Five reasons why starting up a business is easier than you think

Are you considering starting your own business? Our guest blogger, Helena Stone, explains why it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Whether your bank account, sense of achievement – or both – need a top-up, you may find yourself ready to hop back on the work wagon. But possibly circumstances have changed and a 9-5 isn’t right for your lifestyle anymore.

This is when many women begin considering alternatives to returning to employment, such as starting up on their own.

The catalyst for me to go it alone was the loss of my brother. It made me re-evaluate my priorities. I realised that though I loved the excitement and challenge of my work, I wanted more family time, flexibility and a greater ability to grow.

I know it can feel like a big step and we can waste a lot of time talking ourselves out of taking the plunge.

So, here are five reasons why going it alone isn’t as difficult as you might believe:

1. Your experience as an employee counts. A lot!

Don’t think of yourself as starting from zero.

I spent twenty years in HR and change management. I specialised in these fields when I started my business but I drew on my experiences of delivering a service, people development and public speaking to expand my offering as a change management consultant, confidence expert and speaker.

That’s not to say your business idea has to be related to your previous career – far from it. Maybe you’ve got a burning passion that you’ve always wanted to turn into a job. Now’s the time!

Whatever your work history, so much that you’ve learnt as an employee is transferable – relationship building, leadership, crisis management. Draw on your bank of knowledge.

And don’t disregard the skills you’ve picked up during your career break.

Raising children, for example, tests your talents for logistics, listening, time management and multi-tasking…not to mention patience…

2. Perfection isn’t necessary …and actually, it’s not realistic.

As the slogan goes, “just do it”. If you put off setting up your business until everything is just right, you’ll never start.

What worked for me (and still does!) is taking daily action. Focusing on progress, not instant wins.

I’m a big believer in finding your ‘zone of genius’. It’s taken trial and error for me to uncover what really works but it’s meant my business and I have evolved and grown stronger.

Sounds like a corny reality show line but it really is all about the journey.

3. You can just be you

Some of us feel at home in a traditional office role and thrive in a world of structure, suits and management. For others, it’s a little restrictive. And some like a bit of both.

Whichever camp you fall into, creating your own business gives you the freedom to just be yourself. Want to set your own fabulous, funky dress code? Knock yourself out. Bit of a mad cat lady at heart? Perfect. Throw all that into the mix.

People buy from people they like. Combine professionalism with being authentically you and you’ll naturally make human connections – a crucial part of your sales pitch.

4. You can start up on a shoestring
 
Investing in your business is important but you certainly don’t need big bucks from the off.

In fact, in most cases, all you need is a laptop and phone.

Plus, there are numerous free on and offline support groups of like-minded people, willing to trade skills and help each other out. And really milk social media for all its worth! It’s not only a great free publicity tool but I find it brilliant for researching clients and testing the best ways to engage with them.

If you do have budget to begin with, a mentor or coach is an investment that will pay dividends. They’ll offer invaluable guidance, give the benefit of their experience and help provide focus and clarity.

5. You’ve got it in you…you just might not realise

Starting a business is scary especially if you’ve also had a lengthy period away from employment.

It takes resilience. But this is something you can work on.

Rather than being knocked back when something goes wrong, reframe how you view the situation. Focus on the positives – what have you learnt? What could you do differently next time?

Take a breather and clear your head. But don’t dwell on it or allow it to defeat you.

Bouncebackability builds resilience (plus it’s a great word). After all, think of all the famous entrepreneurs you know of – I’ll bet you can’t name one who didn’t overcome numerous hurdles to get where they are today.

 

Helena Stone is a change management consultant with a background in senior HR roles spanning 20 years. She works with organisations to increase productivity, efficiency and value in their business. 

She also delivers workshops on confidence and empowering women in the workplace. www.helenastoneconsultancy.com


Sign up to our free Women Returners network for more advice, support and job opportunities.

You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.

 

Ten Tips for Starting Up A Home Business

When we spoke at a recent back to work event, we listened to Debbie Blott,
Founder of The DecorCafe HomeBizClub, talk about how to start a home business. We’ve invited Debbie to share her advice for women who are interested in starting their own home business as a route back into work
after a career break.

1. Be Authentic: Taking a career break offers an opportunity
to rethink what you do. The most successful start-ups are founded on passion.
Knowledge builds confidence and confidence attracts customers.

