Following my blog post on women (like myself) making a career change in their thirties (or even later), I thought I’d find out from other women and business owners what their journey was like. What prompts us to leave our careers behind and create something new for ourselves? How easy or hard is it? And what does in mean, in practice, to juggle motherhood and working from home on your own business? I’m still in the very early days of starting my writing business, and I know that if I’m not careful, there’s a chance that overwhelm could have the better of me. So this week, I’d like to talk career change by sharing this interview with Paula Hutchings, from Marketing Vision Consultancy.
Career change – the need for flexibility and work-life balance.
Paula used to work in the corporate world of marketing before becoming a mum. In Paula’s words, “working with global brands was exciting, but the job was highly-demanding, and I’d often work long hours.” Paula and her husband, who were living in Sydney at the time, started a family back in 2010. While on maternity leave, Paula took the plunge to follow her dream and made the very brave move to set up her own marketing consultancy. “My vision was to help launch and grow successful small businesses. I was a mum on a mission to create a flexible work-life balance and a fulfilling career helping others build flourishing enterprises.”
Having tried juggling a career with one, then two, and then three children myself, I agree with Paula. Long hours, heavy workloads and unpredictable schedules make things really hard when you have a family. And this is especially true if both parents have jobs with busy patterns, and you have no family support around you. In fact, Paula says: “The main stressors of my previous job would have been impossible for me to manage alongside my family life (and remain sane!) I knew the two things wouldn’t have been compatible”.
Plus, let’s be honest – being off on maternity leave and returning to work a year or so later with childcare and family commitments can mean that your career doesn’t progress as fast as you’d like it to. This wasn’t Paula’s case, but I’ll explore this in more details in a follow-up post.
Career change – fulfilling the dream of being your own boss.
I’m pleased to report that Paula’s story is one of great success. Seven years later, Paula and her family are now back in the UK. And she’s not only running her own thriving business, but she’s also found a balance that works for her and her family.
How did she do it? With more than 10 years marketing experience and a deep passion to champion fellow small businesses, while on maternity leave with her first son, Paula set about creating her first website and finding clients. This felt like the right time for her. She says, “I was able to start my company without feeling the pressure, stress, and overwhelm that I know must accompany those of us to leave without a clear path ahead and feel under pressure to make it work quickly!”
I asked Paula if she ever questioned her choices, and she said: “I never had any doubts about leaving my corporate job behind, because I knew that had I stayed, I wouldn’t have been able to combine my career with motherhood. I would have probably had a breakdown! Getting new clients is a challenge, but I have been fortunate to build a solid business with many lovely clients. Over the years, I’ve had the odd wobble (perhaps when I think about my past salary, company car and bonus). But I couldn’t go back to the corporate world, as I want to be around for my children, particularly while they’re young.”
Career change: balancing self-employment and family life.
Curious to find out how she balances it all, I asked Paula about her arrangements and work-life balance. “My boys are soon turning 6 and 8 and are both at school, so things are a lot easier these days. They do after-school clubs two days a week, which gives me valuable extra time – I relish the long days! In the school holidays, we do a mix of holiday clubs. We are very lucky to have brilliant holiday clubs locally and lots of sporting options – football, cricket etc. In the early years, it was definitely trickier to manage. But those years do fly by, even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time.”
I also asked Paula about her main frustration with juggling family life and running a business. “My main frustration is being unable to get into London as much as I would like for events and other occasions, but I’m working with a growing number of local clients now, so I’ve been less concerned about that recently. When I have guest speaking events in the diary (e.g. Country Living, Stylist Live etc.) my husband will generally be the one to work from home and help out with the boys. We don’t have local family support, but we manage!”
So how does a mum who runs her own business around family life avoid stress and overwhelm? Here’s Paula’s take on it. “I think the key to avoiding stress and overwhelm is to be super-organised. But also, you need to build small windows of me-time when you can. For me, that is having a coffee with a friend, going for a run, or reading a book. It’s just enough to take the edge of feeling like you’re doing everything! I love what I do, and on the whole, I’m happy with the balance. I’m especially glad when I think what the alternative would’ve been like had I gone back to corporate life! I also volunteer to help early readers at my local primary school. And honestly, I find that to be a brilliant release from work.”
Career change: what does it really take?
Paula’s story has a few key components that allowed her to make her transition from corporate world to self-employment a success:
- Passion (she had a dream!)
- Vision (she knew what she wanted both from her professional and personal/family life).
- Relevant experience + skillset (she had 10+ years of marketing experience!)
- Confidence, determination, and willingness to work hard to make her dream a reality.
This powerful combination of ingredients became Paula’s recipe for success and allowed her to create a lifestyle that ticks all the boxes that are important to her. “I do still want a serious career and to grow and develop professionally. But I want to be with my children also. It takes a lot of hard work to get a business off the ground, but for me, it’s been absolutely worth it! I love the flexibility that comes with running my own business far too much now to be an employee! We are lucky – the world has changed and flexible working has opened up so many opportunities for us.”
And that is true.
Sometimes we just need to keep an open mind. And allow ourselves to believe that the opportunities are out there for us to take. My start hasn’t been as confident and straightforward as Paula’s, but I’m taking my own first steps. So do stay tuned as I continue with this series of blog posts that will give us a better insight into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of changing your career.
I hope you’ll join me in thanking Paula for sharing her story and in wishing her the best of luck with her amazing company! You can connect with Paula on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or you can contact her on her website.
Can you relate to this experience? Do you have a story or experience to share?
Related post: Was I right to leave my job?