Thanks to Gail Barton for this fab guest post:

Today I spent a fantastic afternoon in our local park playing parachute games and learning circus skills with my daughter and her friends. Undeterred by the drizzly windy weather we enjoyed a picnic, took masses of photographs and came home wet, filthy and very, very happy.

And did I mention I was getting paid roughly £20 an hour for the privilege?!

I have been a Registered Childminder for six years after deciding I wanted the opportunity to stay at home with my baby daughter rather than go back to my full time office payroll job.

Like most new mothers I had very little idea about what childcare options were available. A nanny was for rich people, a day nursery for everyone else. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time. And then I saw a poster on the wall at our Mum and Baby group:

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT REGISTERED CHILDMINDING?

Well, I’ll be honest. The thought had never crossed my mind. Childminders were a strange species, unqualified, who sat children in front of the TV and fed them biscuits all day weren’t they? Certainly not what I wanted for my child. And as far as a career option I had no other childcare experience than looking after my own 4 month old baby. Surely I was totally unsuitable!

A few weeks later I was having a conversation with my Mother-In-Law about my work options to which she replied;

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT REGISTERED CHILDMINDING?

This time the answer was yes. I rang the telephone number on the poster and was invited to attend a local authority run briefing session. There I was given an overview about what childminding actually entailed and what training I would need to qualify. Attending was also the ONLY way of getting the Ofsted application form to become a registered childminder.

The actual process varies slightly between local authorities, but mine ran five further workshops (2 ½ hours each), compulsory to registration, that covered essential knowledge of Safety; Meeting Children’s Needs; Child Protection; Working in partnership with parents; and Working With Children.

Other compulsory conditions to registration include a 12 hour paediatric first aid course to be renewed every three years, medical certification from your doctor, a full CRB check and a pre-registration interview in your own home from an Ofsted inspector. The National Childminding Association has a wealth of advice if you’d like to find out more about becoming registered in your area. http://www.ncma.org.uk/childminders/become_a_childminder.aspx

From start to finish the registration process takes about six months, but I’ve know it take close to a year for some, so it’s not a career that you can just jump into. But it is definitely worthwhile.   

There is no legal requirement as yet for childminders to gain further qualifications but it is expected (by Ofsted) that a good childminder will constantly improve their skills and knowledge to help them provide the best outcomes for children. Our Local Authority provides regular free training courses for childminders, such as behaviour management or special educational needs. And they are great for getting to know other childminders too.

Since registering I have also gained relevant qualifications, first completing an NVQ Level 3 in Early Years, before moving on to a Foundation Degree in Early Years Education and Care.

Childminding has changed a lot in the past 20 years. As Registered Childminders we follow the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. They are exactly the same for every registered Early Years setting regardless of private, local authority or voluntarily run. For this reason there can be a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork to complete, which does sometimes have to be done in the evenings or at weekends. Each childminder has their own individual preferred way of working though. Childminders are now beginning to be viewed as being on an equal footing with more formal setting but I’m sad to say that it’s still far too easy for the media to confuse us with illegal unregistered care and portray home based childcare in a negative light.

I have sometimes felt guilty that my daughter has had to share my attention with other children but friends and family are quick to remind me that she has had my attention. Had I not become a childminder I would not have been able to afford to stay at home. And besides, she loves my job. I’ll never forget picking her up from school last year; When I told her that there would be no other boys or girls coming home with us that day she burst into tears!

It can be very hard to separate your home and work life and for that reason there is one final piece of advice that I always offer prospective childminders.

Childminding is more than a job. It is, in my opinion, a way of life. But  it is a very rewarding one.

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Thanks to Julia Odgers from kidstravel2 for this fab guest post and personal story

Before having children I had a senior role as a Marketing Communications Manager reporting into the board of directors & worked long hours.  A stimulating career was always important to me but I knew when I had children I didn’t want my working life to carry on like this or I would miss their childhoods!  We relocated to Dorset when I was on maternity leave with my son and I knew that when I went back to work I wanted to do something different but which built on my previous skills acquired in publishing, online marketing and which critically enabled me to achieve that ever elusive work life balance. 

I set up as a freelance web design and marketing consultant, taking on small projects that enabled me to work in the evening and around my son’s sleep times.   I would help business startups or small businesses set up online and develop a marketing strategy for them, KidsTravel2 (www.kidstravel2.com) being one of them.   

These early times were hairy financially – I worked out I had to generate a certain amount of income a month for my working in this way to be financially viable.  I was only able to work 1 and a half days a week when I had the support of my parents in law so the rest of the time working was during my ‘free’ time ie children’s sleep times and evenings.  At times I really felt like the clock was ticking before I was ousted back into the rat race and my son committed to child care. 
 
