Being a Self-Employed Mum isn’t all about independence and girl power. Sometimes it’s a little bit lonely, with no colleagues to chat to, and nobody to share the responsibility of the mountain of tasks that must be completed to ensure that the money comes in.
Sometimes it’s quite frustrating, when people assume that you MUST have lots of money because clearly you do NOTHING all day except browse facebook and drink tea, and you still manage to buy things and pay bills and all sorts, therefore they must be entitled to interest-free personal loans from the Bank of the Self-Employed Mum.
Sometimes it’s hard not to scream at them that their timing is awful, that in fact YOU could use a loan from THEM because some idiot somewhere hasn’t paid their bill on time and your cash flow is out of the window, that you’ve over-committed yourself in an attempt to save money in the long run, that actually if they worked a bit harder – like YOU do – and looked after their credit ratings – like YOU have to – then they too could be in the enviable position of having their friends make the assumption that they can and indeed should lend them money.
Nicer problems to have
When initially searching for ideas on how to be a Self-Employed Mum, the prospect of making even a basic living wage whilst enjoying some independence and flexibility sounded like it would solve all my problems in one fell swoop. What I didn’t realise at the time, though, was that the more successful my enterprises became, the more that particular set of problems would just be replaced with a different set of equally real problems. Problems that may be nicer to have, admittedly, but problems nonetheless, and problems cause stress.
Some of the most stressful problems that come with achievement relate to maintaining relationships with people. Jealousy is a terrible thing, and it can make people very bitter. I’m very lucky, I have some great friends, one of whom in particular is always hugely supportive and never resentful, even when he is struggling financially and I’m doing well. That’s not to say that he doesn’t ask for a loan here and there… but I know that he genuinely is pleased for me when I do well, and he will go out of his way to assist me in any way that he can in furthering my enterprises. Friends like that are rare, and must be appreciated, and cultivated, because for every one of those, there will be numerous people who you thought were friends but who actually end up resenting you for the achievements that you have worked hard for.
Growth strategy or happy accident
Not everyone sets out to escalate their work-from-home activities into a bigger business that generates a higher income, but if you enjoy what you do, and you do it well, it naturally grows, in an organic way, and it basically happens when you aren’t looking. You aren’t looking because you’re too busy just DOING it.
People often say to me “I want to have my own business”, without particularly having any idea of what it is they want to actually do, much less what is going to set them apart from any other people doing something similar, which just makes me want to slap them, because “the business” is merely the administrative product of doing whatever it is you do on a daily basis to service your customers. Focusing on “having a business”, rather than on giving the absolute best product and/or service to the customers, clearly indicates a totally inappropriate attitude for successful self-employment, and ultimately spells impending failure. In my less charitable moments, I might say that failure was well-deserved.
If you have the spirit for successful self-employment, you will go through processes of trial-and-error, through which you will optimise your products and/or services, develop a good client base, and you won’t be able to say “no” to opportunities that present themselves. Over time, if you’re fortunate, hard-working and sensible, you will find that the scale of your operations increase and the revenue increases too.
Then you find out who your true friends are – they’re the ones who help you out when you have over-committed yourself and have no time to pick the kids up or make dinner or go out on a night out that you’d all planned. They’re the ones who don’t constantly tell you how lucky you are and expect you to pick up the bill because they’re “a bit skint and you know how it is at the end of the month when you get paid monthly, but it’s ok for you isn’t it, you don’t have that problem…”
No woman is an island
You need the support of people who genuinely want you to succeed, but it’s important to identify the people whose intentions are good, and on the flip side work out who will resent your successes and relish your failures. If you’re going it alone, you need all the support you can get, and unfortunately some of your friends and even family members may show true colours that you wouldn’t expect, as you start to build up a lifestyle they envy.
Next time… Being honest with yourself – what are your sellable strengths and worrying weaknesses? (That was meant to be this time but I felt compelled by recent events to write this post instead!)