The things they don’t warn you about when setting up your own business (a more light-hearted view!)

Background (the short, serious bit but it’s over quickly!)

The decision to take the plunge and set up your own business can be an exhilarating one but the process of converting ideas into reality involves intricate planning, an enormous amount of work and will necessitate more than careful juggling of time, relationships, kids and finances. Creating the business plan alone can be the cause of major frustration and stress and takes time in itself to perfect and complete. Gaining the final stamp of approval for the registration of your company is a wonderful achievement, but, believe me, the work only starts here!

Despite the many articles on the internet describing processes to be followed for setting yourself up from a legal perspective, I noticed, in going through the whole thing myself last year, that there huge gaps in the information available …  a whole pile of stuff we should be aware of, but which the experts don’t / can’t tell us about. These relate more to personal issues which cannot be learnt at college or business-school and comprise the more specific problems encountered, for example, by the sector of entrepreneurs who are starting from scratch with no money to invest, who may be single parents and / or who may not reside in their own native country.  They are the day-to-day – even mundane issues which can, actually, be fundamental to whether your company succeeds or fails and how you, as a person, are able to bear up and push through.  (OK, durge over.)

Realising this, and, possibly to help me get through the day, myself, by laughing instead of punching walls, I started to compile my own supplementary list of ‘niggles’ , drawn from my own experiences as a single parent starting out; it may be presented from a more light-hearted angle, but there is a hard truth behind each bullet. I hope it makes you smile, whilst giving you a few pointers of what else to look out for.

  • Business plan vs real time – Single parents be prepared: if you have predicted a working capacity of 6 hrs/day in your initial financial proposal, you may, if you are a qualified PA with a Masters in quantum physics, manage to squeeze in three.

Formula for survival :

Reality = any numbers you have built in for time / potential income divided by at least 2!

  • If you are a registered company, you will probably spend more time filling out forms and writing reports than actually doing any work in the first 6 months
  • Recommendation to buy A4 size envelopes and stamps in bulk to accommodate for the above. Really.
  • Whatever you think and however great the perks of working from home, having your desk even in the same building as your awake toddler is NOT a good working environment unless you are lucky enough to have help
  • Sleep becomes a (generically) non-issue – anything over 5hrs of it and your living quarters will look like hell
  • Every day is MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday…..
  • Identify small but significant markers as means of blindly feeling your way through the weekly cycle – for me, it’s Tuesday … the day I have to drive through everyone’s dustbins to get my car out of the yard.
  • Your working day may well start somewhere between 8pm and 10pm and continue through to …. ?
  • Neighbours in the same  building might phone up on occasions to check that you are still alive, having not seen or heard a sign of life for several days
  • There is no humour to be found in toddler emerging from bed every few minutes throughout the evening with a different ache or with a big black vicious dog / shark coming to get him whilst you are trying, at last, to get your head into your screen
  • Coming out of a 5 day project is like waking up after a nuclear wipe-out … it takes an hour to register where you are and another 6 days to return the entire contents of the house to their rightful place
  • There is no limit to how many half-empty coffee cups will fit on the 2″ plinth in front of a computer screen
  • You may come to identify odd and even days of the week based upon whether or not the dishwasher is full enough to do a cycle and/or having to wash out a mug for the 4am deadzone caffeine hit
  • There is no such thing as being ill … unless referring to your child of course
  • Eating out will become a luxury that happens to other people. At the very most, it may comprise a quick trip to the Chicken-man on the way home from playgroup on a Thursday
  • Payment for the above, however, may be found in a scrabbled together pile of sticky coins retrieved in desperation from the central console of the car – along with 3 gummibears and a half-eaten pretzel
  • You will see yourself from the outside, metamorphosing into someone prepared to spend half a morning’s allocated work time (i.e. a whole hour) searching like a loon for a post-office receipt, as you can write off yesterday’s 1.23euro packet-delivery against tax
  • When discussing your social life in the first 2 years you may find yourself alluding to ‘’my Twitter / Facebook friends ….’’
  • You may find yourself crying in joy at receiving lunch-leftovers brought in on plates with lids by charitable neighbours. However, finding 2.5 minutes to return said plates could take up to 7 days
  • There will be days when you thank your child for pulling the entire DVD collection off the shelf and playing chess with the contents, as he will have been ‘busy’ for 20 mins.
  • Ironing ….. what’s that?
  • People may make subtle comments about a random object they saw in a random place in your house last visit … which is still there 12 months later and you haven’t even noticed
  • There is no contingency available for any given daily routine, so spontaneous extras have to be crow-bar’d in, to the detriment of other activities – usually sleep or getting dressed.
  • You will RUN the 10 yards from car to house having delivered toddler to playgroup as it will mean an extra 2 second’s work time
  • A breather break comprises one of the following: performing critical bodily functions; removing 6 of the 23 coffee cups balanced on 2″ plinth in front of screen; making coffee; making another coffee; emptying dishwasher; flash-cleaning toilet; re-stacking dishwasher; racing to cellar to hang up half the washing before suffering guilt complex and leaving other half to rot until next break (possibly up to 3 days later – see next point); during the night-shift checking that toddler still has bedcover on and is not eating toys; picking up bricks; checking through waste bins for lego animals / play-kitchen pots and pans / your new camera; sweeping up sand / bits of tree / half a pot-plant; mopping up three inches water in the bathroom and manually wringing out all 17 bath-towels previously in cupboard under sink; jumping in the shower and finally getting dressed at 5pm

