Diane Richmond of Unique Insights takes us through some of the steps involved in being a female entrepreneur in Ireland.
Taking the decision to work for yourself is not an easy one to make but is often the most rewarding one you will make in your career. I have been working with entrepreneurs and the self employed for over 20 years, and I have always been impressed by their ability ‘to try it out, give it a go, see if they can make it work’. I always envied their determination and indeed their resilience to keep going when things got tough. And so it was, that after many years working with entrepreneurs in 2020, at exactly the same time the pandemic hit, I embarked on my own journey to self-employment, and so far so good!
My passion – working with women who want to work for themselves
For the past five years, I have found myself working predominantly with female entrepreneurs mainly through the Partas WEBNET programme, a programme exclusively targeting women who want to work for themselves. Of the almost 200 women I have engaged with, there are many things that strike me, things that many of these women seem to have in common.
I’ll summarise some of the key things I’ve noticed about working with women who are considering self-employment, some of which may resonate with you:
1. Some women exhibit low levels of confidence, mainly as a result of spending time out of the workforce through being at home to raise a family or due to other caring duties. Any prolonged absence from the office can leave some women feeling less confident in themselves and their own abilities. This can be a huge stumbling block for women, if and when they do return to work as they often really struggle to regain that confidence and sometimes get stuck, unable to find suitable opportunities to help maximise their talents. In my own experience, I have met so many creative, talented women with so much to offer, but for one reason or another they have been unable to fit back into the workforce.
2. Having been on some type of extended leave from the workplace, many women find that their networking opportunities are limited upon returning. This may in part be as a result of reduced working hours, condensed working hours (eg so they can leave early maybe to collect a child from school) or working through their lunch, leaving little or no time for networking. Maintaining a network, particularly a professional one, is vital for career development and success, thus anything that diminishes networking opportunities for women is problematic in the long term, and limits their possibilities.
3. There is a real lack of quality, flexible work opportunities for women. (Great to see back to work connect doing a great job in this respect!) Many women I have met have embarked on selfemployment as a direct result of not being granted sufficient flexibility from their employer, often resulting in them leaving their paid employment. In this scenario, many women believe selfemployment can provide them with an opportunity to balance family and work commitments more favourably.
4. A great many women I’ve encountered have spent much of their career working for somebody else, possibly in a job they’ve outgrown, and having reached a certain point in their life and career, have decided to finally pursue their passion, and set up a business doing something they love eg becoming an artist, a confectioner, a career coach, a crafter, and so on. They can no longer ignore the passion they have to work for themselves, and so they embark on a road of discovery. There is so much more to say, and so many insights that I have acquired over my career, but I’m conscious that your time is precious, and that you might want to know a bit more about how you become self-employed in Ireland, so I’ll move on!
How do I go about becoming self-employed
There are so many supports available to women who want to pursue self-employment as a career move. The Local Enterprise Offices offer a range of supports, including training and mentoring, so too do many local enterprise organisations, such as Partas WEBNET+ programme for female entrepreneurs, Local Partnership companies and a host of other players can help support women at the early stages. Some important things to do may include the following (not an exhaustive list):
1. Register for tax as a sole trader with the Revenue Commission, or your preference might be to set up a Limited Company with the Companies Registration Office (CRO)
2. Open a business bank account
3. Register your trading name with the CRO (if applicable)
4. Buy a domain name, and set up your email address
5. keep good financial records and file annual returns
6. Do not be a busy fool – know what makes you money, and what doesn’t.
Some advice, for budding female entrepreneurs
Working for yourself is challenging, discovering how you can continue to motivate yourself when things get tough is an important lesson. Digging deep, being resilient is essential and understanding and remembering your WHY (why are you doing this, why is it so important to you). Focus on your capabilities, your strengths, and believe that you are good enough and as competent as most other people in the marketplace (if not more so!). All of these things will help you stay on track as you manoeuvre your way through the maze.
Here are a few other pointers:
• Join a network – One of the most beneficial things to women starting on the road to selfemployment is not what you might think. It’s not money, it is in fact becoming part of a network of other like-minded women. Surrounding yourself with good mentors, and other women who are at a similar stage to you who can offer advice and guidance is priceless and can have a positive impact on your self-confidence. Opportunities arise from meeting people, so don’t stop making new connections. This is genuinely one of the most satisfying achievements in my career. Being a mentor to so many wonderful women, and helping them to find strength from each other, and they continue to be a useful reference group for me as well as a source of inspiration/motivation.
• Do not be afraid to be wrong. Risk is inherent in most things, and self-employment has its fair share. You cannot avoid risk, but you can minimise it by being open, listening, doing market research, business planning, asking for a second opinion.
• Unleash your creativity – find that inner child, think outside the box. Think of new and different ways to reach your customers, and don’t be too deterred by a lack of finance.
• Learn how to use social media (even if you personally don’t use it, it might be essential in your business)
• Start. Perfect is the enemy of good. There will always be a reason not to do it, but there are always so many reasons to do it so be brave, try it out, give it a go, start, it doesn’t need to be perfect on day one.
Diane is the owner of Unique Insights. Where she is working as a mentor, trainer and consultant in the field of local enterprise development. She has a primary degree in Business Studies, specialising in Marketing. Diane is a graduate of the Marketing Institute of Ireland. She has an MBA in entrepreneurship, winning the gold medal in her year (2007). She has most recently graduated from the Digital Marketing Institute as a Certified Digital Marketing Professional (2021).
Where can I learn more?
One thing is for sure; there is no shortage of opportunities to learn more about starting your own business. From part-time, full time to online vs offline, you can choose an option that works for you and your lifestyle. We’ve rounded up a few course options to get you started:
Webnet+ is an exciting programme for women who want to work for themselves. The programme is FREE to attend, 18 weeks, online, one morning a week and when successfully completed will result in two QQI awards. Webnet+ is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014 – 2020. Webnet+ is an initiative of Partas.