Single Parents and Self-Employment

There are a few reasons behind writing this post. The main one being I hope it can turn into a really valuable resource for single parent entrepreneurs.

One of the many joys of running OnlyDads and OnlyMums is that it brings us into contact with inspirational single parents. It is not always wise to name people in posts like this for fear of excluding the hundreds and thousands who could take their place. That said, there are some remarkable examples.

Consider MJM and her translation business – you see a single Mum striving to keep her business operating at a level which gives her professional pride, her clients the best possible translation (and I mean “the best”) all while looking after her little boy in not the easiest of circumstances.

Or Ruth and her Keepsake Critters. As part of her sewing business she has developed a whole new product that turns your baby’s favorite item of clothing and turns it into a beautiful keepsake. It’s innovative, again executed with passion, and all sorted out while offering exemplary mothering to her young daughter.

As I say, there are hundreds and thousands of other lone-parents doing similar things. Trying to get on their feet. Trying to do their best by their children. Giving them and those who know them examples of good citizenship and parenting and inspiration to have a go themselves. 

Hats off ladies – and The Daily Mail – if you are reading this – do take note!

So here is the question that literally thousands of single parents ask themselves day in and day out. And it is something that I hope you will feel able to help with.

Picture the scene. Mum (or Dad), sat at home with an idea for self employment. It may be a really simple idea. Our single parent can see the potential for coming off benefits or leaving a job they don’t enjoy anymore, and providing them and their family with an increased income, and possibly more flexible, quality time with their children.

It maybe that they are thinking of exploring a business opportunity as part of a partnership with some others or something completely on their own.

How many of you reading this I wonder will relate to the process of questioning:

  • Is it a good idea?
  • What if it goes wrong?
  • Can I really do this?
  • Is it a good idea?
  • What if it goes wrong?

etc…etc…!

I think (and this is not a political point) that society as a whole benefits from single parents entering the world of self-employment. There is often something a little bit feisty and determined with us lot. I guess many of us have been through the proverbial mill and have come out the other end just a little bit more determined (and needing) to get things sorted out and altogether a bit better, looking forward.

But let’s go back to our single parent on the sofa. They have an “idea”. They are asking all those questions (above). Those questions are going round and round. What to do? 

What advice would you offer to the single parent with such an idea. To make this a really useful resource in the future I am suggesting (politely) that those replying offer their top 3 tips. In time we will transfer this resource over to the work section on our websites.

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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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19 Responses to Single Parents and Self-Employment

  1. Paul Gorman says:

    1. Analysis the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and threats of your idea.
    2. Be honest with yourself and write all of the pro’s and con’s down you can think of.
    3. Share your idea with a close friend or family member. someone you can trust who will give you an honest and objective opinion.

    • onlydads says:

      Paul – your second point “be honest with yourself” jumped out at me. It is crucial. I think many of us know how easy it is to get a little carried away on the optimism side of business plans!

      Good point – and thank you for your input.

      Bob

    • JMW Family says:

      Paul, you make some really good points about analysing the business opportunity which you need to do in all cases as a sanity check but I think perhaps you’re missing the most crucial thing.
      To be successful in business you need a steely determination to make it work. I’ve seen lots of great ideas that have never really caught on because the person behind them does not drive them enough. I don’t think you can simply setup a business and hope it will take off – you need to make it happen.
      This leads to the biggest issue for many single parents; the question of work life balance.
      Sorry this is not a three point list but in the ned I think this is the most critical issue.

  2. Catharine says:

    A few words of advice once you have decided there is a market or a demand…
    1. A business takes time to develop – you need determination and patience
    2. If working from home the business can take over family life unless you are disciplined and have ‘office hours’
    3.Communicate with other people and you will receive support, encouragement and very valuable advice through their experiences

    • onlydads says:

      All very good points. Communication with others is top advice. People are very willing to help and advise in my experience. Some of us just need the courage to ask 🙂

      Thank you for your input.

