in business. Don’t bemoan the fact the place has changed, all the fun people have gone or old ways of working have been replaced. It will just make you feel worse about your working life. Get to know your organisation as it is now and accept that’s how it is. All the positive elements will soon make themselves apparent again. I resolved to do this after that first day, having realised that all I was doing was comparing the here and now with the ‘old days’. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling dealing with change but I decided I must switch my thinking, be adaptable and ride it out. The next day I started work with a new much more positive outlook.

2. Don’t isolate yourself and keep yourself to yourself

Not even if it is just because you feel you don’t know anyone anymore. Seek out old colleagues to let them know you are back and have a catch up, but then ask them to introduce you to new people. I went and said hello to as many of the people I had formerly worked with as I could, including making a special visit to some of the senior staff! It reminded me I had a place and history at the organisation and that I was valued.

3. Embrace new challenges and new projects

Take on projects outside your comfort zone. It will remind bosses why you are such a talent and give you the opportunity to work with new people and teams.

4. Enjoy your work

Remind yourself of the parts of the job that you find rewarding, stimulating and enjoyable and get stuck in again. It can be a real buzz re-discovering the joys of what you do as well as having some of your former identity back. For me I have loved getting to meet and write about new people again, the chance to make more contacts, to learn what was happening in the industries I write about. In other words, using my brain again!

5. Enjoy working life

It’s can be hard to arrange a night out but if you can join colleagues for an after work drink or work social event occasionally it can be a real tonic.

6. Weed out the negative

You should be too busy to have time to indulge in negative thoughts or feelings anyway!

Ok I can’t claim I have achieved all of this yet. After all, I have only been back at work a couple of weeks. Some of it such as the night out is work in progress and I admit, so too is being able to entirely eliminate negative thoughts. But the simple task of even devising a strategy and setting myself goals and aims has enormously helped my outlook and make sense of my rather overwhelming experience of returning to work. I am also reminded that if I want to ensure my work life is enriching and enjoyable only I can take charge and be sure that that is what happens!

Author: Rima Evans, free lance business journalist and editor, rimaevans@blueyonder.co.uk

Organise, delegate and outsource business start-up

How to organise yourself, delegate and outsource as a business start up

The most-repeated comment I hear from new business start ups “There are so many things to do!”. And it is so true – standing back and taking an objective look, the list is daunting:

Ø On Your Marks! – research market, do feasibility forecasts (am I likely to make money?), identify market, make business plan, identify how much capital is required and raise it (as cheaply as possible!),

Ø Get Set! – decide branding and get design work done, website creation, create marketing materials, identify suppliers, negotiate terms, open bank account, prepare detailed marketing plan, contact advertisers, financial budgets

Ø GO! – Sell, network, advertise, build brand awareness, keep on top of accounting and VAT, reforecasts……

STOP NOW! This list is endless and overwhelming. And it is dangerous. Why? Because if our expectations of ourselves are that by becoming a business owner we also become, apparently over-night, a marketeer cum salesperson cum financial controller cum graphic-designer cum copy writer, then we set ourselves up to fail.

Be realistic – you are the ring-master, not the whole show

It is your job to run the business which means your days will be spent in a combination of generating sales, marketing your business and supplying the product/service. (The time dedicated to each of these activities will depend on the nature of your specific business and how much you can delegate to someone else.)

You cannot and should not try to do everything. Your focus must always be on business-building. If you spend a day doing book-keeping, who is making sales? (Your competitors, that’s who.)

So the advice is – organise yourself, delegate and outsource

Go ahead and make that “To Do” list, then work your way through it, delegating tasks where possible. Be realistic. Outsource recurring tasks that would divert your focus if you were to take them on (book-keeping is a good example). If you need an expert for a task (e.g. marketing logo design), ask friends for recommendations and hire one.

Outsourcing is a facility that makes expertise available to you as and when you require it. Invest in another person’s expertise and experience and save yourself the learning curve that means wasted time and money. Remember, while the outsourced expert completes a task far more quickly, accurately and completely than you could, you are out generating the long-term sales contacts that your business relies on, and which will ultimately more than pay for the cost of your outsourcing.

So many things to do? There certainly are. But not all by you.

