Generally I don’t talk much about being a mumpreneur virtual assistant – mostly because “mumpreneur” makes me cringe, but also because there’s really no reason why any of my clients need to know that I have kids. It has zero effect on the service.
I have 2 kids – the youngest has just started school – HURRAY!!! I ran the business through:
- two lots of maternity leave
- terrible morning sickness with number 2
- two lots of forking out for nursery (with 6 months overlapping where I had to pay double nursery fees – that was not fun!).
- working on my phone in the park, doing emails (No apologies for that)
- Having various staff quit – web developers, maternity cover, typists – all of which needed to be replaced
- Millions of urgent client wrangles at 5pm tea time whilst trying to cook, get everyone bathed and into bed.
You will find me at the school assemblies or doing the face painting at school fairs or skiving off for a day out in the holidays. But I did all that with an established business with regular clients. I knew what I was doing. I had cashflow to pay for childcare and help within the business, it ran easily when I was not there.
Should I start a Mumpreneur Virtual Assistant business on maternity leave?
I recently got asked if I thought it was a good idea to start up as a VA whilst on maternity leave. I was pretty brutal, and I felt bad. Which is mostly why I’m writing this, because I couldn’t get out my head that somehow I’d shattered this poor woman’s dream.
I get it. Really, I do. You want to spend time with your newborn and cannot imagine being apart from them. The thought of leaving them every day to go sit in an office is overwhelmingly awful. It also seems pointless because, hello, have you seen the price of nursery these days??? Not to mention having to run round like a headless chicken to get bags packed, lunches made, everybody dressed and fed and out the door. It’s hell. (I know it’s hell, I do it most mornings!)
So you spot an ad which claims that anyone with good PA skills can work from home, earn a great salary, and be with their kids. Doesn’t that sound blissful? The ideal thing.
Here’s the problem:
It is a total fantasy.
Remember I said my business ran when I was not there? That doesn’t happen with new start businesses – because you are the business. So if you aren’t seeking out new clients, making sure your systems work, hustling for work… nothing happens.
Can’t be good at everything – your business should come first
If you’ve seen this year’s Celebrity Masterchef, Judy Murray appeared. Here is a woman who is renowned for being a super mum – she coached her two boys to be Olympic champions for god’s sake! But Judy Murray struggled to cook rice. As she freely admits, she’s a terrible cook and had better things to spend her time on. Had she been whipping up gourmet meals, her boys would not be fantastic sportsmen. It is a classic case of choosing where to spend your time and energy and seeing results.
Businesses, especially new businesses, take a lot of time and energy. To give them the best chance of survival, it should be your main focus. Don’t do it when you have a new baby, it’s a bad idea.
But loads of people encouraged me…
“But loads of people encouraged me…” Might they have been selling something? Coaches and trainers aren’t going to tell you that it’s hard. Certainly they sell lots of courses to aspiring VAs who are mums on maternity, but you will struggle to find anyone 5-10 years down the line who started whilst on maternity leave because it’s very rare for them to succeed. (Not impossible, but very, very rare). The trainers are not going to tell you this. And there aren’t many VAs who started up during maternity leave to tell you how hard it is either – they all quit.
You will find a few who attempted it, went back to their old job, and started again once they had more time for the business. These VAs tend to do well second time round with a more realistic idea of what it takes.
Don’t get me wrong – being a VA is great to balance against being a mum. I set my own hours, I can work wherever I like, I don’t have to commute.
SVA is slightly different because as a CIC, our interest is to promote the industry – when people join us, we want them to do really well, delight clients and raise the profile of what we do as VAs. Selling you a fantasy isn’t what we do – we tell the truth, and sometimes that means telling people that they aren’t being realistic. It doesn’t make us popular.
So many times we hear people saying “But I started my business to be with my kids, I make it work as a mumpreneur virtual assistant”. That’s true – design of how you work hugely affects whether or not you hit deadline for clients. But if a client has a choice between a VA who advertises “My children are my world – if they want something, you wait” or one who says “We guarantee to hit deadline, every time”, which one are you going to choose? Whilst clients might feel good about supporting a small business, it doesn’t offset late, shoddy or slow work. And you won’t know because they don’t tell you that, they simply go somewhere else.
Pros and Cons of Mums in Business:
|Pros of being a mum and a VA:||Cons of being a mum and a VA:|
|Can juggle school run and afterschool||Need some days where you can work a full day, so can’t cancel nursery entirely! Often means working into the night and lead to burn out if you don’t have proper childcare.|
|Get to skive off with the kids||Can’t skive off if you have work to do – my kids often get stuff cancelled if work blows up.|
|Sick days aren’t that big a deal, you can work round them.||Working from home people expect you to do the bulk of domestic chores or sorting out sick days for kids etc. Your business will suffer as a result.|
|I can be there for my kids, certainly more than 9-5 employees.||The business comes first and my kids are often told that they will have to amuse themselves because I have work to do and it pays for their home.|
|Sets a great example to them that you can work and run a business.||Sets a terrible example if you have no work:life balance!|
Top Tips for being a Mumpreneur Virtual Assistant:
- Have regular childcare in place.
- Make sure you aren’t the default parent and your other half takes a turn, including paying for or doing half the childcare (your business shouldn’t subsidise their work!).
- Jealously guard your sleep! Not everyone’s cup of tea – but Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby routine worked for us – both of mine slept 11pm-7am from 8 weeks.
- Get a phone with unlimited data which you can work from on the run – checking emails, updating stuff, sending big files… Make sure it has a proper case and screen protector before you take it out the box, and have one of those dry-out-bags on standby. (You will thank me for this!)
- Get a door on the office – not possible for everyone, but being able to shut the door is massively beneficial to your mental stability both for working and also being able to switch off at night.
- Clients don’t need to know why your deadlines are a certain way because of your kids – this is your business, it works the way you say it does.
- Find your tribe – Doing It For The Kids has like-minded parents and a very funny podcast!
- Hang in there – I cannot tell you how much difference those funded nursery hours make when they kick in…
Maybe I’m being cruel to say “Don’t start as a mumpreneur virtual assistant whilst on maternity leave!” – what do you think? Or do you have any top tips?