Expert opinion: Juggling Motherhood & your beauty business
Marie-Louise Coster looks at how salon owners, therapists and stylists can manage their work/life balance once you become a family.
I was quite late to the table when it came to being a Mum, having tried for many years to no avail I had accepted it wasn't to be. We didn't go down the route of finding out why or looking at treatments, that just wasn't for us; my Nan always said ‘what is for you won't go past you' so that was that. I focused on my career and built a very successful business, then at the ripe old age of 37, and thinking I was going through the menopause, I discovered I was 10 weeks pregnant with a very longed for baby, but what would that mean for me and my business?
During my career I have owned a High Street salon, I have taught at colleges and I have worked in Field Sales and Training. At the time of falling pregnant I had a home based business, which I had had for around four years, with a salon built on the back of my house so that made things a little simpler, although it meant that there was no income as such whilst on maternity leave.
I had a wonderful pregnancy and was lucky that I didn't suffer with any sickness or aches and pains, so I worked right up to my due date, but baby was very comfy and remained in there for a further two weeks so I went back to work and was still painting my own toe nails at 41 weeks and four days! But then came the discovery that she was in fact breach and stuck under my ribs and would need to be evicted! I had not factored in recovering from a C Section and had planned to go back to work after a few weeks, just for a few hours. That obviously didn't happen.
Having a baby is a strange one because you truly don't know how you are going to feel until they arrive. You make plans, you think that x, y and z will be fine, you decide you are happy to leave them with grandparents and that you will go back to life as it was. The reality is you absolutely never will. Your feelings will be different to how you imagine, you won't want to leave them, then you will have child care let you down, then they will be poorly and you can't leave them, then they go to nursery or start school and if they are ill or something happens it is Mum they ring, not Dad. In truth your life will change completely, and you have to just go with it and adapt to this new normality.
I went from working Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm and Saturday 9am to 3pm to working 6pm to 11pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 9pm on a Saturday; that way we could juggle the childcare between us and she was always with one of us. I naturally lost a few clients but were working mums who wanted evening and weekend appointments anyway. I was fully booked, I didn't have the cost of childcare, and most important - above all else - I had the opportunity to form a very special bond with my daughter.
Within the blink of an eye she was two and off to nursery, just two days a week 9-3.30pm; this was more to prepare her for pre-school and the school day ahead of her. I was also very aware of the social interaction as she was an only child. This allowed me to introduce weekday working again and pick up some more clients. Then she went to pre school and I upped her days to three a week, so my working week altered again.
As I write this she has just started school and my working week will alter again. I will work whilst she is at school, have a few hours with her after school and then work every evening but I will make my Saturdays shorter so as we have family time.
You have to be very organised
It is a juggle, you need to be very organised, and you have to do what is right for you and your family. What I did was right for us, yes I was tired and yes my husband and I didn't get much time on our own but it worked, and looking back it was such a short period of time. Reducing my hours actually didn't have a detrimental effect on my business in anyway, in fact it was quite the opposite. I utilised my time more efficiently, focused on driving more retail and ended up taking more money than when I was working all day every day.
Work was also a great escapism, a time for me to be me again and not ‘Mum'. I think what I struggled with the most was going from a woman who achieved a lot to not having the time or chance to achieve, or certainly to feel like I was achieving. I look back now and see I did achieve a lot with award nominations, growing the business in a new way and the session Manicure Work I do around the business. But at the time I did have to say no to a fair few things and that always made me feel a bit rubbish, but equally there were lots of great things I got to say yes to and I look at the relationship I have with my daughter now and the no's pale in to insignificance.
They are little for such a short time, you only have one opportunity to spend this time with them but I knew I would have countless opportunities to develop my business, open other salons, do more session work and anything else I wanted to do, as she got older. If I had my time all over again I would do exactly the same all over again, I would just feel less guilty and nervous about it because it all worked out for the best.
Do what is right for you
So, anyone reading this who is pregnant and worried about the effect a baby will have on your business, the fear of losing clients, the pressure of trying to say yes to everyone and fitting everyone in because you need the money, because you need to grow the business, because you need them to come to you and not go somewhere else, please stop. Decide what is best for you, your baby and your family and work the rest around it. Have set opening hours, that you stick to, keep in touch with all of the clients on your database - whether active or not - just to keep you in their mind, keep active on social media – in my experience this is very easily done whilst breastfeeding in the arm chair!
Turn this in to a situation where the clients who do get appointments feel lucky they have got in, create an urgency and exclusivity about getting an appointment with you because you are the best in your area, really push your USP. By being open fewer hours people will be more inclined to book in advance so as they can be sure they will have an appointment, and your hours will be far more lucrative and productive than before.
As time goes on you can add hours, you can add events, you can do more consultations interactively online etc. Businesses are changing due to COVID-19 and we are all navigating a new normal. Push your retail products as these can easily be ordered, sold and collected, or even delivered during your non treatment hours. There are lots of ways to keep your business thriving, you just need to be more creative. And don't forget, people come for you as much as the treatment, so they will wait if they need to. I had a new client contact me after I had my daughter and she had to wait eight weeks to see me, we had no relationship and could have gone anywhere but she heard I was worth waiting for. Five years later she is still a regular client and there are many more like her.
Don't be bullied into things and do not feel guilty for putting your needs and the needs of your family first. You won't be able to accommodate everyone all of the time, you will have to say no, you will worry about money (we all do in any case) but you will grow the business, you will just do it all a little slower and at a later date. It truly goes by so quickly, don't look back and regret not putting yourself and your family first.
Marie-Louise Coster is a Beauty Therapist, Trainer and Business Consultant, with over 20 years' experience in the industry. All About Mi Beauty & Holistic Training School is ABT-accredited.