Why shouldn’t I work flexibly and be better off?

Posted: Thursday June 9 2016

By: Abbie Coleman

By Jo from Panorama Road

Why shouldn’t I work flexibly and be better off?

Last week I took redundancy. I walked out of the office I’d spent two years in, packed my bags and took a flight to Berlin for the weekend with some girlfriends. So far, so good. Only I’m not a 20-something graduate, ready to grab the next job with both hands, and throw myself into networking, working late, saying yes to every social event and really making my mark. Instead, I’m a 40-something mum of three all under 7 who is now technically unemployed. Again.

I’ve taken voluntary redundancy once before, been made redundant once. I’ve worked full time, part time and freelance. So why did I leave this time? Two reasons, one there was a restructure, I didn’t like my new role, and there was a way out. Two, we were struggling as a family with both of us working full time, especially with the children getting older, and homelife becoming more and more time consuming.

Another reason, if I’m honest is that I was bored of being in an office all day, and was desperate to work for myself, do something I was really proud of, and also have a better work/life balance. So I decided to leave with a plan that I’d have a more interesting, more challenging and more relaxed lifestyle – somehow.

One week in and I’m loving picking the kids up from school, having more time to get on top of everything, meeting friends with children. I have one day a week where I’m trying to freelance – networking, doing odd bits of work, looking at jobs, writing. It’s hard. And I’m worried that I’m never going to make any money juggling like this, and ultimately it might be harder to try and do both than to just go and get another full time job.

But why should it be? I have the same qualifications, the same experience, the same drive I had when I was working for one employer. Why shouldn’t I be able to earn a decent salary working for myself? I’ve given myself six months to see how I feel about it all. While I’d love to set up my own business, all my ideas over the years (once I’ve done the business plan) don’t seem to make any money, and I’m not sure I have the determination to forsake all else to get a venture off the ground (after all the reason for giving up work was to spend more time with the children).

So what are the options? I want to work flexibly, as do pretty much all the parents I meet – mums particularly, but dads too. I want to have an interesting, challenging career that I can scale up and down, that allows me to have time with the children when they’re young and on holiday but also allows me to work hard when they’re not. But more than that I want a variety and to make my own decisions. Some call it a portfolio career, some call it the gig economy. All I know is that I don’t want to do one thing day in day out. I want a variety of income streams, and different ways of working. I ask everyone I see who is out and about in the day what they do and every answer surprises me. This week I’ve talked to a dad who buys and sells art, and is also an artist. He does the school runs a lot as his wife is an actress. Another dad teaches Alexander Technique in between caring for his daughters, his wife is a banker. Another guy teaches accountancy in the evenings to adult students. There are mums setting up their own franchise jewellery businesses, doing market research from home, consulting, accountancy, psychiatry, pilates – all freelance and self employed.

And if we’re good enough, and confident enough who’s to say where we’ll end up? I’ve set up a networking group for local parents who can share knowledge and refer leads to each other. I’ve also set up the blog Panorama Road for parents who are looking to work flexibly, to juggle their children and their career.

Ultimately I’d love a portfolio career, maybe some teaching, training, writing, investing, marketing, dog walking – who knows? Everyone has different priorities, but for those of us who want to work flexibly, if we think outside the box, aren’t the opportunities endless? Why shouldn’t we be happier and more successful working flexibly – both financially and emotionally?