It's a question many business owners will have asked themselves before going down that road. When you start out on a new business, it really does become your baby. So how can this compete and be managed alongside the real babies in the family? And why would anyone want to take on the challenge of starting a business when they have a child or children to look after?
The reasons could be:
Financial – to earn income for your family after leaving a role or taking a career break
Practical – to create a home-based family-friendly work solution to childcare challenges
Aspirational – to bring to life a dream that’s always been there
Professional – to build up or even maintain your skills and talents
...or a combination of all these things!
Elizabeth, who started her own copywriting business with a toddler and a baby in tow, explained why she did it when she did:
“I was working in a senior role in an agency in London, but took voluntary redundancy on maternity leave and then had a career break. It got to the point where I knew I wanted to return to work at some point - but on my terms. I loved writing, and so starting my own writing business seemed the right thing to do. My goal was to build it up gradually until the children started school, and to maintain a degree of flexibility to work at home”.
Whatever your reasons, it’s worth going into your exciting new venture aware of the pros and cons, and armed with as much information as possible.
If you’re starting a business, you make the decisions. You decide when you work and how you work, and therefore can operate flexibly around the needs of your family.
If you can lay the foundations of your new business while your children are young, you may be able to take on more business by the time they start school.
Some people really miss work and the challenge of using their brain when they find themselves with more time at home with a young family. Using this time to start a business may fill that intellectual vacuum if this is how you feel.
If you already have a young family, we don’t need to tell you how demanding that is! While some images of parent business owners show an idyllic life of running a successful business while children nap peacefully, the reality can be very different. Not everyone has children who slot nicely into a routine. Toddlers need a lot of supervision. And a lot of children have a radar for when their parent needs to not be interrupted and will do the very opposite!
Starting and then running a business usually comes with an unpredictable workload. For many sole traders ‘famine or feast’ is a reality. If you are suddenly run off your feet, you need to know you can handle it. If you employ others, you never know when a time-consuming people issue may crop up or you need to step in due to absence.
You may need to invest money at what is already an expensive time. Children (and childcare, if that’s an option) are expensive. Depending on what it is, starting a business is likely to involve some up-front and ongoing costs.
Having your eyes open to the pros and cons is important and checking out our tips may make your life that little bit easier….
Top tips for parents looking to start their own business
Ask any business owner, let alone one with child-induced tiredness, disrupted days and interrupted chains of thought, and they’ll tell you, lists are the way forward. So start by listing in as much detail as possible EVERYTHING you think you will need for your business. Really, this will form the basis of your business plan. List the costs, admin tasks and resources you’ll need. Then, to work through these tasks, allocate a small number to achieve per day. At the end of each day, proudly tick off what you’ve done, and create a new list for the next day. Oh, and keep a notebook or your phone by your bed to note that extra task you think of in the middle of the night!
Work out the childcare you’ll need to keep some hours child-free and business focused, whether through family support, nursery or childminder options. If none of these are an option, you may need to start slowly, getting tasks done in nap-time or the evenings. If it’s possible, work out how much business you’ll be able to deliver in this timescale so you don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
Make sure you have the right tools and technology. A laptop will be your friend, enabling you to work flexibly in different venues around your family life.
Accept that running your business at home with a family may not be the most glamorous affair. Elizabeth describes the early days of her business “I used to do some of my writing on a laptop sitting in the bathroom while my daughter was in the bath. It wasn’t exactly what I envisaged as a successful business owner!”
Be honest with clients around no-go timings for calls. It can be tempting to take calls at all times, but doing it with one eye on a child about to crawl down the stairs, or while cooking a meal, will not help you give the best attention to your caller.
Don’t fall into the guilt trap. Guilt that you’re not spending enough time with the family, guilt you aren’t putting enough into the business. Make a realistic business plan based on achievable goals. Start small and don’t assume you won’t get busy quickly. After all, if you’re good at what you do, you’ll soon be in demand!
Find creative ways to keep the children occupied. This doesn’t mean neglecting them! But if you don’t want to be disturbed for an hour, make that their film time, screen time or fill a mystery box with activities and perhaps a treat.
Enjoy the ups, learn from the downs. If you’re starting your own business with a young family, it’s an incredibly exciting time. You should be proud of yourself because starting a business takes organisation, passion, creativity and hard work. But there will be times of frustration, of challenge and of wondering why your child only wants a snack when you’re on a deadline or an important call. But when you start achieving your business dreams, making customers happy as well as of course enjoying the financial rewards around your family life, it will be worth it.
Some might say, if there's something you want to do, there’s never the perfect time to do it. If you feel ready to launch a new business, alongside your young family, then be prepared, be brave and be proud 🚀. Good luck!
Make it easier
Stick to realistic, achievable business goals
Create business-focused, child-free time, however small to start with
Make lots of lists to keep yourself organised
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