Author: Dara McGovern from JumpStart for Business. Dara is an experienced chartered accountant and ex-Finance Director of a large multi-national. She now runs her own Business Finance consultancy, DM Solutions, around her busy family life. DM Solutions is part of the JumpStart4Business strategic alliance which came into being to support business start-ups, providing easy access for new business owners to a range of relevant expertise and experience. dara@jumpstart4business.com

JumpStart4Business runs regular, informative workshops, supporting and encouraging new entrepreneurs, see www.jumpstart4business.com for news on the next event 

The first things you need when starting a business

The first things you need when starting a business

My first question is: which of the three little pigs would you rather be? Yes, you have probably heard the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ but you might be wondering what it’s got to do with starting a business.

Just to recap on the story (and explain it if you don’t know it),….

The Three Little Pigs have been sent out into the world by their mother, to ‘seek their fortune’. The first Little Pig builds his house out of straw but a wolf blows it down and the pig runs to this brother’s house. The second Little Pig builds a house out of sticks but the wolf blows that down too. The brothers run to the third Little Pig’s house which is made of hard bricks. The wolf tries, but fails to blow this house down. The wolf tries several times to trick the Little Pigs into leaving the brick house, but each time, the pigs outsmart him. Finally, the wolf decides to come down the chimney. What he doesn’t know is that the Three Little Pigs have outsmarted him again and he falls into a pot of boiling water and is cooked.

So what has this story got to do with starting a business? You can build your business out of ‘straw’ or ‘sticks’ but it won’t take much for the ‘wolves’ to blow it down. If you build your business out of bricks and with a strong foundation, it will withstand any attempts that the ‘wolves’ might make to blow it down.

So what makes up a strong, solid foundation for your business and how can you make sure the ‘bricks’ you use to build it, are the strongest around?

When starting a business, the first thing you need to have is a clear and detailed PLAN. Do make sure the plan includes these five key ingredients. 

1. Create a business plan, even if you are the only one who will see it

It will give you a map of where you want to go, supported with information of how you are going to achieve it.
Starting a business without a plan is like embarking on a journey to somewhere foreign without working out the full costs, the time scales, the language you need to speak when you arrive and the route you need to take to get there safely.
Have enough MONEY in your ‘start up pot’

It can take up to 6 months to really start making a profit to cover your costs, so make sure you have enough to launch your business, buy equipment, buy products (if applicable), market it and pay yourself during that time.

Add in a contingency because things will go wrong, mistakes will be made and unforeseen problems will arise.

2. Have a clear MARKETING Plan

Make sure you have identified at least 5 different ways to attract your perfect client before you launch your business. These can include direct mail, networking, display advertising, email campaigns and telemarketing.

Take time to research what will work for your business. Take a look at what your competitors are doing.

Work out WHO your perfect client is, HOW they like to be communicated with and then WHERE they spend their time – keep these in mind when working out your marketing plan.

3. Get your WEBSITE and SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE sorted before you launch your business

How many times do you go and check out a business online before you make the decision to buy from them? Your potential clients will do the same. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Make sure you have the Twitter, Facebook and Website domain names for your business as soon as you know what that name is.

Create an account on LinkedIn too.

Get an easy to navigate, attractive website up and running before you officially launch your business. Ensure you have calls to action on your site so you can capture information for your database.

If you feel brave and confident enough, get some videos done to post on your website.

Have an e-newsletter ready to go onto it too.

4. Make sure everything is LEGAL and your business is protected

Let HMRC know as soon as possible that you have started your business.You have 3 months to let them know or you will have to pay a fine

Check which class of National Insurance Contributions you need to pay.

If you are going to hold data on customers or prospects, you need to register with Data Protection. It’s an annual cost of £35.

If you are planning on setting up as a partnership, ask for professional help from an accountant and solicitor. You may be friends at the beginning but as we all know, it can all change.

5. Protect the TECHNOLOGY that is essential for your business

Most businesses need at least one computer to operate successfully, even if it’s just for ‘doing the books’. Always make sure you regularly backup your data and computer configuration. It’s not difficult or expensive. If you lost all of the information on your computer, would you business survive?
TAKE TIME TO REGULARLY REVIEW THESE FOUNDATIONS OF YOUR BUSINESS AND MAKE ANY CHANGES NECESSARY.

