In my post, Don’t Get Mad. Get Even, I suggested – or rather implied, “If you don’t like your job, go out and make one of your own.” I know that’s a tall order. And the day after I posted it, I had lunch with a girlfriend who made it very clear how tall. She is wildly successful at every job she’s ever had and makes oodles of money for her employers. But she keeps running full speed – the only speed she has — into that glass ceiling like a coyote chasing a fast-running ground bird.
She recently spread word to her social network that she was unhappy with her current employer and was quickly so pelted with offers of work she didn’t know what to do. The problem? None of the jobs were big enough for her. “I could do all of them, really,” she told me. “And I want to do most of them.” I knew what she wanted me to say so I said it. “Why don’t you start your own company and say yes to all of them?” And then, for the first time ever, I saw her look scared. She had already done the math and determined that — at worst — she would make more than her employer was paying her. But she was still scared. I was the same way when I started thinking about leaving my job.
So I thought, by way of offering a bit of courage, wouldn’t it be fun to chat with a bunch of women here at this blog who have left the rat race and gone out on their own? The very next day, I was in the midst of a phone interview when I realized the woman I was talking to would be a great person to start with. Not only did she go out on her own but she did so to start a company that helps others take control of their lives. So today, here is my chat with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.com, a site that helps women (well, anyone really) find work that’s flexible enough to allow them to also be home for their kids (or dogs, cats, and plants).
“FlexJobs.com is my second startup in the job search field,” says Fell. She sold her first startup, JobDirect, in 2000. “But I didn’t plan to start this one. I did it when I was laid off from my job.” Sometimes, as I observed in my post “An Opportunity in Work Clothes” opportunity is born of necessity.
And Fell certainly had reason to mistrust the rat race. “I didn’t agree with the business methods of the company I’d been working for,” she explains. “But I didn’t really think they would lay me off in my eighth month of pregnancy.” Ouch! She was forced to use the time she’d planned to spend shopping for baby gear looking for a new job instead. “It’s hard to look for a job when you are in your last trimester,” she says. “And I didn’t really want to start a full time job at that moment. I wanted to be there for my son. So I found some consulting work I could do at home. But as I was looking for a job that would allow me to telecommute or offer me flex-time, I was shocked to discover how overrun that job search is with scams. When you are looking for work at home, the ratio is 50 scams to one real job.”
And there it was: Her opportunity in work clothes. “In this day and age,” she says. “I couldn’t believe there was not one site you could go to that offered flexible jobs.” So she started FlexJobs.com. In the process she created work for herself that was not just a job but was something she wanted to the world to have. “I believe in it both for the work/life balance stuff as well as for the green benefits,” she explains. “Working from home has many environmental benefits — as well as personal ones.”
The jobs on her site run the gamut. There is everything from small contract work to a full time jobs where the companyÂ happens to be a virtual and asks all employees to work from home.
“We have worked really hard to create a hand-screened collection of jobs,” says Fell. “We have someone in every time zone that scans job boards, magazine sites, and a lot of other places and writes a description of the job. Then someone researches and confirms each company. There are some great, flexible jobs out there for people from all walks of life. There are sales jobs and other jobs you’d expect to be flexible or to allow work from home. But there are a lot that you would never think of that way. We – honestly! — found one for a remote neurosurgeon. They wanted someone who could fly in for surgery and do everything else remotely.”
The site requires a monthly subscription of $14.95 a month, which is a bit unusual in the job search market. Fell says the fastest anyone has found a job was two hours but it usually takes a couple of months, depending, of course, on you and the job you want.