I then had the opportunity to buy KidsTravel2 and haven’t looked back.
 
KidsTravel2 was originally established in 2006 by a lady called Gervase Walton but I was heavily involved in the development of the business from the early days.  In the summer of 2007 she contacted me for help to give her start up a much needed boost.  She wanted to improve her rankings in the search engines, get more traffic to the website and ultimately increase sales.  I helped Gervase over the next 6 months or so with improving the usability of the website and recommended a complete marketing strategy to her.  Much of this I followed through to implementation including setting up a mailing list and running several promotions.  We achieved (and still hold) page 1 positions on Google for important keywords like childrens luggage and kids luggage.
 
After the birth of my daughter I returned to my freelancing but found myself increasingly wanting to get more involved with the businesses and take things further – something you can’t always do as a consultant! I had started to mull over the idea of setting up my own online business to enable me to do this. It had to be something that I was passionate about and that could fit around my family life.  Then, it was while doing some last minute Christmas shopping for my son that my path crossed with KidsTravel2 again.  I dropped them a friendly hello while ordering something from the website. Gervase got back to me and told me she was hanging up her travelling boots and moving onto pastures new, having decided that online retail wasn’t for her. ‘Oh no, what a shame!’, I said, ‘ and what will happen to KidsTravel2?’.  A few conversations later and I became the owner of a fun monkey travel neck pillow and KidsTravel2! 
 
The investment was buying the limited amount of stock remaining, which I did with the earnings from my freelance work.  Since then I have grown the business organically using my gut instinct, talking to customers and by analysing sales figures / website traffic to invest in new stock and build up trading partnerships with key suppliers.
 
2009 was a steep learning curve.  Our office/working conditions were storage in the loft, and my husband and I wrapping/packing on the lounge floor after the kids had gone to bed!  I would run the orders to the post office at some point during the day to fit around the children’s timetables of pre-school, sleep and school.  As the business grew this became untenable.  I look back and don’t know how we made it through Christmas last year we were so busy.  We had trebled turnover on the previous year.  By New Year 2010 the business was literally taking over our house – something had to give.  I bit the bullet and we outsourced all warehousing and fulfilment leaving me free to concentrate on developing and marketing the business.  So far this year we have exceeded all targets again and turnover is 50% up again on last year.
 
My top 10 tips on setting up your own business on a budget:
 
1.  Remember that starting your own business doesn’t necessarily have to be about doing something different to everyone else, just striving to do it better.  I spent a long time racking my brains trying to ‘invent’ a new product or service, thinking this was the only way to set up and run my own business successfully.  I have since realised that aiming to be the best at what you do is what will set you apart and bring you success.
 
2.  If you know you want to do something but are not sure what then join forums, support groups and network with others wherever and whenever you can to absorb information and find out about all the different options out there.  There are plenty of franchises, party plan business models and even people seeking partners or selling businesses as going concerns. 
 
3.  Take an objective look at your skillset – what are you really good at?  Ask your friends and family.  What do you enjoy doing?  See this as an opportunity to explore setting up in an area that enables you to employ your best skills and do something that you will really enjoy.
 
4.  Don’t be daunted about the prospect of writing a business plan.  As a starting point just write down in your own words what it is you would like your business to be about and what it is that will set you apart from the competition, if there is any, in the market place.  Next book a free session with your local business link adviser and take it from there.
 
5.  It is possible to develop a business with minimal investment and minimal financial risk by choosing product wisely (if this is the basis for your business) & growing organically.  As you grow you can build up trading accounts with suppliers and have more credit flexibility, enabling more growth. 
 
6.  Keep focused on your goals.  I try really hard to balance work and family life and remind myself constantly that it is important I do this as this was my primary objective for going down this route.  I could work more hours, but then I would have to pay for childcare and miss out on bringing up my children.  I choose not to and cut my cloth accordingly.
 
7.  Teach yourself – what you don’t know you can learn!  Or find someone who can show you how.  Trade skills!  You have to have a ‘can do’ attitude and be prepared to overcome obstacles.
 
8.  Free consultancy – seek out input from others – you may want set up by yourself because you want to be your own boss but the input from others can be invaluable, help develop and grow your business and stop you from getting stuck in a rut.
 
9.  Don’t feel that you have to spend huge amounts on marketing and PR – there is stacks of stuff you can do for free that will help raise awareness and promote your product eg facebook, twitter, blogs, coverage through local press.
 
10. Give freely – I have often found that giving things away be it advice, support or actual product can reap reward for your business eg product giveaways can help raise awareness of a new business, generate free PR and get prospects engaged with your brand.  The cost to the business of giving away a free widget can be minimal (cheaper than a glossy ad!) but the rewards reaped from such a promotion much better.
 
