Networking, childcare and the Legal Stuff

Networking and making contacts

You can also use social media to network. I’ve met so many inspiring and influential women through Instagram. I started following them, left comments when I felt inspired to do so, and eventually they started to engage back. They looked at my feed, too. And when they liked a post, they’d leave a comment. Many of these women are now my friends – in the real world. Others, I continue to communicate with online and have never met – but it feels like there’s a relationship of sorts, there. We support each other.

But especially when starting out, it’s great to also get out to live events. Check out the business events near you. There seem to be loads popping up now, it’s not just a London-based thing. And if there isn’t one near you? Well, that’s a gap in the market because there will definitely be other people looking to get out and meet others who are working for themselves.

If you discover someone online who you find interesting, perhaps she’s doing similar work but is a few steps ahead, don’t be afraid of making contact. Tell her you were impressed by a recent project she did or that one of her posts resonated. Just be honest and real. And if you have a question – ask it. Don’t bombard, or expect an immediate response, but give it a go. She may just have a spare five minutes and fancy helping another freelancer/business owner out.

Childcare
If you have kids, getting this balance right can be hard. If you don’t have any help with childcare, you’ll have less time to work. But if you’re not working and earning, it can be painful – or impossible – to commit to regular childcare. When starting out, it can be great  to ask for favours: friends, family – if you have any close by. Though I’ve found this has a time limit, as people aren’t always understanding about the fact that you actually need to work so think you can hang out with them and the kid(s). It’s good when you’re getting going though.

Another idea is teaming up with a local parent and splitting the working day: she has the kids mornings, meet for lunch, you have them afternoons. It’s free, your kid has company and you get to see a real-life person a few times throughout the day.

If you’re ready to commit to childcare, some childminders offer flexibility – so you send the kids when you need to work but not necessarily every week. And for those occasions when the childminder can’t fit you in, I’ve found Bubble App really helpful for last minute babysitting. I use it in the holidays if work comes up and both kids are home – a babysitter will come round around 9am, take them out for a couple of hours while I get my work done, bring the home for the younger one’s nap and I’ll continue working while the older one watches a film or plays in the garden.

Longterm, though, the idea is to have regular childcare. I love nursery for the kids as it means they’re out of the house. We’ve tried various forms of childcare – childminder in our house, full days at nursery, half days, all-year-round, just term time. And to be honest, as the kids get older; your needs change. Now that my daughter’s at school, it’s pointless paying for year-round nursery for my son because 12 weeks of the year, my daughter’s on holiday. So I put my son in a term-time nursery and arrange holiday care for them both.

I should say that when I launched The Early Hour, I had no childcare. I worked in nap-times and evenings, and at the weekends. This was ok – hard work but doable. And so if you’re not ready to have your kid looked after by someone else, or to commit to paying the fees, this might work short-term. But I strongly feel – with hindsight – that we need to see ourselves as business women from the outset; this isn’t just a ‘hobby’. And business people invest in the areas that will help them to grow their businesses (like childcare).

The legal stuff
I have experience as a sole trader and a Ltd company. But I’m not an expert on the legal side of things, so I asked Ingrid Fernandez – lawyer and founder of Dec and Dash legal consulting – to share some important points about what to bear in mind when setting up shop. There’s some really useful info in here. And you can keep coming back to it, so don’t let it overwhelm you. Take some notes, if you want to, or listen again when the time is right.

If you’re ready to register as self-employed, you can do it through the Government website. As Ingrid said, it’s really quick and simple. If you’d like to register a Ltd company – this is a longer process; initially and longterm – you can do that here. If you’re collecting personal data, you’ll need a privacy policy. Here’s a link to a GDPR privacy notice template. And a good article on setting out terms and conditions for your business. But you can also contact Ingrid, if you’d like more help on the legal side of things.

VAT

Once your business is bringing in a certain amount (currently: more than £85,000), you need to register for VAT. There is information about VAT thresholds and how to register here. But you might like to hire an accountant at this stage and they will advise you, and set it up for you, if you’d prefer.

EU Digital VAT

If you’re selling online courses or services without an interactive element (like weekly feedback) to the EU, you’ll need to think about EU VAT for sales over £8000 a year. This tax was created to ensure companies like Amazon and Google pay their taxes but affects small businesses too. There’s some simple, helpful information on it here. And here’s the Government explanation and rules here.