Welcome to the new monthly (or thereabouts) Successful Single Mum series! Every month I’ll be profiling a single mum who is successfully making a better life for herself and her kids through self-employment.
As a single mama weighed down with responsibility it’s easy to think self-employment isn’t for you. There are very few role models! And sometimes it’s true that if you can’t see, you can’t be it.
Only when I was introduced to single mamas who were rockin’ self-employment did I realised I could do it too.
So I’m featuring self-employed single mums here to show you that being your own boss is very much within your grasp.
If they can do it, you can too. The only difference is that the ladies I’ll be featuring have taken action to turn their dream into reality.
YOU are only ever one thought, or action, away from changing your life.
So without further ado, let’s find out how Vicky Charles, from Salisbury, discovered overcame a tough start to single motherhood and redundancy to become a self-employed blogger and social media consultant.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as a single mum.
My daughter was premature, and her father was very abusive. When I found myself a single mother, I was terrified. After months of abuse, I felt completely lost and didn’t believe I could do it on my own. Luckily I soon found my feet and began to realise I was actually doing quite well.
Five years on, we’ve both come a long way. I’m incredibly proud of my daughter, and of myself for keeping it together when times have been tough. I wouldn’t have my life any other way!
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What led you to become self-employed?
My daughter’s nursery closed for two weeks in the summer, so I would take time off from my job. One summer I helped a friend out with the social media for her shop.
When I went back to work, she asked if I would consider going freelance and continue working for her. Even though I hated my office job, I said no because I thought I needed the security of a regular income.
The day after I went back to work, my whole company was put under consultation for redundancy. I found myself thinking, “Oh please, me!”. I was made redundant a couple of weeks later, and I practically danced out of the building!
Since then there have been some high points and some low points, but overall we’re heading in the right direction and I love my work!
What are your working hours?
I work from home from around 9:30 am til around 2:30 pm, while my daughter is at school. I sometimes end up working in the evenings as well, but I try to avoid it.
This is my daughter’s first year at school, so I’m still working out how to juggle school holidays!
What do you think are the advantages of self-employment?
When I went back to work after having my daughter, I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, “I have to find a way to be self-employed so that I can work around school holidays, and go to concerts and things at school.”
For me, that’s the main advantage. I can go to school concerts and spend time in my daughter’s class reading or doing fun things with the kids.
Another major plus point is that I have control. If I lose a client I can go out and pitch for another. If I decide I don’t want to offer a particular service, or try out something new, I can just go ahead and do it!Working in an office, I could only work during the hours my daughter was in
Working in an office, I could only work during the hours my daughter was in nursery. I couldn’t do overtime or stay late, and there was little to no chance of getting a raise, let alone a promotion. I looked ahead and saw a life stuck relying on benefits to make ends meet, and it felt terrible.
Now I have more control over my work and my working hours and with any luck, I’ll be completely off benefits by the end of this year.
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What have you have struggled with?
I’ve struggled with a work-life balance. It’s easy to feel guilty or like I’m shirking if I take time out for myself. If I have work to complete, I feel like I should work every waking hour to get it done.
If I’m on a tight deadline I will work long hours to get things done. Other than that I try to organise my time, and to be strict about walking away from my desk so I have some time to myself in the evenings.
Have you got any advice for single mums who want to become self-employed?
Speak to as many other self-employed people as you can. Read as many books as you can. Listen to as many podcasts as you can.
There’s always more you can learn, and hearing from other people who’ve all been in your situation can really help when you wake up a 3 am in a panic thinking, “OMG I’m out here on my own!”
Oh, and learn how to sell yourself. Even if you think you don’t have a product to sell – you need to know how to sell yourself!
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How do you manage your finances on a single income?
Open a second current account, and an instant access savings account. My income goes into my main account, then I move what I need to pay my bills into a second account.
I then transfer all but about £100 into a savings account so that it’s out of sight, out of mind and ready for an emergency if I need it.
I only ever transfer £50 back to my main account at a time. That way I have to stop and think before I buy that massive, expensive thing I don’t really need!
Is there a time-saving app or tool you can’t live without?
I pay £12 a month subscription to Accounts Portal (use this link to get a 20% discount on your monthly fee!) so I can manage my invoices and expenses. It means I can send professional looking invoices and track payments.
I do a bit of bookkeeping for clients so I know it’s much easier to use an accounting package than mess around with a spreadsheet! Accounts Portal records everything I need and makes my life much easier.
One of the big themes on this site is self-care. What’s your top self-care tip for single mums?
Teach your clients how to treat you! If you habitually respond to emails and finish off work at 8 pm, you can’t blame them for calling you at 8 pm asking you to do something urgently.
It’s fine to be helpful, but if you’re doing something above and beyond your normal working hours, make sure you tell them it’s a one-off, and not what you would normally do.
And be strict about not opening work emails until you are back at your desk!
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Is there anything else you’d like to share with SSM readers?
I believe self-employment of one kind or another is the best option for all parents, and it seems to be the way the workforce is going.
Rather than moaning about the lack of job security in a job you hate, why not work for yourself doing something you love? Then you can take the day off to go to your kid’s sports day without having to go begging to your boss!
Vicky, from Salisbury, has been a single parent since her daughter Samaire, now five, was just a couple of weeks old. She started a parenting blog in 2012 rediscovered her love of writing and learned how to promote herself on social media as she went.
In 2013 she was made redundant from a job she didn’t like anyway. So she decided to bite the bullet and become self-employed. Now she is a freelance blogger and copywriter for several different companies, and also trains and consults on social media, as well as managing a select few accounts.