Karren Brady's career advice from juggling jobs and kids to flirty email banter

APPRENTICE star and vice-chairperson of West Ham United FC Karren Brady answers all your careers questions.

Today she helps someone juggling children and a new business and advises on flirty email banter between colleagues.

Q) I recently set up a decluttering business, but I also have two kids under five, so I’m fitting it around childcare and am happy to build up my client list slowly and in a manageable way.

The problem is lots of mum friends have been asking for advice on keeping their homes tidy, and sometimes I feel like they only want me round for a playdate to help them sort out their mess – for free!

How can I encourage them to pay for my advice without falling out with them?

Ruth, via email

A) Ask yourself this: if a mum was an accountant, would you suggest she does your books for free?

I am sure the answer is no.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say something like: “I can see that you do need my company’s services and I really feel we can help you, so I’ll give you a preferential rate.”

This then puts the ball firmly in their court.

If you don’t value your service and charge for it then no one else will.

If you’re invited over for a coffee or playdate, maybe say something like: “I’d love to. I’ve been working so much it’d be great to take my mind off decluttering!”

If the friend continues to try to seek your free help when you’re at their house, politely say you’re trying to separate work and personal life, but if she’d like some professional help, you’d love to send a list of all the services you offer (with fees), and you’d be more than willing to book her in as a client and pop back to discuss.

You might feel a little awkward at first, but you’ll quickly find out who are genuine friends rather than people taking advantage.

Be a boss

Bossing It is Fabulous’ series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses.

It aims to inspire other women and show that if these ladies can do it, so can you!

Read more at Thesun.co.uk/topic/bossing-it.

Q) A few weeks ago at work, I had some flirty email banter with a male colleague.

Nothing came of it and that evening I felt embarrassed at what I’d allowed to happen.

Now I’m worried he’s shown the emails to some of the other guys at work, because a few times I’ve caught them sniggering and glancing over at me.

I’m mortified, and I feel like I’ve lost all the respect I’d worked hard to build up. How can I repair things?

Amy, via email

A) You have to be the bigger person here, and hold your head up high and keep going.

You can’t take back the emails you had with your colleague or control who he has shown your private messages to, so be resilient and wait for it to pass and be forgotten – which it will.

However, if it genuinely does start to encroach on your work and your colleagues’ attitude to you has changed, then it’s time to face it head on.

Take your colleague to one side and tell him that while it was fun messaging, you hoped that he would have more respect for you than to share your private emails, and if any kind of harassment continues you will be taking it up with HR.

Workplace romances inevitably do happen, because we spend so much of our time in the office (I met my husband at work!), but do be careful who you choose to get involved with.

A short fling with a colleague is more likely to become office gossip than if you have a genuine connection with somebody and take it slowly.

Build trust and gain each other’s respect first, and it will help make sure things between you remain private, whether the relationship lasts or not.

Karren can not answer emails personally. Content is intended as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.

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