If you’re looking to set up a business on a budget good luck and hope you found some of this advice useful.
 
Julia Odgers
http://www.kidstravel2.com
Read our blog:  http://www.kidstravel2.com/blog
Join us on facebook: http://tiny.cc/MtWMI
Follow us on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/kidstravel2


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Guest post by Emma Ewers – The Internet Marketing VA (Big thanks Emma)

I am a mum of two, Jenny (6) and Keiran (3) and work from home as a Virtual Assistant specialising in Online/Internet Marketing.

I first heard about Virtual Assistants from Jasmine Birtle of MoneyMagpie.com over 3 years ago, whilst carrying child number two. “Super!” I thought “The answer to all my problems, no need to return to work, I have a PC and can type, let’s do it!” And so I started Googling everything I could about Virtual Assistants, what they do, how I could set up the business and naively thought within 6 months I would have a thriving business working for 20 or so clients on a daily basis…

I soon realised after reading into the industry a little more there was much more to it than setting up a website and attending a few BNI Breakfasts, still I was not deterred a little hard work goes a long way, right?

I came across The Society of Virtual Assistants early on in my campaign for new found working freedom, and boy was I glad I did! SVA is run by Caroline Melville an award winning and well respected Virtual Assistant who also runs Virtually Sorted from her Glasgow offices. The site and forum are a huge information source as well as being supportive and friendly place to chat to other Virtual Assistants from different niches and gain valuable business advice from those in the know.

Joining SVA made me realise two things:

  1. Becoming a Virtual Assistant was not going to be easy
  2. There was A LOT of hard work ahead in the coming months – although I have a good business head and a wide range of skills, it was clear there was a steep learning curve ahead.

That all seems like such a long time ago now, I now write guest blogs for SVA and have several sticky posts and wrote a short SEO guide for the SVA site!

SVA also put me in touch with some of the most professional people I have come across, all very talented and dedicated to what they do.

Another fantastic support group is Virtual Assistant Support Group or VASG – started by Anne-Marie Mittleman (A Virtual Angel), Dee Uzoka (DeeVAS) and Emily Robe (emilyrobe.virtualassistant) where “Collaboration not Competition” is the ethos. Everyone is very supportive and business relationships are built on mutual respect, honesty and being open. If you need help or need to outsource a job the VAs are there to help!

So is becoming a Virtual Assistant for you?

YES: If you are prepared to work hard, take on new challenges and have the required skills and dedication to make your business work and are in it for the long haul.

NO: If you have a PC and think it is a quick way to make easy money!

If you have been looking for the answer to staying at home and making an income then being a Virtual Assistant could be for you. The most important thing you need to do before making that leap is research, research and a little more research!

Recommended reading:

http://vact.co.uk/ – Virtual Assistant Coaching and Training

http://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk – SVA Website

http://www.vasupportgroup.co.uk  – Virtual Assistant Support Group

Emma Ewers runs The Internet Marketing VA specialising in SEO, Social Media, Web Design and can be found lurking on Twitter @emmaewers and Facebook.com/internetmarketingva J www.internet-marketing-va.com




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Thanks to Nicola Cooper-Abbs (who you can contact at All Words) for this fab guest post

 I’ve been a freelance copywriter and editor since 2004. About a year into being self-employed, I thought it would be a good idea to have a baby. I dreamt of casually bouncing my little one on my knee while I typed away, chatting to clients and thinking up creative ideas for clients marketing and advertising. I can already hear all the business mums rolling around laughing…


When Mia arrived in 2006 I had a bit of a shock. On the one hand I realised my workday would now be completely fragmented. But I soon realised I’d picked the ideal profession for working around kids. Fast forward to 2010 and I now have two little ones to work around (both preschool age) and I still manage to run a successful little copywriting business with minimal childcare. And this is how I do it:

                                               


Finding work

This can be the toughest part of being a mum and a business owner. If you are starting out or want complete flexibility to pick and chose projects then there are a number of sites where you can pick up writing work including www.elance.com, www.guru.com and www.peopleperhour.com. The money isn’t fantastic but it’s all done online so no client meetings and you decide which bits of work you want to bid on. The next step up are specialised sites like www.skillfair.co.uk  and www.freelancersintheuk.co.uk , you usually pay a fee to join but the jobs are of a much higher quality, better paid and usually with larger companies (so there’s a chance of building a relationship and ongoing work). And finally there is networking, face to face is brilliant and with morning, afternoon and evening networking there is usually something I can get to. If not then social media (so facebook and twitter) is a great way to connect with people and find work.

