Should I stay or should I go?

I had given myself till the end of June to launch the website. Next it would be time to decide if it really was worth spending so much of my free time on Mum & Career. I had to be brutally honest. Was I really achieving my objectives? And if not, was I prepared to admit that and quit? To make it possible for me to say no, I even lined up some alternative paths of work in my mind.

Am I enjoying it?

The answer is a resounding yes. I love being my own boss: taking my own decisions and taking Mum & Career where ever I want to take it, with no other judge than me. I find that I get the daily structure I need from doing the school run and walking our dogs.

I was afraid it might be lonely, but I actually meet lots of other passionate, remarkable and friendly women running their own businesses, and get a chance to speak to lots of mums about my favourite topic: combining parenthood and career.

Does it work around family life?

Certainly. My son is very happy his mum works from home. He is quite proud I actually own a business. Although, at six, he did find it odd I don’t get paid. My husband relishes coming home to a stress-free house.

I work during school hours, evenings and when necessary weekends. A schedule I had to get used to, but now it has become a routine that I really enjoy. I have come to love the variety of switching between social, mum, sports and work activities.

Does it help me achieve my own ambitions?

I was looking for a flexible job. One that would allow me to keep a toe in the world of work, that would allow me to keep my skills up to date and get back in if necessary. A job that wouldn’t take over my life, but one that could grow with my own availability of time and ambitions. It certainly does all that. I am developing a network and expertise in the area of women and work, I am developing new skills such as social media and running my own business and my self-belief and confidence are growing. In addition I get regular paid work in as a CSR consultant, my other area of expertise, which is fun and rewarding.

Have I achieved my targets?

Having a background in business management, even teaching it, I made a business plan and set clear business targets for myself. The website is up and running, it’s got high quality content, it’s got all planned features and look and feel. In addition I did run three events and got to know my target audience.

However, do I have 100 ‘friends’? When setting that target I didn’t realise how ambiguous it was- I have got 80 followers on  Twitter, 21 people that have contributed articles, 10-30 hits per day and 200 people in the database for the newsletter, about half of which actually do open one or more links when they receive it.

Is that good, should it have been more? What do other web communities get? To what extend are these people involved and interested? When I set the target, I must admit, I had envisioned I would have 100 people that were very supportive and sympathetic, might even volunteer and be an ambassador; a lively community.

This is just not the case. The comments and forum are virtually empty. When I sent out a survey I got 20 responses. Many of the people in my database are my friends, which probably doesn’t count. In addition it has taken me quite a lot of effort to find these 200 people, networking on-line and off-line.

I was about to decide I should face up to the fact that it clearly wasn’t going anywhere, when I overheard two women discussing their new franchisees: “Many of them just don’t cut it, they just want things handed to them on a silver platter, and don’t seem to realise that it is really hard work to build a business, they just give up too early.” That really hit home. Hard work is part of the deal! The fact that building traffic and finding supporters is lots of work is normal. I shouldn’t give  up. I should evaluate and improve.

Is it a valuable service for mums with ambition?

Now here comes the catch, because how do I know? I imagined I would know by the number of ‘friends’, but that turned out to be an  ambiguous concept. I thought I would know by the feed-back I was gathering. However a lot of feed-back was very generic: great website, very useful and interesting articles. Right, but is it valuable? Is this indeed helping women find their own way of combining a career and family-life?

So I ran a short survey, of which the main outcome was that everyone likes something else on the site. Why is this, I wondered? What message is that giving me? None?

I got a bit desperate, clearly I didn’t know anything. Then I turned the question around, what DO I know. From everything I have heard and seen in the past 6 months I know that there is an issue, many, if not most, women do struggle combining work and children. There is a need for support. But if I had hit the spot, I would have known it, it would have been very clear. The feed-back and survey would have told me what we are doing at Mum & Career is absolutely fabulous.

What next?