ONE THING WE ALL CAN DEPEND ON IS, THINGS ALWAYS CHANGE. BE READY TO MEET THOSE CHANGES CONFIDENTLY AND POSITIVELY.

I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions that we can help with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Author: Alida Ballard, from Surrey Accounting Services, Alida offers small businesses a proactive accountancy service that will work closely with you to help you grow your business. They offer on-going business support, which includes setting targets and helps you be more in control. You can also get help with services such as  bookkeeping, payroll, credit control and monthly reports that help you run your business more profitably. alida.ballard@sas-accounts.com, 01932 353146, 07595 924644

 

This article was first published on Fabulous Women, and is kindly published with their permission. If you would like to read more articles from Alida and other small business experts, do check it out.

 

 

 

Returning to work: from investment analyst to on-line entrepreneur

Returning to work: from investment analyst to on-line entrepreneur

Amanda Seabrook is a 38 year-old mother of 3. Returning to work to work after a 7 year gap, she founded Workpond, a new online job site for flexible work. Her story isn’t short of large amounts of juggling, much frustration and a lot of determination, as she explains how she has got to the point of starting her own business on-line.

I imagine there are many mothers out there who, like me, have felt the frustrations of not finding work flexible enough to fit in with motherhood. I started my career in the financial world in 1996 and worked my way up the ranks. Having worked in Sydney at ABN AMRO Asset Management as an Investment Analyst, my husband and I decided to move back home to the UK when expecting our first child in 2003. Being four months pregnant, it was hard to look for a job from scratch, so we decided that I would take a career break and face the challenge of raising a family head on.

The Career break

Once all three of my children were born, what I had intended to be a short career break had become a 7 year gap. Like most mothers, I had spent much time wondering what I could do once the kids were at school, believing that I would need to start my career again from scratch in a more flexible industry, or where I could be self-employed. What I really wanted was to use some of my existing skills. I felt strongly that my job should:

a) not be full-time, to allow for school holidays

b) not involve a time consuming commute, and

c) allow flexible hours so I could manage the school run.

Starting a new business – get all the help you can!

My interest in the flexible employment market (or the lack of one) quickly became a passion and I began researching it in depth. It soon occurred to me that there is great demand throughout the country for flexibility, both from men and women at all stages of their career and from businesses large and small. I thought that I would have a crack at helping these people by making it simple and low cost for businesses to find them and give them the opportunity to market their skills to businesses.

With the blessing of my husband (once he had scrutinised my business plan) and the help of a part-time nanny, I scraped together as much money as I could find, and went about setting up the company. At first I felt daunted but within a few weeks I felt exhilarated by my new role and having the freedom to work through problems at my leisure. After 7 years of raising children it was a luxury to be able to work again. Luckily I had an army of friends willing and able to help – accountants, editors, PR, HR and marketing professionals, computer science graduates, experienced entrepreneurs, management consultants. They all stepped in willingly and lent me their experience – the vast majority of whom were sourced from the playground.

With all the planning and web-design completed, we were ready to launch. Workpond is an online marketplace helping businesses find experienced professionals who want to work flexibly and high calibre individuals find stimulating flexible roles, but on Day 1 it had no candidates and no roles. I quickly had to learn marketing from scratch, so to help me I brought in an expert – another mother of 3, Sara Acworth, with a terrific marketing background. With her she brings not only skills and experience, but enthusiasm and ideas. Prior to Sara joining, my husband had to endure the regular evening download – absolutely the last thing that he wanted – and a far cry from the good old days when I would welcome him home with his pipe and slippers! Having Sara to share it with means that I can now spare him the detail!

Very quickly Sara got us all hooked up onto the different social media platforms, and we got working on face-to-face marketing to businesses. Steadily the numbers of candidates have grown, the majority of whom have fantastic professional experience. We are marketing these high calibre professionals to start-ups and high growth small companies that can gain enormous benefits from employing flexibly. As a result we have a broad range of fabulous roles coming onto the site.

So, where are we now?

We are still right at the start of our journey and have a long way to go. We are receiving support from partners, who believe that flexibility will play a large part in the future of work.

Where are we going?

We aim, to make it simple and affordable for businesses to access the skills of experienced professionals on an interim, contract or part-time basis. As a result, we hope to act as a catalyst for the flexible employment market.

