How direct selling can help achieve a work and family life balance

In this article, Paula Gorry, UK business development manager at crafting company Stampin' Up! explores direct selling as a viable business model for mums.

Recent statistics from the Institute for Public Policy Research show just 58 per cent of UK mums whose youngest child is between three and five go to work, compared to Europe’s 64 per cent average. I recently attended an exhibition in London designed to find solutions for parents seeking a balance between family commitments and work aspirations. When speaking to attendees, I found many expressed a pressing desire to enhance their household income. Far from a lack of motivation, the current predicament can just as easily be explained by other factors.

There are a number of barriers preventing mums from returning to work, but the spiralling cost of childcare requires special attention. A recent report by The Family and Childcare Trust finds many parents are paying more for childcare annually than the average mortgage bill. According to the report, average fees for one child in part-time nursery and another in an after-school club are £7,549 per year; meanwhile full-time childcare cost for a family with a two-year old and a five-year-old will set you back £11,700 a year. In both cases the costs are staggering when compared to the average annual UK mortgage payment.

Crippling cost of childcare

Faced with soaring childcare costs, it is easy to understand why many mums feel they are being priced out of returning to work. Essentially, when the cost of childcare outstrips earning capacity, parents are facing the very real prospect of going back to work and having nothing to show for it at the end of each month. However, viable options are available that enable parents to balance work with family obligations. Chief among these is direct selling.

In recent years direct selling has enjoyed formidable growth. There are currently more than 400,000 direct sellers in the UK, a rise of 20,000 people since 2009, according to the Direct Selling Association. Moreover, the industry generates £2 billion worth of sales annually in the UK. Direct selling can be defined as goods sold directly to consumers outside a fixed retail environment, like a shop. Therefore as a business model it offers complete flexibility for the seller. Direct sellers are able to expand their business as much or as little as they want, helping them to balance their work with other commitments such as family life.

With flexibility key to direct selling, what you get out of it depends on how much you put in. For that extra bit of motivation, it is essential that you are passionate about your product. Enthusiasm will always drive the selling process – making it much more fun to continue expanding the business. Stampin’ Up! appeals to both those who love crafting as a hobby and those who have turned their passion into a full or part-time job. 

Traci Cornelius joined the organisation as a demonstrator in 2012. At the time of joining, she was six months pregnant with her third daughter. Traci comments, ‘The recession had hit my previous business and, at six-months pregnant, I realised I wasn’t going to get a full-time job for a while. The flexibility of Stampin’ Up! was just ideal – I could work it around my lifestyle which already included two healthy, busy daughters and a part-time job.’

After selecting a product you are passionate about, the next step is to build and consolidate your network. You can do this by identifying who your product will appeal to. Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, each of those in turn will have a family, friend or neighbour who might be interested in your product. By following this process your list will quickly grow in a short space of time.

Bringing your product to a wider audience

Once you have established a firm network of contacts, look to build on it by utilising all available sales channels. Traditionally direct-selling was associated with the door-to-door sales approach. By no means a redundant technique, it is important to consider this process as part of a broader mix of activity. Online platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook will help you to share your product to a wider audience anytime, anywhere and video formats such as YouTube enable you to build your profile and interact with your audience.

Undoubtedly the social aspects of the direct selling business model is an important element of its continued growth. Whether hosting a party for friends, or greeting other mums on the school run, direct selling is a great way to meet new people. At the heart of any successful direct selling business is engagement with other people and it’s this social aspect of the industry which is cherished by many.

With these incentives there has never been a better time for mums to embrace direct selling. If the industry appeals to you, it is essential that you set yourself tangible working goals. The amount of money you earn through direct selling depends on how much time and effort you want to invest into your business. For example if you’re aiming for a specific goal you may want to increase your hours. The beauty of direct selling is that you will see first-hand the benefits of the work you put in.

For a mum seeking a balance between work aspirations and family obligations there are available options. Direct selling provides a very achievable way for mums to enhance their household income – and on their own terms.

Further reading on work/life balance

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