Are school holidays hurting your business?
I was chatting to a 'mumpreneur' recently and she was asking me about how to handle school holidays.
Should I tell my customers I don't answer the phone during school holidays?
Like so many women she was balancing building a business with taking care of her family. She hadn't been able to find herself a term time only job, so had started a business that would work around her family. She was a 'mumpreneur'.
Term time only working keeps you poor
Term time only employment contracts can trap women into lower paid roles. Part time employees (red in the bar chart) in small businesses earn the least of all.
No wonder so many women chose self-employment. Be your own boss. Set your own rates. Result. What could be better?
Can you earn enough in your business?
Self-employed earnings have been steadily falling for some years. A lot of people are struggling on the lower hourly rates. Far too many of those are women. Despite being able to set our own pay rates many 'mumpreneurs' earn below the National Living Wage. Term time only working only emphasises the problem.
UK schools shut for around 13 weeks a year. If you are take all of that time off you have to earn your income in 39 weeks. Allow another 4 weeks for when the children are ill (or you are) and you are trying to earn a living in 35 weeks a year.
Most business owners will tell you that they can't earn during every hour they give to the business. There are all sorts of things like sales and marketing, administration, dealing with customer queries that have to be fitted it.
Being self-employed means that your annual turnover is not your pay. You will have expenses from equipment, bad debts, insurance, tax, national insurance etc.
Childcare costs can take 50% or more of your gross hourly earnings. If you have more than one child you can find yourself earning less than the cost of childcare since childminders and nurseries charge per child.
Working family child care credits
The ever changing working family childcare tax credits scheme may help. You need to be available to work for at least 16 hours a week - even if you are not able to charge someone for them. So keep a careful record of how you spend your time as well as your income or you will fall between the gaps in the scheme. If you are not working school holidays these will show up as zero hours for almost one third of the year!
School holidays hurt your business
Not only do parents trying to create a business around school holidays lose revenue, but there is a massive effect on the business of this 'stop-start' policy. Not only are you not earning during a substantial part of the year, but you are not selling, marketing, learning, developing during this massive gap.
What's the alternative?
You can't go letting all your clients go at the beginning of each school holiday.
Nor can you let them down by simply disappearing.
What can you do?
After 37 years in business and two children here are my top tips for growing a business that makes you money and doesn't stop for holidays.
- Time shift your working time during school holidays. Do as much as you can in the evenings and weekends.
- Make sure your phone is properly covered and you never answer it to clients with noisy kids in the background. It's OK to put a message on your voicemail to say I will pick up my voicemail at 9am, 1pm and 5pm. And make sure you are somewhere quiet when you do.
- Find other parents in the same situation and arrange a 'gang'. I found other Mums in a similar situation and we arranged that each Mum would have all the kids for one week. I sent sandwiches and drinks - it wasn't an expensive week and the kids loved being taken to the local rec to play games and being part of a crowd.
- Find yourself an associate you can send work to when you are not available. Make sure you manage them properly - don't just dump work on them at no notice. If you are not available during school holidays consider whether a student (studying business) might be a great associate - as they will only be available during holidays.
- Make sure you take some annual leave for yourself - don't just work all year round. You need time to recover and time to enjoy your children - even if it is not a third of the year!
- Automate your social media during school holidays and create 'lead magnets' and campaigns that work for you when you are not working. Even if your customers don't buy during term time you need to have them planning to buy from you as soon as school goes back. If you wait till schools are back they may have decided to buy from someone else.
- Create 'products' that people can buy from you online when you are not personally available.
- Invest in a great VA who does not need the same time off as you. Have that conversation before you get started.
With planning, resourcefulness and a little bit of luck you can create a business that makes money all year round. You don't have to stop your business cold every time the schools break up.
As your business grows learn to outsource your work to freelancers who can work when you are not available. You can have a 52 week business without working 52 weeks a year - but you have to plan it, and set it up that way.
Share your top tips for keeping your business going - add a comment and let us know.
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