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.
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.