Looking to work from home but have no idea where to start? Or maybe you’re looking for a side hustle? Maybe you need extra income for a one-off expense like home improvements or a holiday. Maybe you are looking to overpay your mortgage or start investing and want a lump sum to get you on your way. Maybe you want to stay at home with your kids but need to cover a shortfall?
Becoming self-employed has enabled all of these things for me and is far and away the best decision I’ve made to date (well, excluding marrying my beloved and creating some new humans that is).
My style of self-employment involves multiple income streams – partly to provide extra security as I wrote about in this post but also because I’ve never been able to stick with only one focus and I enjoy the challenge of learning new stuff.
Not long after I had thing#2 I became a self-employed private tutor. This role enabled me to continue with meaningful well paid work which I loved while also having the flexibility to put my children at the centre of my life. This child-centred approach is entirely necessary for me to be the kind of mother I want to be, although that isn’t to say that I don’t also love the independence I get at work. I’ve written a number of posts about private tuition here, here and here and I am very happy to answer any questions you, dear reader, may have about becoming a private tutor.
While on maternity leave with Thing#3 I started a new business, one that was entirely outside my comfort zone and experience. Sounds like madness actually.
Sleep-deprived women starts business in a field she knows little about while trying to bring up 3 kids
Yeah, that’ll work.
Well actually it did.
In addition to being a private tutor I also run an eBay shop. I started this, as I said, just before thing#3 was born 3 years ago and last year my husband was able to leave his full-time job and come and join me at home. Frugality and self-employment have worked brilliantly for us in shaping the life we want.
Our eBay shop sells branded clothing for women and we run it from our front room. We’ve fallen into a routine where he does the packing and the daily ongoing tasks and I do the buying of new stock. This works well as it enables us both to be involved in the business while also having clear roles.
If you’re interested have a look at our eBay shop here.
I’ve written before in this post about the importance of finding like-minded peers whenever you embark on anything out of the ordinary. Luckily I had a friend who already ran a successful eBay business and was able (and willing!) to hold my hand while I learned the ropes. She helped me out with finding stock and was always at the end of a panicked email when I needed some help.
I am so incredibly grateful for this support and this is part of the reason I have started blogging – I want to be able to share what I have learnt and the decisions I have made to step away from the rat race with other like-minded people.
Frugality for the win – by living simply I could invest all my maternity pay in the new business.
The first decision I made when starting my eBay business was that I was going to invest every penny of my maternity pay on stock. This was because I knew I wouldn’t be returning to traditional paid employment after my leave was over. I didn’t want to get used to the maternity pay as a source of income and I also wanted to ensure that my new business had every chance at success. So every month as a new maternity payment came in, I went shopping for stock, using UK wholesalers initially.
That’s not to say that everything I bought was good and sold. It didn’t. Over 3 years later some of that first stock is still listed in the shop and is still packed in boxes in the front room. However, lots of what I bought did sell and sold well and that enabled me to build up the business by giving me both the confidence to know what stock would sell and also the financial input to grow.
How being on maternity leave can help you start a new business
The reason I’ve discussed maternity leave as a good point for starting a new business is because maternity leave offers 2 clear benefits:
Firstly, on maternity leave you have more control over your time. Yes of course, there is a small person who needs your attention and some days (weeks…) it’s almost impossible to do more than making sure everyone is fed and dressed. But there is also a freedom in being away from the daily grind that enables you to spend time creating something new (the business silly, you’ve already created the baby). Since your time belongs to you and your family it’s entirely feasible to shape your week in a way that suits your goals.
Most days it should be possible to spend about 15 minutes progressing your business. In my case, it was 15 minutes looking at what other sellers were having success with, or looking through the stock lists from wholesalers, or researching how to improve listings or checking how competitive my prices were. 15 minutes may not sound like much (er, because it isn’t) but day-in-day-out this time does add up. 30 minutes would obviously be better, 60 better still but let’s be realistic – 15 minutes in the midst of new baby brain fog can be a challenge yet is still enough to make a difference.
Since there are no employer-imposed deadlines on maternity leave it’s fine to do more work when life is calm and put it to one side when it isn’t.
Secondly, on maternity leave you have a source of income. Away from work you can be more selective in what you spend it on. Travel costs may go down for example and you may have more time to cook from scratch or get to cheaper supermarkets. Yes, you may need some of this to cover ongoing expenses – but this is where you need to get frugal and look at those expenses objectively and see what you can eliminate. For me the prize of getting to work from home and base my life around my family was worth far more than trips to coffee shops, brand new stuff for baby and cute Christmas jumpers. I’m not saying those things wouldn’t have been nice but choices have to be made.
So, with this source of income it’s entirely possible to lay the basics for your new business. In my case it was to build up stock to sell, in other cases it could be money for advertising or essential equipment. Incidentally, my tuition business needed absolutely no financial input to get started other than a bit of printer ink and some paper.
Working from home has been great for our family and I honestly put the fact that I had the courage to quit traditional work down to the advantages maternity leave gave me. This included the mental space to think through my options, the time to develop idaes and the security that came from having a set income through this time.
Did you use maternity leave to reconsider your options? Or are you planning on doing so? I’d love to hear from you!