While there are now more opportunities than ever for mums to start a business or work at home, the pressing question is: How do you make it work?
Here’s what you need to know before you take the plunge.
You need the right attitude – and a marathoner’s endurance
Are you ready to plough on with deadlines when everyone else has called it a day, and maybe work harder than if you were at a full-time job?
Do you mind taking risks and not have a stable income? These are hard questions that you will have to ask yourself, say mumpreneurs and WAHMs (work-at-home mums).
Audrey Tan, who brought Korean churros brand Churro 101 to Singapore, says multitasking with running a business and raising kids requires tremendous stamina and endurance.
The mum of two kids aged two years old and seven months old survived only on two hours of sleep daily when her business first took off about two years ago.
“There are no shortcuts and you can’t cut corners,” says Audrey.
So don’t even think about it if you’re not the driven, strong-minded, self-motivated, disciplined type.
Without these traits, warns Su Ling Zagorodnova, founder and director of webstore Pupsik Studio, you will give up at the first sign of difficulty.
Ample family support is crucial
This is the key to success. Su Ling says her husband is her “cheerleader” whenever the going gets tough.
“Starting a business is already very challenging, and more so when you’re doing it and caring for a baby.
Financially, emotionally and physically, family support – especially from your husband – is very important,” says the mumpreneur with three kids.
Elynn of Careermums says many work-from-home jobs still require you to occasionally go back to the office or out for appointments, so “back-up” help from family is essential.
In fact, it’s so important that you should reconsidering working at home or starting a business if your family members aren’t supportive of the idea or do not respect your work-at home hours, says Sher-li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work.
Find a space to call your own
If there’s one thing mumpreneurs and WAHMs can agree on, it’s the importance of having your own work space – one that is not invaded by nappies, toys or spit-ups.
“You must – and I can’t stress this enough – have a dedicated work area in your home. Once I close the door of my work room, to take an important work call, for example, my kids know that no amount of knocking will make me open it,” quips Elynn.
Sher-li says this personal boundary also applies for work timings. If your designated work time is between 8am and 11am when your kid is in school, no one should burden you with family commitments unless it is an emergency.
Plan, plan and plan, but remain flexible
Most WAHMs and mumpreneurs tell YP they have their daily schedules planned right down to the last minute.
Mummy duties can get overwhelming, and this helps them to know exactly when to tick off work tasks without being constantly interrupted by the kids.
“Most work can only be done when my baby is napping. I also ask for work calls to be scheduled during certain times of the day or be communicated through e-mail, text or Whatsapp,” says Su Ling.
But don’t sweat it if your original plan doesn’t work out as intended. Be flexible and always have a back up plan (or two), advises mum-of-three Fathiah Nur Liyana, who designs and customises bridal outfits from home.
“Just go with the flow,” she says. “Once, I had to take my baby, who was unwell, to a last-minute client appointment. I ended up babywearing him on my back during the bridal fitting. Thankfully, the bride-to-be was very understanding about it.”
You are not an island, although you’re working solo
Often, the journey can be “incredibly lonely”, says Sher-li. “You may feel cut off from your colleagues. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but you may feel left out when you see their bond,” she adds.
For this reason, make an effort to keep in touch with former colleagues and employers. Pencil in that lunch or coffee date; not only is the social interaction a mood enhancer, but that connection also keeps doors open should you decide to return to work full-time, says Elynn.
Networking sessions that allow you to meet and mingle with other like-minded mums, like Mums@Work’s Mumpreneur Mondays, help as well.
“A lot of WAHMs think they are alone, and meeting other mums at these networking sessions can lift that sense of isolation.
Many tell me how glad they are to finally find other mums who understand them,” says Elynn.
Manage your expectations
Sure, you might have the luxury of babywearing or nursing on demand while tackling a job assignment.
But working from home does not mean you get to spend long leisurely hours with the kids.
“Many mums want to work from home, thinking they can spend a lot of quality time with their babies. This is not necessarily true, especially when work gets busy or if you’re starting a new business,” says Audrey.
There’s also a misconception that work from- home positions don’t require any face-time.
Sher-li says mums should be prepared to occasionally go back to the office for meetings or work appointments.
By the way, she adds, it is proven that work-from home job positions that are totally detached from the team will not succeed beyond six months.
You will also need to be realistic about your income, especially at the beginning. “Mums starting a business may find that they are working around the clock but not earning much, when they factor in the time and money put in the first place,” says Su Ling.
Technically speaking, a salaried worker’s pay should not be affected whether she works from home or in the office as long as she puts in the stipulated number of work hours, says Elynn.
But it may be pro-rated if you’re on a part-time work arrangement and work fewer hours. Salaried WAHMs may face fewer promotion prospects, depending on the company, Sher-li shares.
“As there is less facetime, it might be harder for the boss to justify why you are promoted over another colleague,” she says.
A final note: Beware of job scams
“This stay-home mum made $9,000 in a week!” Sounds familiar? If a work from home job position sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Steer clear of any jobs that require you to purchase something in advance, such as a software programme, advises Elynn.
In addition, no legitimate employer would require applicants to pay a processing fees to start work.
“There are some exceptions though. For example, some companies may require mums to undergo relevant training, at their own expense, before they can be hired, but such requirements are very rare,” she says.
According to Elynn, legitimate job portals usually take steps to protect jobseekers. Career mums, for instance, conducts checks on its job listings and sieves out positions that are not suitable for its target group of mothers, she says.