      Bob

  3. There are many insightful ‘Start Your Own Business From Home’ books out there, covering everything from understanding the marketplace, gathering data on competitor activity, doing your accounts, the ins and outs of going into partnership with others. e-commerce etc etc.
    I think it was Felix Dennis that said: ‘Anyone can have an idea – it’s DOING the idea that counts.’

    • onlydads says:

      Thanks for your input and comments.

      One of the questions I had when writing this post is what of those “start your own business” type books is the best. There are literally thousands of such publications?

      I wonder if you (or others) have come by really good examples?

  4. Blimey, tricky to pick the top three but here goes :

    1. A great way to kick off from zero is to brainstorm. That means write ALL your ideas down, good or bad. Do an intial splat, then leave it a while, come back to it and go over it again. And again. And then again.
    I use a large (1m square-ish) piece of cardboard which I cover in a clear piece of plastic and hang on a wall like a picture. You can write on it / modify / erase using whiteboard markers and a cloth. It’s always there and you can add to it whenever you have a flash idea. Put your main bullet points in a loud colour, each in a random circle on the board, then you can add sub-points associated with each respective main point in smaller circles around it, linking them together with lines. You can sort / prioritise / consolidate / optimise them later.

    2. Paul’s second point was Be honest with yourself and I totally agree with this, but I’m going to go one step further and say don’t just be honest, BE REALISTIC.
    After doing all the brain-storming, analysis and research you can do, make yourself play Devil’s Advocate (or find someone you can trust who will do this with you) and make sure you really DO have the
    a. funding
    b. time
    c. balls
    to take your idea forward.

    3. Never underestimate the
    a. money
    b. time
    c. patience
    d. emotional stamina
    e. pig-headedness and absolute determination
    you will need to succeed, especially if you are a single parent bringing up a young child on little money. IT IS TOUGH, but if you can get through it, it will probably be one of the most rewarding things (after parenting) you will ever do in your life.

    4. (Sorry, exception to every rule!) This comes out of 3. but is, in many ways prerequisite to the whole thing:
    Never stop believing in yourself, even when you think it’s no longer possible, it generally IS … you just have to take a step back sometimes, breath and go again. Don’t give up. You CAN do it and you will if you never let go of the will to succeed.

    Good luck to anyone starting out! 🙂

    • onlydads says:

      I’m sure all single parents having a go will agree with every last word MJM.

      But one phrase you use jumps out at me…

      …”emotional stamina”

      That really is something to consider, as set backs in any fledgling business can have a real “downer” type effect. And for lone parents and their children that can have knock-on ripples which are not good. Finding an outlet to offload (twitter for example) is highly recomended in my book.

      Thanks again for the input. I do remember you posting up something on your own blog on a related theme. Might we be able to have that link – it would be useful to readers of this post to have acces to it?

      Ta

      Bob x

      • Thanks for the kind feedback Bob. The piece I wrote was a more light-hearted view of my world at the time – written, I guess, to combat some of the frustration, anxiety and negativity I was going through back then, in an attempt to see things from a slightly different perspective. I think the fact that some of these points are still valid speaks for itself and emphasises the fact that taking the decision to go self-employed out of necessity rather than choice may well be a tough ride for any single parent. But, and I say that with a big Buh! I still don’t regret my decision and the closer I get to breaking even the more exciting the whole thing becomes. As requested, here’s the link: http://metajugglamum.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/the-things-they-dont-warn-you-about-when-setting-up-your-own-business/
        I hope it doesn’t put people off too much!
        MJM.

  5. Metajugglamum you have some excellent advice there as do you Bob.
    Enthusiasm and enjoyment of what one will end up doing day in, day out is important.
    And for divorced people/parents, ongoing support where one can get it, is the first helpful thing to have in your career move pocket.
    Even if you don’t get to where you wish to be at first, try to keep the hope that you will get there in the end.
    Three other things spring to my mind.
    1) Research your market.
    2) Adapt to any neccessary changes you need to make to stay in your market.
    2) But don’t be put off by statistics alone, if your clients/customers are your number one priority and you can demonstrate that what you have is geared to what they want. I reckon that could be useful.