Sarah Betteley, co-founder of Fruits of The Fridge, took the
opportunity of her career break to change from working as a lawyer to creating
catering company Fruits of The Fridge. Passionate about providing good
wholesome home cooked food she has built her business on her own way of life,
as someone who thinks nothing of putting together and packing up a complete menu of delicious food for a week’s holiday. (see Fruits of the Fridge).
2. Create Your Vision: Be realistic about what it is you
want to achieve and how much time you have to give. Is it a business to give
you an interest alongside caring for your family or do you want to grow and
sell a multi-million pound business?
3. Choose the most appropriate business structure: Setting
up as a sole trader is quick and easy. Creating a limited company separates
your personal and professional identities and protects you by limiting your
financial exposure to your business investment.
4. Set Simple Goals: It is easy to be immobilised by
planning and re-planning. Once you have decided what you want to achieve, set
achievable goals and an action list. Review regularly as you progress.
Jane Michell, founder of the UK’s leading delivery diet,
Jane Plan knows what it is like to struggle with your weight and initially
trained as nutritionist to build her skills. She describes herself
first and foremost as a mother of three children rather than a qualified business woman. She didn’t start with a complex business,
rather she had a clear vision and some simple goals and progressed step by step. Following her passion
to help her clients lose weight and transform their lives she has grown her
business, from preparing weekly diets for friends from around her SW London
kitchen table to more than £4 million in just 4 years. (see Jane Plan).
5. Make Space at Home: The lines between home and work can
blur. Put a structure in place to ensure that you can close the door on work,
ideally literally.
6. Build Your Brand: For many people working from home, your
brand is you. Ask yourself what is distinct about what you do and your values
and communicate it clearly and consistently.

Virginie Dunne worked as a
nurse, but had to stop when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she
began to recover she decided to retrain as a lighting designer to quite
literally share her joy and shed some light and so she named her company,
Splash of Light. (see Splash of Light).
7. Become an Authority: The most effective way to market
your business is to become an authority. Build strategic partnerships with
complementary businesses, write relevant articles for press, get involved in
local online forums and spread the word through social media.
8. Seek Support: You may miss the water-cooler conversations
in the office but you are not alone. Join local networks and you will find many
like-minded people who collaborate and help each other. Employing a business
coach or mentor provides valuable extra support in the early years. Join
networking organisations of like-minded people.
9. Stay Legal and Protect Your Ideas: Don’t forget to tell
the tax people that you have set up! The law is on your side and can help you to
protect your ideas and business if you put confidentiality agreements,
contracts and trademarks in place.
10. Get started! There is only one way to find out just what
you can do and you will learn quickly. Good luck!


About The DecorCafe HomeBizClub
Based in SW London The DecorCafe HomeBizClub is a
collaborative community of people starting up or running their own home
business. All about connecting, building skills and sharing ideas, they provide
ongoing inspiration and support to make building your
business more fun and less stressful. They welcome anybody who is interested to
come along to one of their sessions to find out more.
Posted By Donna

Routes back to work for expatriates: going independent

Returning to work as an expatriate is both exciting and challenging. In her second post, Claire d’Aboville explores how expatriates can work independently, adapt to different markets, make the most of their differences and turn them into competitive advantages.
You have put your career on hold,
possibly in order to raise children. During that time, the family has moved to
another country, where it currently resides. You feel now is the right time to get
back to a professional activity. Amongst the various routes, creating your own
business is an attractive option, offering flexibility and independence. What do
you need to consider? Let’s focus on specifics related to your expatriate
situation.
Retain
same field of work, or not?
First you need to think about the field
of work you want to get into. A few questions are worth investigating.
  • Are
    your skills recognised locally and what does it take to get local recognition? I
    once worked with a dentist from the Middle East who decided to go into
    headhunting because she did not feel like going through retraining as a dentist
    in the UK. You need to do a bit of research to find out whether your diploma
    and experience are accepted in the country you are in.
  • Do
    you speak the local language to a level that allows you to do a good job? My
    initial field of work was human resources. As a French person working in
    England and Germany, I felt it was easier to focus on the remuneration side of
    my profession than on the leadership development side. It felt less challenging
    to talk numbers than to talk emotions in a foreign language.
  • Are
    your skills up to date? Chances are that the world has moved on since you last worked. Also
    you may need to boost your confidence with some refresher course. Or you may
    want to learn something new. In any case, it might be wise to take a local
    course, as opposed to relying on e-learning, because a local course will also
    help you with your local network. I retrained as a coach in the UK.
  • Lastly,
    how portable do you want your activity to be? And how portable will your client
    base need to be? This is a wide topic. The two main aspects to consider are
    your personal plans and practicalities. Are you settled in this new country for
    many years or not? How quickly can you build a new client base if you move
    again? My current clients are UK based, but I could stay in touch remotely with
    many of them if I moved again.

In a nutshell, your field of work has to
fit two criteria: you feel passionate enough about it and it is practically
possible.

