I will never forget the day I realised I had to quit my well-paid job and set up my own business. I say had to, not because I was on the verge of being sacked or had an idiot of a boss, or even because I was bored. It was quite the opposite in fact. I realised I had become a rebel and refused to conform to corporate life. I suddenly couldn't sit still at a desk, I became more outspoken and questioned everything. I had lots and lots of ideas on how to make the company/world a better place and got really annoyed by the fact that corporate structures prevented my entrepreneurial ideas from becoming a reality. I wasn't trying to get noticed or be an idiot for the sake of it, I had simply grown out of my job. So why not look for another one and bag myself a pay-rise in the process? Because that wouldn't have solved my problem. I had become disruptive as a result of going through a lifestyle change (not to be confused with a mid-life crisis, as I was only 27 at the time).
I hit the lifestyle change a little earlier than most, but as I have the attention span of a gnat, it was only a matter time. However, a lot of people experience the aforementioned moment either in the last trimester of their (or their partner's) pregnancy, or once the baby has reached six-months-old and they realise how little time they get to spend with their child because they're back at work, or are contemplating going back to work but hate the inflexibility of it all. This is what I have nicknamed the 'parenting career crisis'. I've seen so many friends get to this point - lots more men in fact - who are torn between having to provide and pay bills, and wanting to spend more time at home with their family.
Three years on and I have just set up my second business, The Parenting Chapter, and I'm still running my first business, Marketing by Lauren, as well as being mama to a one year old. To the outside world, I've got my sh*t together and I'm the epitome of a 'mumentrepreneur' - a word I hate with a passion (that's another story for another day). But guess what? I'm bricking it about this second business and I'm going through the exact same emotions I went through when I set up the first one. Weirdly, I feel like I'm quitting that PAYE job all over again and making the bold step to go self-employed.
Deep down, I know why I've set up another business, as I've recognised I'm going through the lifestyle change again. This time it is linked to becoming a parent. Since having my son and struggling with the lack of impartial advice surrounding the major parenting hurdles, I became incensed about the fact that so many other people experience the same problems and that it is considered the 'norm'. You know when you were a lot younger and went round your auntie and uncle's house, and your uncle would bang on about things not being right or unfair, in a really animated and passionate way, and you'd be sitting there thinking: "Oh be quiet, Noel's House Party is on the TV and I want to watch it in peace." I'm now that uncle!
On that note, I thought I'd offer some useful tips for any parents who are considering moving from PAYE to self-employed:
1. If you're going to go self-employed, the best time is one year before you have children or at least 12-18 months after you've had your child once the emotions/lack of sleep/financial situations have settled. Don't bother trying to go self-employed in between, as it will push you and your partner to the limit emotionally. Why? If you're selling a service, you will have to take on projects that you don't particularly like or want to do in your first year - just because they pay the bills. You will spend evenings working until 11pm and weekends trying to work, and make your partner happy, and not feel guilty about neglecting your children. The first year is tough!
2. Nobody gives a sh*t that you've had a crap night's sleep and you need an IV of coffee just to get you through the next hour. If you're somebody who needs constant reassurance all the time, don't go self-employed. People only want to know more about your business when you're doing well - they aren't interested in the negatives.
3. Change your meaning of success. Success in a PAYE job is a more senior job title, a bonus or a pay rise, but it will suddenly mean something very different in the self-employed world. Success when you're self-employed is getting paid on time and not two weeks over your invoice due date, or being disciplined enough to put 20% of what you earn towards paying the taxman in a YEAR'S TIME, and not spend any of it. Remember, this is about pushing yourself through a lifestyle change and coming out the other side a more contented, fulfilled, happier and dynamic person. If you're looking for a long job title, performance reviews or a team environment, self-employed isn't for you.
4. Many people think that, even if you have a great business idea, you need loads of money to invest. RUBBISH. Yes, it helps to have some money to dedicate to clever advertising and attending networking events, which may expose you to influencers or your end customer. But these days, you do not need thousands of pounds to build a successful business, because there's a brilliant marketing tool that's totally free - social media. Make sure you treat social media as your front door for influencers, competition, customers and supporters. Do write a business plan (I have a fab template that I will happily share) and litmus test your ideas on people you know will be honest and offer constructive criticism. Listen, tweak and go back to the same people again. Take your time and don't expect success overnight.
Going self-employed isn't for everyone. I encourage you to talk to an array of self-employed people before taking the plunge; people at the start of the journey, those who have been doing it for one year and who have been doing it for many years. The principal of making money, getting noticed and building relationships boils down to the same things and always will - being polite, kind, respectful and open to possibility all along the way.
The Parenting Chapter provides postnatal courses to expectant, new and second-time parents and parents of toddlers in need of guidance and support. Our approach is non-judgmental and our experts provide unbiased advice and LOTS of tried-and-tested solutions from parents who've been there recently. Whether you're expecting, a new parent or being pushed to the limit by your toddler, we can help. The new NORM should be that parents have a single place to find out all they need to know about the postnatal period - just like you would the antenatal period. And that's where The Parenting Chapter comes in.