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Wellbeing / Work & family

Starting a business with a baby

The first few weeks as a first time parent are filled with fear and questions, but then you relax and start to think about the future. In many ways it’s the ideal time for acting on that great business idea and starting a business.

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Like many solo businesses, mine started to fit in with a change in circumstances – the birth of my son in May 2006. Before then I was freelancing and working full-time. When I finished my contract and was faced with finding work around being a mum, I decided freelancing from home was the best solution. And I didn’t have to put up with any more office politics!

My solution of starting a business worked so well for me as I am fortunate enough to have parents who were willing to look after my son for two days a week.

As my business grew I knew I needed more than two days to work and investigated childcare options. My son now happily goes to “school” two days a week and looks forward to his days with “Granny and Poppy” and “Pa and Nanny”.

My husband and I agreed I would limit working at evenings and weekends so we could spend time together as a family, but I know many successful business parents who wait until their children are asleep and then start work.

"My son now happily goes to “school” two days a week and looks forward to his days with “Granny and Poppy” and “Pa and Nanny”."

The point is that being a solopreneur means you can work to suit yourself.

As I started a business that only needed a little initial investment, I didn’t have to budget costs. I already had a computer, pens, notepads, phone and a car and needed nothing else when I started out. The same went for getting advice from business advisers, accountants or solicitors, but I did need to check whether I had to register for GST (I wasn’t earning enough!).

Initially operating under my own name, I decided last year I wanted a “proper” business and so registered a business name, commissioned a designer for a logo and business cards and set up a website. I haven’t looked back since and can now afford to be picky about the work I take on.

However, I did learn some valuable lessons as I navigated being starting a business and becoming a mum at the same time.

1. Young babies never sleep for as long as you’d like, making it tricky for you to finish that important project;

2. Putting clients first means it is inevitable that you will need to work some nights or weekends because there are always days that don’t go to plan, especially when children are involved;

3. Be careful about saying “yes” to every project that comes your way when starting out because not every client is right for you or your business;

4. Factor in time to get out and speak to other business owners, both parents and non-parents, so you can share experiences – both professional and those that involve mashed vegetables.

5. Never beg a child to go to sleep so you can work – they sense desperation and feed off it.

6. If you have to work while your child/ren is with you, let them play where you can still see them from your office/desk/corner of the dining table or take advantage of hour-long DVDs.

When I have our second child in January 2009 I know there will be huge upheaval in my business and household, but I am prepared for change and know the new experiences will add to me as a business owner as well as a mother.

Johanna Baker-Dowdell

owns Strawberry Communications, a writing and public relations consultancy specialising in helping businesses tell their story. Services include articles, copywriting, case studies, press releases, media liaison and PR strategy.

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