I think we’ve all been there during maternity leave – sitting there feeding our babies in the early hours wondering how on earth we are going to function on so little sleep when back at work.
As maternity leave progresses, chats over coffee after baby groups turn from teething and weaning to KIT days, going part time vs staying full time or not wanting to go back at all, childcare options and the sheer cost of it!
What to do about work after having a baby is such a personal choice but having spoken to so many mums about it over the years, it feels like one that is so often influenced by finances and it certainly was for me.
With this blog, I would like to just tell you about my own personal journey over the last ten years – from full time to part time and self employed in the hope I can offer insight.
First time round
Everything felt fairly manageable work-wise with our first daughter, who is now 10 years old. I was promoted to a Curriculum Manager role during maternity leave and I went back when she was 9 months old. I did compressed hours – full time into 4 days – and nursery for 3 days felt beneficial for her development. I was only 27, wanting to pursue my career and it was the right decision for us.
Four years later, we were blessed with our second daughter. I had changed companies by then and was in Regional Trainer role, back to 5 days plus lesson prep every evening and travelling 500 miles a week. Pretty much as soon as I became pregnant, I started worrying about future childcare – my salary would essentially go on nursery, wraparound care for our eldest in school and holiday clubs. But we couldn’t live off just my husband’s salary. What now??
Starting out as a Virtual Assistant
I kind of accidently started out as a VA during the first few weeks of maternity leave. I was researching ways to make a bit of extra money to top up my statutory maternity pay and found a freelance work site I had dabbled with on my first maternity leave. People would advertise projects and you had to simply do a bid like a mini job application.
I started applying and I won one – someone with restaurant experience to proofread a one sided A4 package document. I did it, got a 5 star review and quickly landed another 5 star review after copying a training programme from one online portal to another.
My rating on the site grew and I kept winning jobs. I then got my first regular piece of work – research and data entry on an app for finding happy hours in London. I did 5-6 hours a week of this for a few months – all flexibly in the evenings once the girls were asleep.
At about 4 months post-partum, I met my manager to discuss my request for returning to work 3 days per week, but it was rejected with a counter offer of 4 days. I just wasn’t feeling it. Working just to pay childcare for the next few years didn’t appeal and part of me just wanted to be home more for my girls.
What should I do for the best?
I started to think more and more about my freelancing becoming an option, but it just wasn’t enough to live off at that stage. I wanted something stable which I could top up with freelancing in the evenings. I started looking for part time jobs in events which is what I came from originally before training. I got one in a CPD department at a university for 2.5 days per week and handed in my notice!
At this point, in all honesty my freelancing went off the boil – the happy hour app guy was having a break from it (it was just his hobby!) and I was concentrating on my new job, suffering from sleep deprivation and just enjoying being part time with my girls!
Out of the blue some months later, a local Marketing Consultant who needed some help saw my profile and got in touch. We met up for coffee and the rest as they say is history – we are still going four years later!
She was my only client for a long while and I did around 20-30 hours per month at times of day to suit me. As time went on, I continued to grow in confidence and started marketing myself by setting up a website and social media pages. From this, I expanded my client base to fill the hours that came available when my daughter started more hours at nursery then school.
Fast forward to now
Early last year my business had reached a tipping point whereby I was considering leaving my university job and freelancing full time – I was turning work down!! I couldn’t believe that this pipedream on maternity leave had become my reality!
But then Covid-19 struck and temporarily shut down my client’s businesses. I found myself with 90% less freelance work and I knew it was the right time to get to it and pass on my knowledge by creating a course. It had been something I had wanted to do for a while (the trainer in me….!) but had had no time to do anything about it!
I wanted it to be something that planted seeds and gave people like me, who don’t know what to do for the best work-wise after having children, another option. I wanted it to be ‘real’ and in a helpful format, something that I would have wanted to go through when I was exploring options. No promises of ‘blueprints to launch’ or ‘10k months’ like you see from so many online coaches, just someone who has been there and has real, solid advice.
Make it work for you
So, in a nutshell – whether it’s just a side hustle you’re after or something you can do part-time or full-time, becoming a Virtual Assistant will give you the option to do exactly that and flexibly around your family! You’re freelance and it’s your own business so you can run it just how you like to suit your circumstances.
If you would like to read any more about becoming a VA, do please visit my website where I have other blogs on who my clients are, the sort of work I do and helpful websites to use.
Also on my website is a link to my course which covers the essential steps to take in order to become a VA – assessing your skills, marketing yourself, finding clients, how to set fees, manage your workload and other considerations such as legal requirements.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have found it interesting and if you have any questions please get in touch!
You can sign up to Jen’s course here:
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Our Guest Blogger: Jen Taylor
This guest blog has been written by our guest blogger Jen Taylor, who has shared with us and our readers her experience of getting back into work after giving birth to her beautiful children. Many of us will relate greatly to Jen’s experience of not knowing which path to chose and what’s best for our families. Make sure you head on over to Jen’s social accounts and give her a like/follow.
Enjoyed reading this blog? You can also read other blogs written by Jen on her website here