So yes, it works, I love it, I am going on. But … I need to up my ante. I need to experiment with new ways of building traffic and being found by Google. Experiment with new, clearly defined services. Set new targets for the next 6-12 months and go for it. Work hard, put in the hours, set priorities and keep growing my circle of ‘friends’ till I have built a lively community.

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About Inge Woudstra

Founder of Mum & Career - Resources for life choices We offer free inspiration, support and information from women for women. We enjoy helping women to find a way of working and parenting that works for them.
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7 Responses to Should I stay or should I go?

  1. Hi Inge, interesting to be guided through your objectives in this article. It seemed to lead to a conclusion (as the picture also endorsed) that you were going…. Great you overheard that conversation about the time and effort it takes to build up a business! I have to keep reminding myself it is early days for me, as a life coach / counsellor for stress managements and life skills, re-starting my career in February this year. Ploughing through, keep going, keep learning, talk and communicate and find yourself the supporters that will tell you again and again and again that ‘good ideas and good execution will pay off’. But never as quickly as you want; certainly not as quickly as I want! Keep going and focus on that future success. It will come…….. in time!!! 🙂

  2. Karen Revell says:

    Inge,
    This is a refreshingly honest account of how you have found your journey so far. From personal experience, I know that the first few months, indeed the first few years are the hardest BUT there are so many benefits, which you have already touched on here, that make running your own business so great.
    I’m glad to hear that you are continuing. You will find that many business owners give up way too quickly. If it’s in your heart, then it’s meant to be…but it does take a lot of hard work too!

  3. Mariette and Karen, great to see you recognise bits in my story. Thanks so much for the support. I guess it is a good thing we want things to go quicker! It’s a great driving force.

  4. Lovely to hear such and honest and true account of your story. From personal experience of setting up a business, I know without the support of my twins sister who is my business partner, the ability to keep driving forward would have faltered. It is hard work, but the rewards are fantastic and the opportunities endless, Good luck and keep going.

    • Welcome Karen, good to hear from you. Up till now I certainly don’t regret my decision. I have had a really good week with lots of new developments. I was the Twitter journalist at a conference for women in business (in the city) and have been on the radio. It looks like I will be running an event on international women’s day for local mums thinking about starting a business..new and exciting opportunities as you say. And someone said to me today: I believe in starting small and taking one step at the time, that way you know all parts of your business well and can make it bigger on a solid foundation. I love that idea, and it seems to work like that for me, the things I was working on 6 months ago have now become a routine part of what I do. Good luck with your business. What are you working on at the moment?

  5. marja says:

    Good News!! You were for me the first return on Google when I searched on flexible working forum!! So you have made it to the top!!
    Keep going and I hope that with the UK opening up to flexible working your site will atract more traffic as well. What I do find a pity is that on mum & career it sometimes sounds like you have to start your own business if your company is not allowing you to work in flexible hours. I think we must make together a stronger fist and demand flexible hours. I have the feeling that a lot of people fear to ask for flexible hours, afraid to be rejected.

    Well I am in a real battle mood as my boss is trying to change the flexible working hours contract I currently have and it makes me furious!! As well the fact that I am the only one working flexible and all other mums/dads work full time shows that a lot still needs to be changed.
    I hope your site will help (and speed things up) in making this transition.

  6. Marja,
    Great, thank you. I have indeed moved on quite a bit after writing this blog. I really did up my game, with the help of my business mentor. Became much more focussed, and it has really paid of and Mum & Career has been growing fast. It’s a great feeling that something I just believed in last year has now actually become something real that people like.

    Do try the Working Families helpline to help you prepare for the battle with your boss. I have the impression they are quite good, but any feed-back is welcome.

    Also thanks for the feed-back, I should indeed add more content on flexible working. Sadly it is currently the case though that I meet a lot of mums who gave up trying to work flexibly and started for themselves. Flexible working is especially hard to find in jobs for highly educated, career-minded women. But still great to hear your comments.

    http://www.workingmums.co.uk – Working Mums and Netmums have good sections on flexible working too.

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