Article from The North East Times

As unemployment reaches its highest level for 20 years and with the downturn hitting women disproportionately hard, I was not at all surprised to see that more women started up their own businesses in 2011 than in any previous year.  Research for online insurance broker Simply Business found a 12% increase in female-run start-ups this year, with women now accounting for 37% of all start-up businesses, up from 33% last year.* It seems that female entrepreneurs really are doing it for themselves.

I am about to embark on my third year of self-employment and having started from scratch, working alone from my kitchen table, I’m immensely proud of Major Family Law and all we have achieved to date. Like many women setting up on their own, I wanted some flexibility to work in a way that would enable me to also spend time with my family. I had forged at successful career as a Family Lawyer, I had found my vocation and was passionate about it but wanted to work on my terms. I admit it has been much harder than I ever imagined and want to share some of my thoughts with anyone planning to “go it alone”.

In the survey mentioned above, beauty, cleaning and cake-making were amongst the most popular choices for women’s new businesses but 16% of female lawyers are now self-employed too. Whatever form of enterprise you decide to follow, passion and determination are never enough. My biggest obstacles have come not from practicing as a lawyer, that was the easy part, but from the challenges of running a business itself.

I was lucky that Major Family Law grew more quickly than I had anticipated. However, that meant I needed more practicing certificates, more insurance, more IT support and a greater awareness of cash flow. I’ve learned how to do budget forecasts and forward projections now, having never had to consider them previously and developed a network of excellent contacts, more by default than by way of organized good practice. I’ve discovered that I need a licence to play music in the office and having tweeted and written about the benefits of Social Media, found I need a licence for Twitter if referring or linking to other material. Who knew?

Each year as the Practice has grown, I have learnt how to push myself and test my resilience. Unlike some of my competitors, I have been a sole practioner and have been the only the decision-maker, marketer and driver. I have encountered obstacles from other Family Lawyers and I’ve had to remain very focused. I’ve discovered that to succeed in business you must have an indomitable spirit, a great belief in yourself and your abilities and the ability to overcome a setback.

I’ve also learnt to be humble, to ask for advice and to try remain positive in the face of adversity. I have had the pleasure of being introduced to many other lawyers and non-law business owners, both men and women, who have encouraged me and offered not just guidance but their friendship. I’ve become involved in charitable and educational projects and am always honoured to be asked for assistance. I have made mistakes certainly but when I look at the the dedicated and loyal team working so hard at Major Family Law, I know I did the right thing branching out on my own.

In so many ways, my life is richer for starting my own business and I am hugely grateful to those who have helped me in the last two years.

I’m sure that the trend for women will starting their own business will continue and wish all entrepreneurs out there very good luck in 2012!

*The report is based on data from 117,000 start-up business quote requests since the start of 2011.