“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
- Be clear about when you are and are not available to work
- 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
- Build a network of trusted PR practitioners to help relieve peak workloads
My top three tools for enabling flexibility
- Dropbox gives access to documents when away from your computer. It also enables you to share documents with clients.
- Being mobile – a smartphone and tablet are essential
- An app to log the work you do ready for invoicing. I use ‘Time Master’ on IOS.