Guest Blog - How to become a ‘mumpreneur' in five slightly haphazard steps
By Rosie Wedderburn
I didn’t plan to be a ‘mumpreneur’ but have always loved the idea of working for myself and doing something creative, so when I had my daughter last year it seemed like a good opportunity to actually bite the bullet and have a go. I’d been doing a lot of photography in my spare time for years - photographing events; documenting travels; doing portraits and so on - and had always loved it and wanted to find time to do more. But where on earth do you start when creating a business? I have worked as a teacher since leaving university and have never had to do anything without the back-up of paperwork (oh, so much paperwork!), meetings, databases etc. So I threw myself in at the deep end, with no prior experience and did the following things, which may or may not be worth trying yourself!
1. Work for free.
I know, I know, it’s not what anyone wants to hear but once I had decided to concentrate on family photography (maternity, newborn, baby, child portraits, family events etc.) I realised my portfolio wasn’t big enough. So I called up everyone I knew with a baby or child and asked them to let me take photos of their family! Then I lugged my camera and my tiny baby (who was a lot more portable then than she is now!) around London and got as many photoshoots under my belt as I could. It was hard work, exhausting and frustrating at times, but everyone I know who has started their own business began with a lot of hard work and no pay. Nonetheless, the response was really positive and people seemed to love the photos so that was an encouraging start. Those people were also excellent ambassadors for my photography and I have since got new clients through their recommendations, so the unpaid work did pay off in the end.
2. Get a website.
It is so important now to have a professional looking web presence so I started on my web design when my daughter was sleeping. I am not a techie person and had to teach myself how to make a website as I couldn’t afford to get anyone to help. I started with Wordpress which was excellent for a simple, first blog and to get some idea of how the web design process worked. Crucially, it was free so it was a great starting point and didn’t matter if I made mistakes. I signed up to a number of others website hosts as well but in the end decided to focus on one site and get good at that rather than skipping around. A few months in, someone recommended Squarespace who are excellent for visual or design based websites and I now use them. I spent a lot of time on-line ‘chatting’ to their help desk who were very helpful and didn’t give any indication of the fact that they were probably tearing their hair out about my stupid, Luddite questions! You do have to pay for Squarespace and I also paid for an excellent graphic designer to create a logo for my business (Claudia at www.madebymorris.co.uk). These were my first major spends and it was a bit of a ‘deep breath’ moment, but I love how the website looks now and it’s given me a strong brand identity.
3. Network, social or otherwise.
I was very fortunate to have a friend who is a social media manager and her advice and support has been invaluable. She got me set up on Twitter (previously completely unexplored territory from my point of view) and Facebook and encouraged me to blog more often. I have made some great connections through Twitter with local businesses and there are some collaborations in the pipeline (watch this space…!).
4. Get out there.
Flyers, business cards, posters, postcards, promotions… Try everything and see what works. Then try it again. Every conversation you have, give out business cards, be approachable, personable and sell yourself with confidence, even if you don’t feel it at all. I have targeted specific areas at particular times as that’s all I have had the energy to do and that’s worked for me. One flyer drop isn’t enough, sadly, so you need to keep going out and replenishing supplies, approaching people and venues who are your ‘target audience’ (see, I even talk like a proper businesswoman now!).
5. Have excellent friends.
This is a must. My husband is an amazing man who has been very supportive both emotionally and financially (I obviously gave up my salary and spent money on a venture that may or may not have paid off so we had to have some big discussions about whether this was worth doing and how long I could do it for without renumeration!). I also have a network of wonderful friends who have championed me, given me cups of tea when crises have arisen and generally been my cheerleaders. Some of them have helped me in more practical ways, with tech advice and well-timed connections. Starting your own business is hard work and can be emotionally incredibly draining. You need to have a great support network who know how passionate you are about what you do and are 100% in your corner.