What
does it take?
In addition to thinking about the field
of work you want to engage in, you need to be aware of the specifics of
“going it alone” and how they impact you as an expatriate.
  • Every
    independent professional has to work on his/her marketing and to make sure he/she has enough clients to work with. It takes time to build a client base.
    Being from a different country, you may not have any initial network to press
    the “word-of-mouth” key. And you may not have ready-to-buy clients who know you
    from a previous role. Therefore your efforts and patience might be needed.
  • Depending
    on when you have moved to the new country, you might still be busy adjusting to
    the new environment. You are less in your comfort zone than if you were at
    home. You have more uncertainty to deal with. These adjustments take your attention and
    energy away from starting your business.
  • It
    is quite useful to think about how your business (and you in it!) can cope with
    moving country again. I know a French financial auditor who retrained as an
    artist in the UK and established a good client base there. After her husband
    took a new role in Dubai, she had to start her marketing all over again, but
    she was able to apply lessons learned in the UK.
  • Lastly,
    you need to learn about the local legal, fiscal and business practices. This
    requires research and probably expert advice, depending on the country. Not all
    countries are equally welcoming to very small independent businesses. My friend
    in France found it much more challenging to register her business there than I
    did to register mine in the UK.
What
market to serve, what ideal client?
Last but not least, who is your ideal
client and whom do you want to serve?
  • As
    an expatriate, the community you are likely to know best is the expatriate
    community. According to my observations, the bigger the culture gap and the
    more remote the host country, the stronger and more supportive the expatriate
    community is. That can create an ideal market for you.
  • Modern
    technology broadens your world and your potential client base. As a teacher or
    a coach, you can work via skype and phone. As a journalist or writer you can
    deliver your work over Internet. In those cases, it does not matter so much
    where your clients are, provided you are able to keep in contact with them and
    keep marketing yourself, i.e. be visible and in a position to get work.
  • Lastly,
    you may consider bringing to local clients precisely what local people do not
    have / have less of: i.e. language, technical skills or products specific to
    your culture. I know a French person who offers her perspective and interior design
    skills to the expatriate community in Hong-Kong.
Working independently offers
incomparable advantages with regards to flexibility and control of your time. As
an expatriate, you face specific challenges but you also can build on your
differences and turn them into competitive advantages.
For more information on issues facing expatriates, read Claire’s first post on returning to work after international relocation.

Post by Claire d’Aboville, a Women Returners associate, a multi-lingual and multi-cultural Executive Coach and founder of Partners in Coaching http://partnersincoaching.com/Welcome.html

Starting your own service business

When I was thinking through how to return to work after my career break, I investigated both going back into employment and setting up on my own. I decided that because of my requirements for flexibility, my temperament, and the enjoyment I derived from an earlier experience of entrepreneurship, I was best suited to working for myself. That was 10 years ago, when I set up my own coaching practice. My business activities have evolved significantly since then and I can’t imagine ever returning to an employed position.
I recently read that women-led businesses are often more successful, yet men are twice as likely as women to be entrepreneurially active. I know that many of you may be weighing up the pros and cons of setting up on your own; this is my personal experience of the benefits and drawbacks.
Advantages
  • Autonomy. You are in charge and don’t have to take instruction from your line manager or deal with the corporate politics which exist when you are employed
  • Managing your own time. You can choose (subject to client requirements) when, where and how you want to work. If you want to take time away from your work for any reason, you don’t need to get permission or negotiate with work colleagues. This has been invaluable for me in balancing the other demands from my family and volunteer activities. I also find that I am more productive as I can largely control my diary to suit the way I work best
  • Managing growth. You can set your own pace of business growth and development to fit with your life, your ambitions and your financial requirements
  • Pursuing your dream. You can pursue a business idea or a personal passion in a way that is rarely possible as an employee (as I did back in 2012 when I joined with Julianne to set up Women Returners)
Disadvantages
  • Isolation. If you set up as a sole trader you will be spending much more time on your own than you would have done in employment. You might miss the companionship of your colleagues and the availability of people with whom to bounce around ideas. In the early days of my business I worked hard at creating networks and communities to fill this gap and now I appreciate having a business partner and a network of associates
  • Being constantly on call.  Depending on your business activity, it could be harder for you to be ‘out of office’ as there will be no-one to cover for your in your absence .. and you don’t get paid for sick days!
  • Uncertainty of income. Unless you are in the position of having guaranteed work or clients from the start of your venture, maybe from a former employer or colleague, it will take time to build your work pipeline and your reputation. Temperamentally and economically, it has been important for me to be resilient through the downturn of the recent recession
  • Having to do everything for yourself. If you are used to corporate structures and systems, it can be quite a shock to have to do everything for yourself from invoicing to diary management. It’s particularly hard when your computer breaks down and there is no IT support to fix it!
How to get started
Sometimes returners are put off starting their own business by the belief that they have to offer an innovative service and so spend hours developing, researching and discarding possible options, in the search for a unique idea. In reality, starting your own business doesn’t have to be so hard! Indeed, if you are working as a freelancer, an associate or on occasional projects, you are de facto running your own business.
One of the simplest ways to start a business is to offer, for payment, a skill that you already have and which others value. So, whether you are offering tax advice, designing websites or conducting market research, you will be a business owner. You might even find that demand for your services builds to such an extent that you need to take on your own employees.
There are many sources of support for women starting their own businesses and the easiest first step can be to sign up for a short introductory workshop, such as a local Chamber of Commerce event. For a listing of useful resources, see our website. If you’re close to London, Enterprise Nation run regular StartUp Saturdays and if you’re a parent with a tech idea for a business, do look at the exciting Google Campus for Mums.
In our success stories we have a few examples of other returners who have successfully established their own businesses so you can read about Alison and Barbara‘s experiences.

Posted by Katerina