**all breather-breaks will, by default, include a ‘quick’ check of the @’s on Twitter … it becomes an integral part of you

  • Eating is for normal people

(However, as a multi-tasking solution to compulsory nutrition, you may become expert at balancing a plate of some radical combination of reheated somethings in the 3 inches of space between front of keyboard and edge of desk, (whilst preventing said plate from falling off by sitting up very straight and supporting it with rib-cage. Important here is to avoid flappy sleeves and wear plastic washable trousers. Sneezing is not an option.)

  • The process of washing clothes becomes a terminal illness – i.e. it is possible to run down to the cellar and set a cycle going on the way out to somewhere, however, actually getting around to hanging up clothes to dry afterwards is a phenomena which may take up to a week and will invariably involve returning to the cellar in PJs at around 3am to reset the cycle to wash ‘again’…. then again …. and again ….
  • TV … what’s that? In my house it’s (to quote my 2yo son) “that shelf with L’s train on it”
  • ‘Catching up on the news’ may comprise scanning the ticker headlines during the sports review whilst grabbing a 3pm breakfast, then further investigating any interesting bits in the trending topics on Twitter – in breather-breaks of course
  • You learn very quickly how to clean the house, feed the child, give him a bath, do a week’s filing all whilst on phone to mother
  • Other phone calls can be performed whilst sweeping the floor, emptying dishwasher, changing nappies, mopping, finger-painting with toddler and dare I say it even responding to vital emails
  • You forget how to do small-talk (no, seriously)
  • You are grateful to anyone in the supermarket queue who asks you to pass them a bag – it’s more human communication than you had in a week
  • You have to restrain yourself from throwing your arms around the checkout girls in greeting. Let’s face it, you’ve seen them twice this month and thus, they have become your best friends.

All this said, I still wouldn’t have it any other way and I am already beginning to reap the psychological rewards of my efforts, if not yet the financial ones!

I am, however, convinced, that, one day, it will get better. No, really, it will …!


This entry was posted in Starting out as a single working parent, Work-Life Balance and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The things they don’t warn you about when setting up your own business (a more light-hearted view!)

  1. Hil says:

    LM*O!!!!!!! OMG, MJM, thank you thank you for one of the most well-written and hysterical, LAUGH OUT LOUD articles I’ve ever read!!!! You got it and you ROCK, Mama!!!! – Hil

  2. Although a light-hearted look at a single parent running a small business, so much of this is SO true.

    The coffee cups around the computer made me laugh- again, very true.

    • LOL … I actually pulled my screen forward so they wouldn’t fit there any more – didn’t help tho and I now have two, very precariously balanced next to my right elbow! Could get messy ….

  3. Michelle says:

    Wow, what a funny post!!! It reminds way back when I was going to school at night, working full time, and a single parent of a two year old … I remeber considering brushing my teeth or taking a shower “personal time.” I hope you find more time for yourself soon!! :o)

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