Four ideas to build a business while on parental leave

Parental leave from work to have a baby is a precious time. The weeks before the birth of a first baby should be about rest, relaxation and self-indulgence. I adored those few weeks. I ate my (ever-increasing!) body weight in afternoon teas and had several gorgeous sessions of bliss at the expert hands of my reflexologist friend. 

Once your little one has arrived, those first couple of months will be full of joy, fear, confusion and love. There will be very little headspace to concentrate on anything other than the wants and needs of your growing family and that’s exactly as it should be. 

Eventually, the baby haze will lift and the ability to think beyond the next feed will return. The knowledge that parental leave isn’t endless will start to niggle and thoughts of “What next?!” are going to start getting louder and more insistent. 

Most new mothers are keen to maintain a sense of ‘self’ beyond their new role. A career you love can give a fantastic feeling of identity and pride. Creating a new business that will blend into your new life is the perfect way to spend a proportion of your parental leave. 

Will I have time? 

Building a business while caring for a tiny baby requires balance. You need to be gentle with yourself. Don’t set ruthless targets, deadlines and time frames. Yes, you’re an entrepreneur and a badass woman who can handle anything. You’re also human and tired and at the mercy of tiny, tyrannical CEO. 

Nap times, bedtime and the hours when baby is with your partner, family or friends, these are your golden hours of opportunity. HOWEVER, they are also times for rest, chilling with a glass of wine and maybe even a workout. 

An hour or two a day on your business is more than enough when you’re a new mother. Each moment spent on your fledgling career is a solid building block and you should be proud of them instead of berating yourself that there haven’t been more of them. 

The choice is, of course, entirely yours. A new business needs to make money, but it should also be something you enjoy. Here’s a list of general ideas that can be made specific to your own interests and skills. 

Be a sales representative for a product you love

When her children were little, my friend started to sell Usborne books and it’s something she has continued to do. It was a perfect fit. She’s a lover of literature and was determined to pass this passion down to her children. Usborne children’s books are gorgeous and they were a product she was proud of. 

The highs and lows

  • Flexibility. Orders come in via email and text from friends and family. She sells at craft fairs and summer fetes on the weekends which suit her family. Usborne provides each sales partner with their own website. 
  • The children can get involved. Her older children have provided beautifully funny book reviews for the website and have always been enthusiastic salespeople (think Del Boy from ‘Only Fools and Horses’ in a pink dress and unicorn wellies!) 
  • It doesn’t make a huge amount of money. The ‘wage’ is based on commission from the books sold. It has paid for holidays and treats and has always been a great way for my friend to top up maternity leave pay and her salary from a part-time job. 
  • Freebies. Her house is like a library and that’s a wonderful thing for a family home to be.
  • Storage is key. My friend is lucky, she has a garage and no car so plenty of space for boxes of books. 
  • This is a good option if you enjoy your job and want to go back to work. 

Create something beautiful or quirky and sell it

Creative and crafty people should rejoice as this is a fantastic way to build a business that will fit around a young family. Think gifts, decorations and themes for your product and research potential selling platforms such as Etsy and Ebay. 

At a Christmas Fair I once came across a gentleman who was selling mini LEGO figures in frames. He personalised them for each customer with pretty calligraphy on coloured craft paper. He was charging £45 for each one and they were selling in huge amounts. Simple, clever and unusual. A great gift!

  • Pride and happiness. Creating something unique that people love is a happy thing indeed. Enjoying making that product is a huge bonus and it won’t feel like work. 
  • Time. You can create whenever you have the time and energy. A website or selling space on a platform such as Amazon will do its thing once the photos and descriptions of your products have been uploaded. Packing and delivery needs to be done in Post Office hours but can be organised at night or in the early mornings. 
  • Money-making potential. The world is your art gallery! A beautifully hand-made gift that is perfect for the person in mind is worth paying for even if the amount it cost to make is minimal. 
  • Space and storage. A dedicated working space is ideal but not an option for everyone so finding room and avoiding mess in an already toy-filled home might be a challenge. 
  • Creating and selling your product can be done alongside your existing job or part-time job. Just make sure you don’t burn out trying to do it all. 

Learn a new skill and create a business around it 

Becoming a mother will introduce you to all kinds of new experiences. Baby Yoga, Tumble Tots, Music sessions for toddlers. There are so many options and none of them are free. Many of these baby-friendly activities are franchises and there is money to be made. 

Love music? Want flexible hours? Research companies such as Jo Jingles or Music Bugs. They have centres across the UK and provide parents like you with the opportunity to deliver their fun programmes to other Mums, Dads and babies and get paid for it. 

  • Investment. The training course and/or cost of the franchise is unlikely to be free and you are taking a leap of faith. Make sure there is the space and interest within your community for the class before signing up. 
  • Renting space. You’ll need to deliver most classes in a large space such as a village hall or community centre. Check on the costs and administration involved to make sure it won’t become a headache. 
  • Your little ones can come to work. Teaching a baby, toddler and child-friendly class is a great way to make money in the years before your children go to school. 
  • Flexibility. Teach your classes when it suits you and in locations close to home.
  • This is a long-term business that may be tricky to run alongside your current career. 

Use your existing skills and go freelance

This is, of course, dependent on your skillset and your existing career. A journalist could become a freelance content writer and a graphic designer could work from home, but what would a nurse do?!

Think carefully about your skills and how they could be used to create your own business. It doesn’t have to be connected to your career. What are you good at? How can that be developed? 

This option is something that can be researched while on parental leave. Depending on what you choose to do it could work alongside your existing role with a view to leaving once established. 

My sister-in-law studied Spanish at University. She then became an air hostess and only ever used her language skills on holiday flights to Spain. After my niece was born she wanted a job with flexibility and found inspiration in her degree. She now teaches Spanish to toddlers and primary school children from her home. 

  • Choose your own hours. As with all the business options we’ve included, flexibility is key here. Work as many hours as time and baby allow and increase the number as your child grows. 
  • Minimal training costs. Using existing skills means there is not necessarily the need to re-train. My sister-in-law doesn’t have a teaching degree but her knowledge of Spanish, an innate ability to communicate with children and a long list of glowing reviews from parents has helped her business flourish. 
  • May require taking the plunge and leaving your job.

Where can I find help and inspiration?

If the idea of becoming a business owner appeals to you then research is vital! Baby napping? The ironing can wait! Get yourself a comfy spot, grab your laptop and a notebook and head to these useful resources.

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