by Molly Merson MFT | Featured Contributor
You’re a successful woman who’s put her creative energy into her work, her education, her imagination and action. You’ve had plenty of kids already—in the form of employees, clients, and people you mentor. People look up to you. You’re appreciated and respected.
But when you’re someone like me, who’s staring down the barrel of 40 without a partner and without children—well, there are a lot of places your mind and your heart can go. Many of my successful friends and colleagues have decided long ago that having children isn’t the path for them. These are the women who, when I ask whether they want kids, shake their head and crane their necks backwards, offering an adamant “Nooooooo, nononono.” However, I’m not one of those women.
I’ve known I’ve wanted kids only for about the last 10 years, and have been trying to get my career and my small business set up in a way that could help me thrive as a parent. It takes a lot of energy to own your own business, and a lot of expense as well. Having a child—especially as a single mother who is self-employed—is in a whole other category of expense, and one that, well, keeps on expending!
As a sole proprietor, you also don’t get the benefit of having disability insurance or parental leave for the birth process—or the second income of a partner if you’re single. Due to the particular nature of having children later in life, as a single person, when you’re also trying to run a business: well, those of us who are crazy enough to try need to get more creative about our financial and business planning. Here are some tips I’ve learned in my own process of exploring single parenthood about how to do just that. (For the record: All of these tips can be used if you’re expecting to be out of work for a period of time, due to planned surgery or extended vacation—and, if you implement and research these options now, they could be ready for you if you have to be out of work unexpectedly in the future.)
- Get a part-time job in a field that would also help you get clients. If you’re a psychotherapist, for example, you could look for a part-time position leading groups for people with mental illness through a PPO or outpatient clinic. It could help you grow your business by having your name known in relevant contexts—and, having an employer could help pay for part of your disability and parental leave.
- Expand your offerings to include things that can be done virtually. If you’re a massage therapist, learn guided imagery and offer telephone sessions for your most loyal clients. If you’re a psychotherapist, research HIPAA-compliant video conferencing and set up online sessions with patients. Perhaps the kind of service you offer could be set up through videos recorded ahead of time and sell as a package while you are out on leave, with real-time follow-ups once you’re back on your feet.
- Write and publish an e-book. We all have something we’re awesome at—just look at this business you’ve built! Harness some of that creative energy and write a book. It can be a how-to book, a book that helps illustrate one of your specialties, or a reference book for people who need resources—if you need support around this, ask a friend to tell you what she admires about your skills and dive into that.
- Hire someone to take over your clients at a percentage of the fees you’d make. Think about it—if you hire a temporary worker and they can collect a percentage of what is charged, you would still be making enough money to possibly cover your expenses and keep your doors open while you’re out.
- Brainstorm with your business consultants and colleagues about other avenues of passive income. While not all passive income is truly “passive”, it can at least get your creative juices bubbling to think about what alternatives you have to allow some stream of income to pour in without having to expend too much more energy.
So now that I’ve got you thinking about all of this, what would you add to the list? What gets you excited to think about as you consider how to build your business into something you could leave for a few months at a time? Even if it’s not a kid you’re planning for, a long trip to Europe or South America sounds pretty divine, doesn’t it?
Molly Merson, MA, MFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Berkeley, CA. She provides compassionate and thoughtful psychotherapy for people who are struggling with learning how to love themselves. You can find more about her at www.mollymerson.com. She loves movement, nature, gardening, walking meditation, her community, her puppy, and writing.
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