Mum's In Business - Self Employment & The Leap of Faith
Whilst working with the amazing Kate Hennessy (www.katehennessyportraits & www.katehennessyweddings.com) on the brand launch photo shoots for Little Pip, we shared and swapped notes on pre-babies, the bits in between and Mum life whilst working on our own ventures! We found a kindred spirit in each other and even at 32 weeks pregnant Kate has shown so much enthusiasm for capturing my brand imagery (this is no mean feat… no less than six 0-3 year olds to photograph within a couple of hours is quite the challenge for a trained Olympian, let alone sleep deprived, busy and pregnant (Kate…not me!) Mums at work! I really wanted to share ‘her’ with you (as odd as that sounds!) but I really believe that it’s not often in life you meet or get to work with someone who you truly admire… I think we should all have ‘a bit of Kate’ her spirit and her outlook in our lives! So to celebrate the launch of my newly branded website with her beautifully captured photos, I thought I could ask her few questions that you might be interested to hear the answers to!...
JEN: Hey Kate! Thank you so much for taking the time to be ‘interviewed’ by me for Little Pip’s blog! This is my first blog entry of this kind and only my 3rd blog post to date, so feeling pretty chuffed to be able to share some of your wisdom as such a novice! So you’re a Mummy to Aria, 6 and soon to be Mummy to a 2nd Daughter but you are also an ‘entrepreneur extraordinaire’ with your fingers in many delicious pies!! Can you fill us in on who you are outside 100% hands on Mummy time?!
KATE: Hey Jen! Firstly, thanks so much for such a flattering introduction! I’m thrilled to be thought of so highly! Whilst it sounds like I’ve got it all together, I’m pretty much like most other mums who have ever had aspirations to leave the soul-destroying 9-5 and create a different kind of life, one with flexibility and which reflects the multi-faceted nature of their interests and skills.
For me, I’m in the ‘I want it all’ camp. I am pregnant with my second daughter, share the responsibility of home-ownership and child-rearing with my loving, Radio DJ partner, and run two businesses which I started from home.
If anyone had told my younger self that I’d grow to be passionate about business, I’d have never believed it! The 16-year-old version of me had absolutely no doubt that I would be a Broadway megastar in fact, but when that didn’t happen, I went to university and trained as a primary school teacher instead, mostly in an effort to prove I was worthy of more than just the filler side jobs I’d taken as a necessity to survive - I’ve sold mobile phones, invigilated exams, mentored children, face-painted, sold online for a beauty MLM, fitted bras, dispensed prescriptions and stacked shelves. If I ever again need to write my CV…
It wasn’t until I’d experienced and hated most of these things that I truly learnt about myself and discovered what I genuinely enjoyed doing and lit the spark which became my first business, a publishing company for children’s wellbeing which is still running more than a decade later.
Since then, the transferable skills of setting up a business have enabled me to start several other enterprises, including my main business which is Kate Hennessy Photography. These days, however, I see my career as less defined by the businesses I own and more by a patchwork of various interests and skills which I have used to generate different revenue streams. This suits me because I’m a creative and whilst I like to be organised and focused with my time and working spaces, I enjoy new ideas and love crafting opportunities which I can simply run with whenever I feel compelled to do so.
JEN: And how about being self-employed, ‘being your own boss’… when and how did you ‘take the leap’? Was it before or after becoming a Mum and was it an easy choice?
KATE: I don’t remember a defining moment in which I made any radical transformation. It was quite an organic process in that, first, I discovered my enjoyment of using computer software to create and design worksheets and games for children within my day job in a school. At that point, I hadn’t even considered that this was an idea for a business or that I was even someone who could start their own business. My manager at the time simply suggested to me that I might look into getting my resources published and so I began to explore the possibilities and decided to self-publish and market them myself, hence my first business was born!
A few years later, my daughter was born and I began to see the potential for a second income in my photography hobby. We’re known in the industry as ‘mum togs’ as so many of us start snapping away when we have children, capturing their every move on camera to share with family and friends!
It was a more conscious decision to start my photography business, though it too progressed slowly at first, from free shoots for family and friends to charging expenses only and gradually increasing my pricing in line with my rising level of skill, offering and experience to where it is today.
In both cases, I didn’t just leave my 9-5, they were very much side-hustles at the weekend and in the evenings before I resigned from my day job. Having said that, I didn’t wait to earn millions in my businesses before leaving traditional employment behind either. I feel that motivation and passion are keys to success. When motivation is matched with passion, you can achieve so much. I took the leap to full-time self-employment when I knew for sure I’d find a more equal balance in motivation and passion in my businesses.
And now, I can never see myself returning to a traditional work culture. I much prefer the flexibility and the decision-making self-employment offers. For me, the sense of achievement is much more intrinsic and I feel I’ve grown so much both in business and as an individual. I used to dread office hours where I felt controlled and managed, even down to when I could eat my lunch. Now, I have the power to decide those things, and whilst self-employment is not for everybody and it certainly comes with its fair share of difficulties, it’s certainly been liberating and empowering for me. I know that the quality of my output in self-employment far exceeds what it might in traditional employment because I can manage the workflow, timings and expectations. I don’t subscribe to the ‘time for money’ model of many traditional jobs whatsoever.
JEN: When thinking about being self-employed as a Parent, what are the pros and cons? Taking from these, what 3 key questions should we ask ourselves before going for it?
KATE: Good question, Jen!
The pros also give rise to the cons…
Setting your own workflow gives you more choice in your life BUT you have to be disciplined and self-motivated for most of the time.
Working to your own schedule allows you greater flexibility BUT it does mean your boundaries between home and work can become confused.