    (I’ll let you know if that stuff I just said works) 😉

    • onlydads says:

      thanks Evie – all good advice.

      I do approve of the adapt word – we all have to do that all the time. And SP’s (more than most) may also need to adapt to different domestic situations too.

      Great stuff

      Bob x

  6. @LifeLessVanilla says:

    “First secure your base” – advice from my Mum when I began thinking about self-employment 2 yrs ago.

    I fully endorse all of the above comments, but, and in my experience it is quite a significant but, if you don’t take care of the home front all the brilliant ideas, market research, flexibility, enthusiasm, funding etc etc are pointless.

    Calculate what you need to finance your domestic needs as well as your business ones and set a budget and stick to it. I talking about the rent/mortgage, food on the table and childcare costs etc.

    Be aware of your and your child/ren’s physical and emotional needs – whose feeding them, whose feeding you, supervising homework, washing the clothes and cleaning the house, arranging the MOT on the car and cutting the grass? Who is making the doctors/dentists appointments and keeping them? What will you do if you or your child falls ill?

    Who is providing you with emotional support – you will need it. Who is meeting their emotional needs when you can’t?

    You will, inevitably, be working long hours. Money is likely to be tight, holidays and treats a rarity. If your children are old enough, explain this to them and hope to god they understand and come on board. You will have to bear the emotional blackmail when you can’t find spare funds to buy the latest game or gadget or, as in my own case, holidays are spent with Grandma – again.

    Starting out on your own in business, when you are already “on your own”, is emotionally and financially demanding. The last thing you need is problems on the home front – you can’t legislate for everything but there are obvious pressure points that can be identified and managed. Getting, and keeping, the domestic needs under control frees up the time and energy to storm ahead with your business.

    I’m 18 months into self employment. I left a reasonably secure job with a good monthly wage and guaranteed pension when my son was 5 yrs old. I’m a very single parent with no support from my son’s father and my only family (aforementioned mother) lives 140 miles away.

    Its been hard, sometimes crippling so (there have been tears) and continues to be so – but would I go back to what I had before?

    Not in a million years.

    The sense of achievement and fulfilment I get every time a cheque lands on the mat for work I have done is amazing – I really earn my money and I now know my worth. I also have a tremendous amount of fun. My son has met a whole new group of people and is growing up with a very positive role model, a living demonstration of what hard work and determination can achieve.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you ever so much for these wise words.

      Your response is full of sound advice – and working out a proper budget for both time and money are the building blocks of all good businesses I’m sure.

      Thank you

      Bob x

  7. For me starting a business hasn’t been just down to the fact it is that or going back on income support. I had a great f/t job then I moved, I eventually (after 6 months) got a p/t job and now that has ended as it was only a short term contract. Here there is very little p/t work with fixed hours. In my field of work there is nothing (community/funding/conflict work) So I have decided to launch a new cleaning business, where they are loads of similar but none quite the same. I am having issues with my self worth of ‘just being a cleaner’ but reminding myself that I am a business owner who has designed her flyers & website (and a 5 page profit & loss excel sheet ;)) along with a marketing strategy.
    I really have no idea if it will work, I am not doing it to make me rich (hahahaha) but to feel I am working and in control of that working life. I am planning on doing it for a year then possibly going to do a Masters in Social Work.
    Sorry Bob not the list of 3 things, but sometimes life isn’t that neat of planning it all out. Sometimes it is close your eyes and go along with the ride without screaming too much 😉 Oh and a plug http://www.fairygodmothercleaning.co.uk

  8. GrrumpyWW says:

    Thanks so much for this, it’s come at exactly the right time for me as I was made redundant yesterday. So, I’m a bit shell shocked and now have to put my business idea into practice rather than just talking about it. I am excited and scared at the same time.

    I’m on my own, have two little ones and not much backup, but I do have lots of determination and drive, I really think I have a good idea. The work involved in starting it all up is a bit overwhelming at the moment I have to say.

    So do I start up on my own or start applying for jobs??!!

  9. Pingback: Working From Home Reasons

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