Am I enjoying it?

Absolutely – sometimes I feel that I could do with fewer ‘balls in the air’, but I am my own boss, working flexibly from home – perfect.

How does the family feel about it?

My husband believes in Workpond, so supports me in it. He helps me keep the work/ life balance that I had aspired to, but now find hard to achieve. My youngest, who is 2 would really love to have more time with me, so I try to make sure that he gets lots of one-on-one when I am not working.

My elder two, who are 7 and 8 hardly notice as they have fairly long days at school. They are very interested in Workpond and ask a lot of questions, which I always answer. I can see early entrepreneurs in them both – trying their luck at selling home made nettle-tea to the brave and cleaning our friends’ shoes.

What would I say to anyone considering starting their own business?

  • Keep it simple
  • Make sure you have the support of family and friends
  • Make sure you are happy with your childcare arrangements
  • Make sure you can afford it – most businesses are much slower to generate revenue than you have forecasted
  • Make sure you are resilient – there will be downs as well as ups
  • Listen to advice, but only follow the bits that you really believe
  • Once all those are in place GO FOR IT!

Author: Amanda Seabrook is the founder of Workpond, a new online market place for part-time and flexible work. Find out more about Workpond and how we can help you with your career.

9 tips on balancing family life and business

9 tips on balancing family life and business

Wondering how a father working from home balances work and family? Check out these 9 brilliant tips from David Risley. Doing some of those took me the better part of 2 years to learn, but from personal experience I can tell you they all work.

Read more on David Risley’s Blog

Working from home: business ideas for mums

Working from home: business ideas for mums

Mums who are working from home can be really successful, but what to do? We give you some business ideas to inspire you. After all, your work can bring in some extra household income, set a good example to your children, and help you to improve your skills and assets.

Child minding

Stay at home mothers who really enjoy caring for their children might find that child minding is an excellent option. Even caring for one child can provide some much needed extra money, and can give your children the opportunity to play with other children who are of similar age. For more ambitious mums, it might be possible to set up a playgroup or nursery, which can become a very successful and lucrative business.

Tutoring

Similarly, if you have good qualifications and talent why not start up a tutoring business, for example in maths, English or languages, or even musical instruments such as the guitar or piano? This is really rewarding, and is very flexible as you can choose exactly which hours you are available for tutorials.

Writing for profit and selling

Another very popular choice for home workers is freelance writing. There are many different companies, many of them internet based, which offer freelance writing work to people who can work from home. On the other hand, for active individuals who enjoy getting out of the house, product sales can be an excellent business venture. There are many businesses that require people to distribute their catalogue, for example Avon or Kleeneze. It is possible to distribute as many or as few catalogues as desired, and it can also be an excellent way of meeting new people and socializing.

Internet businesses

If you prefer to work at whatever time of day suits you, starting up an internet business can offer a great opportunity for success. One option is to create a website which sells goods or services, or sell them via an online auction site such as Ebay, but this is not the only option. If you can build up a website that attracts a lot of visitors, it can be possible to make substantial amounts of money simply through affiliate marketing and advertising.

Study at home

One way of broadening your horizons even further is to do some studying. Most colleges offer part-time courses and many offer online learning courses that can be studied at home.

If you already have a qualification you have even more choice when deciding how you want to work from home – for example, with an accounting qualification you can start a book-keeping business from home. Many other work from home options require a substantial amount of IT knowledge, so taking a course in computing can really help to improve your prospects of success, especially if you will be running your own website.

Author: Charlotte Ellie Parker

Please note, this article is sponsored content. Sponsor: ICS Distance Learning  

Make money from home - how to find a franchise that works

Make money from home – how to find a franchise that works

We all want to make money from home, and get quick rich, while choosing the hours we want. But clever people know this, and set up scams, or even legal business to take advantage of you. This is how you check whether this is a good franchise opportunity for you.

Yes I know, you need the money, it’s recession after all, incomes are going down. Besides it’s quite risky to have just one income provider for the family, and it even feels unfair the burden for the family income is all on the shoulders of just one parent.

But you also want the flexibility. You want to be there for the children. How can you get an income? What jobs are there that give allow you to work at times you want?

