In Newsweek, My Advice on “Working for Myself” and Some Flexible Alternatives

In Newsweek, check out my advice for moms who want to start their own business in order to work, and have more flexibility. “Working for myself” can sound like a good option, and I do hear it quite frequently from people (not just mothers) searching for a better work+life fit. But I often wonder if it isn’t sometimes a default option—“since I don’t think I can have work+life flexibility working for someone else, I’ll work for myself.”

While I believe there’s a lot more flexibility in our current jobs than we realize, there are a couple of important truths to consider before you decide to work for yourself as a way to find a better work+life fit:

1) Flexibility can’t be your only motivation, because it isn’t that easy to start your own profitable business (notice I said “profitable.” It’s easy to start your own money-losing business). You also have to be passionate about (or at least interested in) your product or service. I started my own firm for two equally important reasons: yes, I wanted work+life flexibility after the birth of my daughter, but equally, if not more importantly, I was committed to the service I wanted to provide individuals and organizations. This motivated me to put in the effort and hours it took to get Work+Life Fit, Inc., the company, off the ground.

2) You are the only one who can put the boundaries between your work and your life when you work for yourself. Because there’s no one else but you, you must be very clear about when work ends and life begins because it is very easy to find yourself working 24/7.

That said, what are some alternatives to “working for myself” that would help you achieve the flexibility you desire without the associated responsibilities and risks of starting a business?

1) Sales representative for a company: After last week’s posting about “How can I work part-time?” I received a couple of interesting emails from women I’ve met who own companies looking for people to be sales representatives for their products. This is a great alternative to starting and managing your own company from scratch. It gives you the flexibility of self-employment, but doesn’t require developing a product. Here are a couple of the opportunities. Please contact them directly if you are interested:

Nina McLemore (www.ninamclemore.com)

Nina McLemore is a designer apparel brand that you can sell out of your home or at trunk shows. The company is looking for people to fill the following positions, either part-time or full-time. Contact Nina McLemore 135 East 55th Street; 7th FL New York, NY 10022 c/o Anna Urban if interested:

• Regional Business Development Directors for high growth designer collection with multiple channels of distribution. Must be well connected into HNW & women executives. Background as corporate executive, professional, executive recruiting, non-profit development, and/or designer retail apparel. Excellent growth opportunity as company expands. Position available for re-entry into workforce. Full time or part time. Please send resume to:

• Business Development Consultants for established designer collection to sell collection directly to executive, professional and HNW women on commission basis. Requires very strong personal connections to this customer, sense of style, sales background, and business and organizational skills. Can be re-entry into work force or provide creative job full or part time.

Lisa Marie Dias Jewelry Designs (www.lisamariediasdesigns.com)

“I am looking for salespeople to sell my Fun and Fabulous Beaded Jewelry. The hours are flexible, the work is fun and the pay is good. It is ideal for a Mom with kids in school, looking to transition back to work without a large time commitment. Sales experience not necessary. I am based in the Northern NJ area.”

2) Independent, project-based consultant to your former employer or to another company: Instead of being officially on your former employer’s payroll, you can contract to do project work. Obviously the ability to do project work will depend upon the type of job you have, but you will be very surprised by the openness to contract employees since they aren’t considered “head count,” but a variable expense. In fact, I know a number of people who shifted their employment status from full-time to contract employee in a variety of industries and for many they are making more money as contractors, than they did working full-time. A great resource for project based jobs in the marketing industry is Aquent Marketing Staffing www.aquent.com.

Bottomline: “Working for myself,” to find your work+life fit can be a great option; however, flexibility can’t be your only motivator. You must be passionate about the product or service you want to provide if you want the motivation to get your company off the ground. There are alternatives, however, that offer the same amount of independence and control without the responsibilities of a start-up. They include representing the products of another company, and working as an independent contractor to your former employer. Regardless of which option you choose, you are the only one who can put the boundaries around your work and life—another example of why it’s work+life fit, not work-life balance.


One thought on “In Newsweek, My Advice on “Working for Myself” and Some Flexible Alternatives

  1. Hi Cali,

    I think that this summary made the point that I was trying to get at for the longest time. I have been in search of “?”, but did not know what that “?” was. ‘Flexibility’ is what I am most after. I want to be able to do my job around my life not my life around my job. But how do I get that level of trust out of my employer? For years my husband keeps telling me he want to form his own business (of some kind) thinking that would eventually provide us with more flexibility and financial freedom. But I don’t feel the same. I think that when one has a business – we may need to devote a lot of our time if not more than we currently give to our present employers – to be able to build and maintain our own business. My employer is behind the times when it comes to ‘flexibility’. I don’t know what it would take to get them to understand that they are making a big to do about one working from home than they aught to. I remember at my former company (should have never left that company), if I had an appointment smack in the middle of the day. I would be able to work from home so that I can go to my appointment and work the necessary hours I am being paid for before or after. I find I am at a constant battle with my immediate manager about this ‘flexibility’ issue. They are so concerned with what you refer to as the ‘white room’ syndrome (I think that’s what you call it) – that they are inhibited. They (my manager and her manager) believe that if they ‘do it for me, they have to do it for everyone’ and then they will feel they have no control. They have no idea how much they would gain by providing a bit of flexibility. I am constantly being viewed as the one that causes problems for making some of the suggestions I do about not working less but ”working differently”. As you can probably sense from my rambling on – I have much to say about what will continue to be nothing… Any advise? Respectfully, Michelle

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