Being your own boss is empowering BUT you still have clients or customers to manage responsibly.
Your earnings may be uncapped which is exciting and rewarding BUT you may lose your regular, reliable monthly income and access to employment benefits such as sick pay.
You have total control over the input and output of your business which can align so much more than your day job with who you are BUT your business relies entirely on you, at least initially, for everything, from accounts to branding to sales.
My three questions would be:
Why do you want your own business? I’d wager that if you start with a passion/interest, you are more likely to succeed than if you start purely because you want the benefits of running your own business. Find the love first and this will be one of the guiding lights as to the next steps.
Who are your customers/clients going to be? I see lots of people who do find their passion but not their market. You may love what you offer but you really need to consider why your clients/customers will genuinely love it too. Think about the reasons your clients/customers should engage with your business and how you’re going to communicate that in a positive way. Consider how you solve their problems or appeal to their desires. This will help you to define and chase your market.
How resilient are you? Self-employment does require a breadth of skills so you have to be willing to learn. Yes, play to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses if you can, but in order to survive and be sustainable, you must find a comfortable balance between your client/customer experience and your day-to-day and long-term business management. Resilience is required to because you’ll inevitably run into things you don’t know how to do or situations you’ve never encountered before. Keep taking action, no matter how small, as it’s only you that can keep your business alive and well.
JEN: I think we can all agree that us Mums (and parents in every shape and form!) could all generally do with some new ideas from time to time on how to strike a balance between family, home, friends and work (or even just 2 of these!)… I’d love to hear and share any routines/good habits that you find work for you and make you feel like you’ve achieved peace and harmony in your world, even if only for a brief moment!!
KATE: This is so important and I’m still learning all the time! With self-employment, the boundaries between work and home are often pretty blurry because many of us begin at the kitchen table which suddenly becomes the central hub for both areas of our lives!
When you’ve started your own business doing something you love, you often feel it’s not like work at all which further compounds the issue as you’re suddenly motivated to get up earlier, stay up later, make notes on your phone in the middle of dinner when an idea comes to you, etc. so it’s easy to get caught up in a big mish-mash of work and family life. To some extent, there’s no shame in that because ultimately, that’s all part of the flexible lifestyle you desire. You want to be able to run with your ideas when you feel them and nip to the computer here and there to complete small jobs after all.
However, as with anything, there’s a balance and eventually you start to resent the intrusion on your personal time. Social media has made this harder as it’s instant and fast-moving where customers can send and have grown accustomed to expect a reply straight away, at all hours. Our phones give us 24/7 access to communication which is such a difficult opportunity to resist.
So, a rule I’ve implemented is no client/customer-facing work on Sundays. I do sometimes have the opportunity or desire to write a blog post or engage in some training but these kinds of tasks are purely on my own terms, which means I can choose not to do them in favour of spending time with my family.
You know, I always consider my deathbed scenario when I’m making decisions which relate to my work and home life balance - which decision would I more likely regret? Does this client need a response right now or do I listen to my daughter read? This helps me to put things into perspective. It’s perfectly acceptable to set your own boundaries as long as you professionally communicate these in some way with your clients/customers.
Similarly, I use a CRM system (Client Relationship Management) whereby I have certain communications set on auto, such as particular emails or reminders which go out to my clients. This frees up some time for me in other areas of my business and ultimately for my home life.
My computer and working space are also in a separate room now which helps to provide physical distance between my work and home life.
A positive about self-employment is that you can organise your own schedule and workload, so I know I always have the power to keep readjusting when things become overwhelming or unbalanced in any way.
I like to be able to walk to collect my daughter from school (harder now I’m about to drop my second baby!), sit together at the table at dinnertime and read to her before bed. I also really enjoy having at least an hour to switch off with my partner before we go to bed, whether that’s watching a TV series we both love, chatting, playing ‘Bananagrams’ or eating a takeaway. We also have a date night every week and try to get out of the house to do this for a neutral and refreshing change of scenery since I work from home and can find it distracting! These and other such set routines built into my day help me to inject some consistencies into daily life where I know I have scheduled in non-negotiable family time. It also helps me to feel less guilty if I then choose to spend the rest of my time working!
Similarly, I’m also now trying to schedule in longer time off in school holidays so we have the opportunity to be together for extended periods of time such as for a holiday.
So I’d suggest you set some non-compromisables!
JEN: I’d also love to know, with the inevitably hectic yet extremely exciting and fulfilling life of being a Mum following her own path of adventures! …how do you look after yourself? What is your top self care tip, because we all need a bit of TLC to carry on don’t we?! (And please make sure you also take note for yourself, Kate!)
KATE: Well, I totally agree you need time for yourself, away from your responsibilities at work and home. I’m not one for typical self-care such as having my nails done or travelling but I do really enjoy being able to unwind with my other creative activities. I like to nourish my soul and very much enjoy writing my novel, making family videos or composing songs on the piano or ukulele! Being self-employed allows me to do this in the middle of the day if I fancy it so, for me, self-care means being able to go with my creativity when the moment strikes. Expressing myself through unrestricted creative projects takes me to my happy place!
Also, self-care means copious cups of tea, right? Check.
JEN: Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and thoughts with us Kate! I’m really intrigued by your new online course helping Mums (or anyone!) who has a little voice inside telling them to take that leap and start their own business. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you and your family over your well-earned maternity leave and beyond!! To read a bit more about Kate’s online course which is coming this summer 2019, take a look here:
and just take a look at her blog:
(some amazing family life topics covered in a typically eye opening Kate way!) or social media pages on Facebook (Kate Hennessy Photography) and Instagram @katehennessyphotograpy to bring some inspiration into your life! You won’t be sorry!!