And then this opportunity comes along, and your interest is peaked. It seems to offer everything you need. It grabs you at a vulnerable moment says Helen Lindop from Business Plus Baby, and she describes exactly what you should do to find out if this is indeed a golden opportunity for you.

Read more on Helen Lindops blog ‘BusinessPlusBaby’…

I would like to add: be careful for the wording used. A franchise is often no longer called a franchise, but can be called fancy things like network-marketing. Good luck with making money from home, it can be done, but it takes real skill and hard work for all of us.

Running a portfolio business - Paullette Schwartz

Running a portfolio business – Paullette Schwartz

Winner article writing competitionInterview with Paullette Schwartz, working mum, business owner, single mum and winner of our 2011 article-writng competition. Her daily schedule and tips offer great insights in how to run 3 business along-side being a single parent.

 Paullette, you won our article writing competition, congratulations! What did you think when you heard you had won?

It was completely unexpected; I write for fun and write a blog as a hobby. That said, whatever I do needs to have a benefit, that is time management. As a single working mum I have to be ruthless with choosing what to spend my time on. So my writing is fun but also serves to raise my profile and generate business.

How did you decide to enter the competition?

I read about it somewhere, then Sarah (founder of Ladies@11) mentioned it and then I met you at the Ladies@11 teaparty. I wanted to help Mum & Career as it is a really worthwhile site and working mums need that sort of information. Our chat made me realise my experience as a highly organised single mother could actually be valuable for other parents. I have to be organised, know this stuff inside out, and realised many of us struggle to do just that.

Could you tell us about your business?

I run a number of businesses, really because I have so many different interests and focusing on one leaves me with a feeling of dissatisfaction I am not doing the other. Also, as a single mother, it is important my income is sufficient to sustain a family; a portfolio of businesses gives me a buffer in a recession.

I run IdealHearts (now closed – IW) – happiness and relationship coaching after a break-up. I use similar skills as a coach to business people going through a life transformation. I also run IdealBusiness, mentoring small and micro-size businesses. Then there is my not-for-profit venture: Fabulous Woman, a community of women that inspire each other. Last I have a side-line in trading cars with my boyfriend.

All of my businesses are about helping women thrive; it’s about happiness and profit. We all want to be happy and when you are successful you are more likely to be happy. We all need to survive and thrive.

It does sound impressive. How do you fit running five businesses and looking after two children in? What does a typical day look like for you?

5.0o Get up, eat breakfast, have a quiet morning-coffee, read e-mails. Collect my thoughts for the day and get materials ready.

5.30 Exercise, usually a walk, yoga or a Pilates video.

6.00 Wake up the kids, they are 12 and 13. They get dressed and I get them ready for school. They are very independent though, and I have taught them to be so. For instance if their clothes aren’t in the laundry basket they simply do not get washed.

7.45 Kids catch the school bus; I get a coffee and respond to e-mails.

8.15 I write, go to meetings, do cold-calling and meet up with clients.

4.00 pm Kids come home, and I listen to them and carry on some work.

5.30 pm We have dinner as a family and catch up, I tidy the rooms, feed the cats, mow the lawn or whatever needs doing. My house is not the epitomy of tidiness, my two children are like tornado’s and housework will come last. In busy times only the essentials are done, such as the children’s laundry. I believe tidiness doesn’t make a big difference to the quality of our life.

8.00 pm The kids go to bed, and I have time for some reading and catching up with friends, having a chat or organising social engagements.

9.00 pm I get ready for bed. Occasionally I work in the evening too, if it is really busy, I try to avoid it as it affects my sleep. I always read for an hour, for fun, or professional development.

Of course every day is different, as the kids have all kinds of activities and I fit in driving them places too. I always like to start mindful though, reflecting on what I have achieved, it is so easy to forget those and dwell on the negatives.

I am very fortunate to run my own businesses, if on a day I don’t have the energy I listen to my body and take the day off. I meet a friend for lunch, chill out at home or go back to bed.

And of course I do more than just work, there is more to life than that. I make time for hobbies such as horse riding, rock-climbing going to a play or an opera. We have a camper van and I take the children on trips. I adore travelling and go on trips 3-5 times per year, on my own or with my boyfriend.

I hope every working mum reading this remembers being organised is key, but it’s not all about work. I believe it is important you keep in touch with what you really like doing.