This blog post is part of the “Making it Work” series, where we share the stories of professionals who are working flexibly.
Laura Harder is a hard-working business owner and entrepreneur. She created and built her business in a way that supports her desire to spend more time with her husband and their two young boys (4- and 2-years old). Laura runs a virtual assistant business where she, or one of her contracted (flexible!) team members, supports the administrative and digital marketing needs of her clients.
Laura has extreme flexibility in performing her work and schedules it around child care and activities. On Mondays, her mother-in-law comes to watch her sons and she may (or may not) participate in what they’re doing. Laura walks the boys to a local dayhome Tuesday through Thursday. She spends Fridays with her children, often doing something fun in the morning like going to the zoo or science centre. The trade-off for Laura is that she works most evenings after the boys go to bed. This sometimes leaves her feeling like she is “always working”, but she is grateful for the opportunity to choose her own hours.
From Recruiter to Virtual Assistant
Like many mothers, Laura started considering her return-to-work options near the end of her maternity leave. (See our related post, What’s Next?). She struggled with the thought of returning to her previous role. She wasn’t passionate about the company and her employer didn’t offer her any flexibility. At the same time, a life coach (who was a connection-of-a-connection) needed support with some phone calls. Laura agreed to help. Through working together on the tasks, Laura had the opportunity to talk to the life coach about her dilemma and they crafted a plan together.
Laura returned to work to her employer in January of that year with a specific goal to build her “side hustle” into a sustainable business so that she could resign at the end of March. And she did! Today, Laura is proud that she has retained all but one of her original clients. Her business has grown (primarily through networking and referrals) so that she now has a team working with her.
Laura works hard to set and manage the expectations of her clients. They know that she isn’t always at her desk and most of the work they ask of her is project-related and not urgent. She generally is available during the day and then uses her productive time in the evenings to complete tasks and send out emails. This can still be a challenge for Laura as she is interested in supporting the passion of her clients and wants to provide outstanding service. She enjoys the work that she does and sometimes finds herself digging in, when all she meant to do was return one email message. Work-life balance is something that Laura is working on and one of her current strategies is to use her calendar to block time for different activities, both work and personal.
Pros and Cons
Laura’s list of pros for flexible working is long. She:
- Has more time with her kids
- Sets her own schedule
- Goes to Costco on a weekday (Kim Hyshka also mentioned this perk!)
- Puts her kids in daytime activities
- Is energized by her work and doesn’t feel drained at the end of the day
- Can be selective about who she works with
- Has variety with her clients
- Enjoys serving “incredible people who want to make an impact”
Laura’s list of cons for flexible working is shorter and relates to her struggles with work-life balance.
When asked what advice she would give others who are pursing flexible work, Laura’s response was that “it is profound”. She believes that there are lots of options out there, including some that are less known. She also clarifies that flexible work can be at home or in an office. (Note: we agree; see our definitions). Laura suggests following the very advice she got from her original life coach (Stacey Berger):
- Ask yourself what you would love in life
- Develop a vision for what is ideal
- Put in a structure of support
- Start taking steps toward the vision
Laura’s own tips:
- Seek out a coach that feels like a good fit and can support you as you take a leap into something new – there will be times you need the support, mindset shifts, and to be reminded of what your vision is.
- Research what kinds of services are needed – trends, up and coming software and systems to master.
- Network – connect with other business owners.
- Give Value. Early on, Laura was told that you will never have a problem making money if you give value – and that has proven itself time and time again. The more you give away, the more you are positioning yourself as an expert and that you’re someone they can trust.
Laura is making it work!
Are you interested in connecting with Laura? Check out her website.
Feeling inspired? Are you ready to make it work too? Work Evolution has many flexible jobs and useful resources for professionals pursuing flexible work. Check us out today: workevolution.ca.