Sara Sutton has been an entrepreneur from the moment she realized how difficult it is to find a job. As a college student struggling to find an internship, Sutton and her childhood friend Rachel Bell founded JobDirect, which helps place entry-level workers in career-track jobs. They eventually sold it to a large publicly traded company. Fast-forward a few years. Sutton found herself unemployed and eight months pregnant. She wanted to find something flexible, a job that would allow her to be around for her fast-growing family.
“I looked for jobs with some flexibility, but I wasn’t specific in what that meant. But any option would have been desirable,” she said. “I was frustrated and shocked at how many scams and ads and junk were out there, and how challenging it was to find legitimate job opportunities with flexible work options. I know they existed. I was surprised how difficult it was to find them.”
Out of that frustration came FlexJobs. Living in Boulder, Sutton now has a bevy of flex-time employees telecommuting from all across the country to track down, research and verify job listings for their clients. The challenge of finding a flexible job “pretty much sucks,” Sutton said, so FlexJobs works to improve the process, offering job seekers access to databases packed full of professional, part-time, freelance and telecommuting job listings.
Started in 2007, FlexJobs has come through a very unpredictable economy—and is actually benefiting from the new
“We started FlexJobs before the recession. In the beginning, I thought my primary audience would be stay-at-home moms. They were the largest group of workers that were underutilized and over educated,” she said. “As it happened, they are still a big part of the audience, but the recession has also forced people to look outside of the box. If their (geographic) area is suffering, they can look for telecommuting jobs. It broadened the audience. We’ve also seen a big growth of businesses that consider freelance work. It’s less of an investment for a company. It’s the same with telecommuting. It’s a nice perk without overhead. We’ve seen that as a silver lining: It’s broadened job seekers’ and companies’ minds about work flexibility.”
Today, job seekers who use the site range from stay-at-home moms to athletes to people with medical issues. Some job-seekers want jobs that don’t require them to deal with traffic, spend money on gas or do overtime. She has seen a growing number of these types of job seekers and a growing number of businesses that want qualified career-driven freelance, part-time and telecommuting employees.
That means the company is in high demand. Business doubled last year, and it’s on track to do the same this year.
FlexJobs has found its role not only in providing listings of flexible jobs but in being a fact-checker, safety net and authentication service. In the Craigslist era, there were about 60 to 70 scams to every one legitimate telecommuting job posting. FlexJobs researches companies and postings to make sure that each one is valid. It also offers companies access to people who are really passionate about finding a flexible job in their career area.
“Employees can apply for the jobs they want, and it helps employers get the applicants they want,” she said.
If you are looking for freelance work, it’s not just a little hobby. “Freelancers have to market themselves. They have to be prepared to do the accounting,” Sutton said. “It’s a small business, and they are the project manager.”
If you are considering a job that allows telecommuting, Sutton suggests that job seekers “be honest with themselves.” “If you derive all your social satisfaction from work, this may not be the best fit,”
Some businesses will allow partial telecommuting. You may work two days from home and the rest in the office.
Make sure you have a space within your home to call your workplace, and then include on your resume that you have a quiet, well-equipped office.
Some people think that telecommuting is a way to save on child care. Sure, you’ll work during your kids’ naps and at night. “No, no! It’s really not going to work…not if you value your professional career,” Sutton said. “It just takes one call from a client and your baby wakes up from their nap and is crying in the background.”