 

Different types of work and changing your focus

Before I had my lovely babies I did a lot of big projects which often meant long days of focussed work. It can be tricky to maintain this when you have a toddler crayoning on the walls and a baby wailing for a feed. So it’s a good idea to focus on finding work that is more flexible. I started doing some copywriting tutoring, it’s flexible and fits around my other writing work. Then I started looking into types of work that married up with where I was in my life, I now review baby and child products with a large publisher and have a couple of clients in the baby sector. It’s a good match because they know I have kids to work around and I’m able to offer them a view from the trenches!


Forgetting 9-5

I’ve left behind the idea of a conventional working day. And that’s hard. It’s so ingrained that we should sit down and do a ‘full day’s work’ that realising there is another way to work doesn’t always come naturally. Today is my one childfree day and so I will sit at my desk for eight or so hours but on most days I work in fits and starts with chunks done at naptime or in the evenings. While you might grimace at the idea of working late into the night, the benefit is I get to spend all the next day with my kids instead of being stuck in an office.


Having help

Before I had my kids I asked other working mums how they coped. There was a lot of mumbling, a lot of ‘oh I work around the kids’ and a few honest people who told me they had help. And boy do you need it. It’s really really hard to work if you have no childcare, no colleagues, no family or friends. It turns out many of the working mums who told me they worked around their kids in fact had au pairs, nannies or grandma just round the corner. There is plenty you can do at the weekends, in the evenings and when Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is on (I bless the inventors of Sky) but you need sometime to meet the odd client, make a phone call or just focus your entire brain on the project in hand. Then there are those little things like holidays, which we all need, and maternity leave. After Mia I had almost no time off, this time around I was a bit smarter and found someone to help out. Find other people who work in your sector and use them as support, a sounding board and someone to pass work to if you become overloaded.


I’ve got 4 hours childfree time left, must get writing!! Do pop over to All Words if you need some copywriting or some more information/inspiration.


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Thank you Kerry – a regular writer for baby budgeting for this inspiring post


                                            AVONSHOP

When I fell pregnant with Baba I was working with children with special needs, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go back into this job. It was a really emotional job and I knew that it would drain me while looking after a young baby. But we knew that I had to work.
 
I had been self employed for many years, and had tried Direct Selling before and knew that this would be a good route to go down. As I could work from home and build up my business gradually.
 
I knew about Avon Cosmetics, and thought that I hadn’t seen a book for ages so applied to become a representative. It only costs £15.00 to sign up as a representative taken over two equal instalments, so there is no money up front. The commission is great you earn between 20 to 25% in commissions on your total order value every three weeks, and it is fun flexible and a great way to meet people.You can choose your own hours and can sell to family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues and you can buy discounted Avon products for yourself and can get some products for free! 
                                                       
I loved Avon from the moment that I started and wanted to take it a step further so I looked into Sales Leadership. Sales Leadership costs £25.00 which is deducted from your earnings and you get a business pack to get you started for this fee. It is another way to earn with Avon, you are a self employed Avon Sales Leader and you recruit and train your own team of Representatives, earning commission on their sales as well as your Representative earnings. I love this you get to be your own boss, have your own team and help others to get into Avon and train them to make a success out of their business. As a Sales Leader you have to promote your business and advertise to get representatives to join your team, and to help you do this you have your own personal website, to introduce yourself, promote your business and encourage people to join your team!
            
                 Here is my personal website:https://kerrysdiamonds.myavon.co.uk/ 
 Avon is a self employed job so you have to do your own tax and inform your benefits that you are doing it. You are setting up your own business, it does take time, you have to get your customers and get the loyalty there, once it is there though customers love you, from the young to the old. Avon caters for everyone, and it is not just about the makeup any more! They do hair care, skin care, gifts, jewellery, make up, underwear, men’s things, holiday stuff, fitness and perfume there is a lot in that little catalogue! 
 You get loads of support with Avon and get to meet lots of the other Representatives and Sales Leaders. It is a lovely job to do and fits perfectly with your children. When Baba was really poorly at the beginning of the year and we spent a month in and out of hospital, there was no added stress. I didn’t have to let work know, I didn’t have to call in sick, make up my hours somewhere else. I just didn’t work and it was fine, it meant that I could totally concentrate on him, to get him better.
 Avon has opened up lots of opportunities for me, I have got to meet some amazing people and love my job. I am hoping to take my Sales Leadership to the next level in the next few months and can’t wait to see where I will go after this. It is a fantastic opportunity to make extra money and if not that then a fantastic place to buy budget make up, hair care, skin care, gifts, jewellery, underwear, men’s things, holiday stuff, fitness and perfume that is great value for money.
 
             Please note that I am an Avon Sales Leader and the views expressed here are my own and I am not speaking on behalf of Avon Cosmetics UK.
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