A personal experience of flexible working, by Lindsey of Bojangle Communications #businesstips #flexiblework

Lindsey Collumbell SMHS“To me, flexible working means opportunity.  The opportunity to work the hours that suit me to balance work and family.  The opportunity to work for clients I feel a ‘fit’ with.  The opportunity to earn and work in the profession I love.” Read on to find Lindsey’s three essential flexible working tools.

I am an independent PR practitioner and have been since 2004.  The majority of my career has been in-house and this only changed after I had a child.  When my son was born in 2000, I was Head of Communications for a trade association, working 45-50 hours a week in a central London office, with a seat on the board, overseas travel and six staff.  My husband and I were masters of logistical juggling and our lives were run by the clock and train timetables.  We were existing and this was not good enough.

One day I thought: “What the hell are we doing?”.  Our son was at nursery for 50 hours a week which was costing us more than our London mortgage.  He was nearing school age and I didn’t want him to go to a childminder or me miss out on school assemblies, nativity plays, sports days, etc.  I wasn’t getting what I needed for the work-life balance I craved from my employer as they would not allow me to go part-time or have a job share – agreeing I could leave the office at 5pm to collect my son from nursery was as far as they would go.  I had to make a change.

Luckily, I was made redundant which gave us a financial cushion so I did not have to rush a decision on what to do next.  Going freelance was not something I had thought about until a journalist friend suggested it.  Doh!  It seemed the perfect solution.

I found an accountant, set up as a limited company, registered for VAT then starting reaching out to my contacts.  Within a few days I got my first bite and landed a six month contract for six days a month.  I was off and flying.  It has not all been plain sailing, with peaks and troughs in income and the perennial challenge of finding new clients, but I am fortunate that I have never been without a client in over 10 years.

I am up-front about being less available in school holidays, and I schedule meetings around school hours as much as possible.  My working day is staggered as I stop work to spend time with my son after school and then often start work again in the evenings.  I would be lost without my phone, and feel that my iPad is grafted to the end of my arm, but this means I can work during ‘dead’ time such as waiting around as my son’s chauffeur – Mummy Cabs!

Being an independent practitioner gives me the balance I need to have a family and work.  It works for me.

My top three tips for enabling flexible working in PR

  1.  Be clear about when you are and are not available to work
  2. Don’t feel guilty if you are not at your desk 9-5.  Embrace the opportunity of working hours that suit you and be secure in the knowledge that the job will still get done
  3. Build a network of trusted PR practitioners to help relieve peak workloads

My top three tools for enabling flexibility

  1.  Dropbox gives access to documents when away from your computer.  It also enables you to share documents with clients.
  2. Being mobile – a smartphone and tablet are essential
  3. An app to log the work you do ready for invoicing.  I use ‘Time Master’ on IOS.

 The CIPR has created a guide for enabling flexible working in Public relations which you can read in full here

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