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Moving from corporate life to self-employment

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Debbie Miles from The Athena Network with six tips for surviving the transition

FOR many women, their forties can be a time of great upheaval. That may be supporting children as they make plans to leave home, seeking their first job or a place at university – or supporting parents as they become more dependent in their twilight years, or both.

It can be a stressful time.

They call us the sandwich generation, but if you throw into the pot a less than perfect marriage it can feel more like a triple decker.

So it’s no surprise that many women, like me, at this time of their lives opt for self-employment, granting them the flexibility and choices that corporate life couldn’t.

Here are my tips for anyone looking for a lifestyle that is healthier and more manageable:

1. Prepare financially
Make sure you have savings to support you in the early years, a supportive bank manager and a trustworthy financial adviser who will help you keep an eye on provision for your future.

2. Know your strengths and how you can add value
A chance conversation with a relative pointed me in the direction of The Athena Network, which has played well to my personal strengths and allowed me to work on my weaknesses with the support of the women in the groups. Exploit your strengths but be prepared to delegate, outsource or collaborate to hand off those functions you find more difficult and acquire the skills you are missing.

3. Do something you love
In the early days, you may need to put in more hours than you did in corporate life. Your business is your new baby.
I am a sociable creature who enjoys meeting new people, finding out about their lives and helping others, so network meetings are the highlights of my calendar. Make your working day yours and delegate the things that perhaps aren’t your strengths.

4. Network, network, network
In my corporate life, I helped orchestrate a survey looking at how to encourage women to progress their careers. Having evaluated the responses, it was clear that ‘who you know’ is as important as ‘what you know’.
Added to this, it was apparent that women needed to be given the time and opportunity to support each other to help them grow in confidence. You need to absolutely believe in yourself and your product or service if you are to convince others and stand out in a potentially crowded marketplace.

5. Develop a support network
As a franchisee, I was fortunate to have a tried and tested brand and process supporting me. My business background in finance, sales and marketing gave me a head start, but I soon realised I needed social media, admin and IT support, and to delegate the functions that I found more difficult or tiresome. As for the emotional support and encouragement, well that was provided by the members of my network – women experiencing the same highs and lows of going it alone and juggling family and business commitments.

6. Remember why you chose self-employment
It’s easy to get so entrenched in your new business that you lose sight of why you jumped ship in the first place. Make time for your family and friends and yourself. Put some time out in the diary if necessary. If you are the hub of a complex wheel of commitments, then have a healthy lifestyle and take time for yourself.

Self-employment has been a great journey for me, and one I would recommend.

It has allowed me the privilege of offering a valued service to many women in business.

Most importantly, though, it’s allowed me to spend the much-needed time with ailing parents and to be there when my children have come home and needed support, encouragement and direction.

The transition has not been without its challenges, but it’s been a very rewarding one.

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