Guest blogger #50 is another the Blogfest has brought into my life thanks to our online networks of mutual friends. Here Rebecca Claxton describes the best of both worlds for self-employed mums who want, like so many of us, to run our businesses our way.
Running your own business isn’t always easy, things don’t always work out like you’d imagined, but running your own business allows you to do things your own way. And that’s something I explore in this blog post.
In case you don’t know me, I’m a business mentor, adviser and trainer, self-confessed startup lover, introvert and self-employed mum. I believe self-employment gives mums the best of both worlds – meaningful work they enjoy and flexibility to put their family first. And it’s my mission to help mums work smarter, live simpler and be happier in business.
When fellow online businesswoman, Nicola Semple, tagged me in a comment on Facebook I knew it would be worthwhile. I hugely respect Nicola and appreciate her views. I had known Nicola a few years online before having the pleasure of spending time with her in person at Tony Robbins UPW in 2016.
The post that Nicola tagged me in was a call for women in business to share stories of how they run their business, their way. Judith Morgan is the woman behind this and has featured some truly remarkable women over the last couple of months, I’ve loved reading their stories. I knew I wanted to take part, so I said yes.
It’s the deadline tomorrow and here I am writing my blog post. This is just me, with all the planning in the world, I need a deadline to get things done. The amount of job applications I’ve submitted about 5 mins before the deadline, even when I’ve had the application weeks, is astonishing, but it’s just me.
And that’s what I love about running my own business. I can be me. I can work the way I like to work, the times I like to work, the pace I like to work at, the places I like to work and with people who I enjoy being around.
I’m not against employment. I had an amazing career, I spent years working for Citizens Advice in hugely rewarding roles, doing work I loved. I thrived on helping others. But it generally means a compromise like commuting or only getting 5 weeks holiday a year, and that’s not what I want.
Let me take you back. I first started a business in October 2005 after finding myself as a single Mum and not settling for a life on welfare benefits. I offered distance learning (mainly by post, sometimes by email if they had an email address) on a range of topics, from law to child development. Looking back now, I was way ahead of the curve with online learning. The following year I also started a website called New Biz Tips – which did exactly what it said, and I dabbled with affiliate marketing on that site. Again, ahead of my time. And the internet wasn’t what it was today, I didn’t know anyone else doing what I was doing.
But then I accidentally fell into my career with Citizens Advice.
My foray into business didn’t stop there though. During 2007 I spent hours each evening on Yahoo Answers answering questions on marketing and small business. I stormed to the top of the leaderboard and remained in the top 10 some five years after I’d stopped using the site! I loved sharing my knowledge and helping other people on their journey into business.
But life got busy, I met a guy, moved house, had daughter number two and continued the work I was doing in the charity sector, leaving all that business stuff behind. For all of two years anyway.
In 2010 I decided I should have a hobby, something of my own to do. So, I bought a few jewellery making magazines and enrolled in a local jewellery making course. I’m not your typical creative type, but I loved it. I made a few pieces as gifts, then came the “Ooh, I saw your jewellery, could you make me something?” and before I knew it I had myself a new business! That was in the days when Facebook pages really took off and I had thousands of fans overnight and pretty much ran my whole business from Facebook in my spare time around my job. Enter a relationship breakdown and the jewellery project got pushed aside.
A change was what I needed so I took control of my life, moving to live by the sea, but giving up my job to do so. As a single Mum again, now with 2 children to look after, no family around me and living in a rural area, self-employment was the obvious option.
As much as I’d loved making the jewellery, all the photographing, uploading, writing descriptions, packaging and post office trips weren’t my idea of fun so I needed a new plan. I thought back to my first venture into business and decided a service-based business would be easier. Not to mention that everyone had email now so online learning made sense, right? Well in the years I’d been out of it, it felt like everyone else had discovered online learning/teaching and business advice!
Undeterred, I began creating online business courses in 2013, and soon switched my focus to mums who were self-employed or wanted to start a business. I won’t lie, social media had totally changed the business landscape and it took me a good 12 months to get my head around the new way of doing things. Business is so much more about marketing than ever before, no matter what business you have.
Online business continues to evolve, and the Government like to throw in challenges, like EU Vat and GDPR, to keep us on our toes. And I’ve ventured into off-line business with workshops and networking groups too. But online suits me much better. I get to work where and when I choose to. If I want to work in the evenings during the summer holidays, I can. If I want to take all the half-term holidays off, I can. If I want to work on the park or beach when the weather’s nice, I can. If I want to have lunch with a friend, I can. I can do what I choose, and that makes me happy.
Doing things my way allows me to work with my natural flow too. I often go all in for weeks, then take a step back for weeks. I’ve tried to put more structure in place and treat my business as a regular 9-5, but I’m an all or nothing type of person in all areas of my life, so I just go with what’s right for me.
As well as the time flexibility, running my own business gives me the freedom to try any new ideas without waiting for the CEO to run it past the Trustee Board for my ideas to be OK’d (or not!) and means I can instantly stop anything which isn’t working. I recently ditched a client who was creating a lot of stress and overwhelm, and it feels such a relief to do that. It’s amazing to be able to pick and choose the people we work with. I really do get to run my biz my way, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Someone in a Facebook group recently asked, “What skills have you go that you don’t use in your business?” And I can honestly say that I have rolled my skills into one to create my business – how cool is that, that we can just create a business doing anything we want!
Thanks for being my new virtual pal and for getting your post in on deadline with the last few stragglers. I know I nagged a bit and I’m glad I did, your article is valuable and adds to the sum of our parts, as t’were.
I appreciate your reminders about how we can be ourselves in our own business, and I think the inspiration for your clients is how you have rolled all your skills into your own biz. I agree, that is cool. We can just create a business doing anything we want. Even after all the time I have been doing it, that’s still a delicious thought, sometimes a surprise, always a delight and something to re-dedicate ourselves to as often as we like and make any changes that remembering nudges us into.