Article | Fabulous Women

All in good time: becoming self employed

Posted on 24/04/2012

There are times in life when you know you have a great opportunity staring you in the face. But no matter how brave you feel or how resourceful you think you may be, actually having a go and making it happen is, as we all know, far easier said than done.

Just over a year ago I took redundancy from my role at a leading business school and then, after a few months taking stock, decided to go freelance and set up my own business, Abington Coaching and Evaluation, to grow my work in solution-focused evaluation.

As a go-getter and someone who has always liked to seize the day, I looked forward to this new challenge. I signed up to Business Link, did my market research, wrote a business plan and secured finance. Exciting times lay ahead and I was raring to go.

Much has been written about enterprise and work-life balance. But there was one aspect of starting up that I simply hadnt prepared for. A little nagging voice that wouldnt go away and, when I was in career mode, repeatedly told me something I didnt really want to hear. If it wasnt for the children, I could do/go/be .

What was going on? The fact that I was a mum to two tweenagers seemed to be getting in the way of where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there.

I found myself telling people that at 8 and 12, the children were younger than they would have been if things had gone according to plan. My ageing parents lived 75 miles away, and my husband, whilst my greatest supporter, commuted daily to London. Although less of an issue now that the children were at school, I was no longer in a position to fund childcare, relying instead on the support and goodwill of friends.

Frustratingly, I found that in my late 40s I simply didnt have the same staying power and with the odd exception, late-nighters were no longer for me. Yet everywhere I looked, including in my own business plan, the resounding message was that setting up your own business was, by definition, a 24/7 job.

Of all the challenges I have faced in the past year, and there have been quite a few, this having the confidence to make a go of it part time has been one of the hardest to overcome. But by once again turning to the solution focused approach that Ive adopted for my going freelance journey, Ive started to accept my limitations and celebrate what I have achieved, rather than dwell on what I havent.

Im learning to respond to the little voice that says if only the children were older and instead say, its great now that the children are more independent. Six months on, Im working with the resources I have and feel as if Im starting to build a solid foundation for my business.

Its early days of course, but Im lucky to have a fantastic mentor and supporters who believe in me and are excited by my offer. Im just about to start work on my website*, I now have a small client base and recently delivered a major solution-focused evaluation for a leading support service and facilities management business. This year, Ive been invited to write about my work and contribute to a couple of conferences. Ive also been privileged to write the index for a landmark new book about women in business.

Theres no doubt Im having to dig really deep and life has never been tougher. This is easily the most challenging thing Ive ever done and undoubtedly it will take a bit longer this way to get to where I want to be. But the reality is that like many working women, Im doing two jobs with limited support. Ive come to accept this, embrace it even and realise its all part of the journey. And guess who sent me a text on his way to school telling me it was National Freelancers Day? My son, of course.

Ali is a freelance writer and researcher specialising in solution-focused evaluation. She works with coaches and consultants, using an SF approach to capture their clients learning experiences and turn them into rich stories of individual and organisational impact.
M: 07779 142567 | Twitter: @AliAbington | Email: ali@abingtoncoachingandevaluation.co.uk

* soon-to-be-launched website: www.abingtoncoachingandevaluation.co.uk

Back Author : Charlie Thomas

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